The Culture Curator

I caught up with Renwich Heronimo recently. I am happy that he is back on island. He is the ultimate art maven and with him on board Aruba stands a chance to develop further, culturally and artistically. Culture deserves much attention now, more than ever, because at this time it is almost doomed for extinction.

Renwich was curator at Access Gallery for almost a decade. Those were the days. He then lived in Washington DC where he supported his wife and kids — she served as Aruba’s government minister, representing the island in the capital of the US, and picked up another university degree. He also did some work curating special shows and collections, before returning to his island. Here, he was asked to write a report for the MinCul, outlining his thoughts for cultural development and when he put down his pen it was unanimously decided that he just wrote himself a great job description and was told to go to work, a suggestion he embraced enthusiastically.

It’s an 8 year plan, he says, that will include changes and updates in the Historical and Archaeological museums in Otranjestad. It will also add three new museums in San Nicholas to the list of must see: An Industrial museum, a Carnival museum and a Community museum.

From my perspective, this is a good move, because visitors appreciate museums, places where they can be exposed to our art and culture and way of life. And it’s usually a self supporting venture, which will become sustainable over time, after all visitors pay at admission fee. Imagine Amsterdam without the Rijksmuseum? Or Paris without the Louvre. These two museums earn their keep, and in turn inspire and energize their cities. We need some bastion of culture here, too, to do the same.

The current exhibition at the Historical Museum in Fort Zoutman, dedicated to weaving, was part of Renwick’s vision. The show traces our relationship to an ancient craft. The exhibition hall has three different wings, a past, present and future interpretation of the theme. The best part, the third wing, contains a show by four local female artists on the theme of weaving, definitely worth seeing, with Jes Wolff, Eliza Lejuez, Belinda de Veer and Vanessa Paulina, showing off immense wit and outstanding craft.

The exhibition is part of a series exploring the local culture, with the next one already in the pipeline, transforming Fort Zoutman into a garden, interpreting our relationship with the “Hofi,” our gardens and backyards, in collaboration with talented museum director Joase Ann Van Der Biest.

As part of making culture more accessible, the Archaeological museum, in the Ecury Complex in Oranjestad, recently hosted a Café Cultural which was extremely well attended and which proves we are ready to look at our history, beliefs, customs, practices, values, and social behaviors, over coffee or cocktails, in an informal setting.

In San Nicholas, of the three upcoming museums, the Community museum is the first to come on line. It is now housed in temporary digs and will be moving to the Nicholas Store building as soon as the restoration is complete. Six hundred people visited its unofficial opening day to view the displays of artifacts from yesteryears.

The industrial museum, on the drawing board, will be checking into the fully restored water tower in San Nicholas. It will describe Aruba’s Gold Rush years, the days of Phosphate mining, and the oil refinery and its contributions to life on the island. It will also outline a brief history of Aloe, not competing with the Aloe museum, and tackle the current pursuit of Green Energy.

Last but not least the Carnival museum will be a big draw. It’s there that visitors will experience the diverse offerings of culture and artistic expression found in our community.