Arte Okupa: From ruins to outdoor museum
Article written for an Italian journal
There is no shortage of spectacular views in Tenerife. One special viewing point close to the capital of Santa Cruz never fails to draw tourists. This place is officially called “Mirador de la Punta de los Órganos” by the City Hall, for the spikes of rocks that reach out over the water. However, locals refer to it as the “Mirador de Las Teresitas” since it looks out onto the main city beach called Teresitas, with its sand imported from the Sahara, or “La Piconera” referring to the ruins of a rock crushing factory that sit on top of this point. Forty years ago rocks were scooped out of the mountain behind, crushed in this factory, and then used for the building of the road that winds out from here to the final eastern town of Igueste. For those that like a natural black-sand beach, there lies right on the other side if this point the playa de las Gaviotas. From “La Piconera”, you can see the town of Santa Cruz, as well as the towering Teide volcano, highest point in Spain.
Tom found this to be a perfect place to take a break and meditate after his bike ride from the center of the city. After many visits, he began to take a bag and clean up some of accumulated trash. Tom, an American computer programmer turned law firm owner with his wife, has lived in Madrid, Sevilla, and Barcelona, finally moving to Tenerife in order to see if the Barcelona business could survive on its own. In March 2015, Tom conceived the idea of turning these ruins into an outdoor museum, a place that tourists wouldn’t be scared to peer in and worry if a drug user was inside. A place that young artists could use to show their art, a place where people could express their political viewpoints, a bulletin board for the community. Tom’s idea was for each room to represent a dream for Tenerife, with one poster explaining the dream, and the other posters artistic, and relating to the dream. He feels that the Canary Islands are the perfect laboratory to dream, to reach our collective vision of how things can be done and to teach the rest of the world that these dreams are attainable. As an example, the island of Hierro now uses 100% renewable energy, with an ingenious method of using two reservoirs at different elevations to store and create energy, based on the energy produced from the windmills.
The problem with the idea and the reason that the site was in such a state was that the land is private. Tom tried to find out who the owner was to get permission, but found it impossible. Research uncovered that the owners had tried to put a restaurant on the site 17 years ago, but City Hall had said no: a stalemate that looked like it would last many more years until the day that City Hall had money to reclaim the land. So, Tom opted for action “okupa” style — without permission.
When Tom discovered that the full moon fell near July 4th — Independence Day in the USA — he decided that must be the date of the work and the inauguration. Tom was amazed at the helping hands and great suggestions he received along the way. It was suggested not to fight the graffiti artists but to bring them in as part of the project. Tom did some heavy cleaning during the preparation. There are 8 rooms of various sizes and states. One of the rooms had 5 centimeters of dirt and rocks on the floors, all of the rooms smelled of urine (during cleaning, Tom decided to dedicate one room as a bathroom). One room has the roof caved in and a plant growing in the middle. Tom only had time to find three others willing to submit their “dream” and artwork, so he took care of the rest. After cleaning and printing the posters, July 4th began with 4 different artists painting the outside of the rooms with themes relating to the “dream” of that room, while Tom and others painted the inside walls, each in a different color. Finally the posters and artwork was glued to the walls, and finally the inauguration began, with an interesting collection of people and lit by torches — the site has no water or electricity.
After returning from vacation, expecting to see posters ripped off walls and graffiti painted over the posters, Tom was amazed to see the respect that was given to the project: nothing ripped down, the space for writing your own dreams filled with them, and two walls which Tom had thought to paint over, covered with fresh and truly artistic graffiti. When you show creativity and care for a place, others do the same: creativity breeds creativity!