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The Story of the Art Show That Could!

By Mark Bradbury

Three years ago, in September of 2019, I was contacted by Tina Rettka, a Canadian expat living here who wanted to do an art show in Manta. Tina had a contact with a large orchid grower here in Ecuador, and she proposed that we have a joint show for art and orchids. I thought it was a great idea, so we decided to go ahead and plan an event.

I was living in a condominium building near Mall del Pacifico, the Pireos Building, and the owner, Jose Atiaga, was kind enough to tell us we could use the lobby and the pool area there to set up a show. We picked a date and started contacting artists that might want to take part. We had settled on a Friday and Saturday in the middle of October and started promoting the event. The response seemed good, and we were encouraged by the number of people saying that they would come!

We were not prepared for what happened at 9 a.m. on the first morning of the show. We discovered that there were quite a few orchid aficionados that all wanted to be the first to shop for the available orchid plants. The lobby doors were blocked by about twenty people all wanting us to open the doors and let them in. I remember joking that it looked like Macy’s on Black Friday morning! It was pretty wild!

We opened the doors and let the buyers in. Not all of them were there for the orchids; some were eager to peruse the art, too, so everyone just spread out and started shopping. We watched both days as people left the building, clutching orchids and artwork. It was fun to see the response! We had decided to donate any money made at the show to the very worthy You & Us for Manta’s Children Foundation, a local group made up of mostly expats with a few locals pitching in. We turned over around $175 to them to use for their Christmas parties in some of the poorer neighborhoods of Manta. It felt good for us to do that, and it was decided that we would continue to raise money for this group.

Tina and I discussed doing a second show the following year, but a little problem called COVID-19 created a worldwide health emergency and kept most of us off the streets in 2020. Tina and her husband David Robinson decided to move back to Canada rather than ride out the pandemic here in Manta, and just like that, I had no partner and no show that year.

One of the things that several people had mentioned after the first show was that we should have waited until after November 1st to hold the show because many of Manta’s part-time residents did not arrive until then. This was not something I had considered, but it made sense. I decided to try a second show in November of 2021, heeding the advice of my friends who had spoken to me.

The 2nd Manta Orchids and Art Show soon became a reality. The owners of the new Hotel Voyager in Manta agreed to let us have our show at their place, giving us all their available space to display the art and the orchids. It was during the planning stages of the show that I was fortunate enough to have Alane Oriard, of Puerto Cayo, join me in putting the show together. It was a great decision! Alane had hosted some art events called Ecuadorable in Puerto Cayo and she had a strong background in staging and display, so her talents were put to good use in making our next show at the hotel work smoothly.

We had added more artists than the original show, so we used up every bit of room inside and out to put together a great display of art, an

d we believed that the show was a hit! We had at least 400-500 people come through the show in its two-day opening, and also had one hotel owner looking for artwork to decorate his new hotel.

The combination was quite successful! Like the first show, we saw a lot of sales of both art and of orchid plants. Everyone had a rather good sales effort, and we vowed to expand the show again for the next time. Through donations at the door and gifts from several of the artists that we sold in a raffle at the end, we were able to raise around $1800 for the You & Us group. When we shut the show down on Saturday afternoon, we had already made the decision to plan the next one, but we knew we needed more space.

The search was on for the next show! Months went by and we still did not have a good spot, but one lucky day I went to La Briciola Ristorante Italiano and spoke to Paulo Ulloa, the general manager of the restaurant. I told Paulo what we were doing, and we talked about what we needed for him to host the upcoming art show. Paulo was kind enough to offer his beautiful restaurant as the setting for our show, and we started planning the event the next day.

Unfortunately, our orchid supplier withdrew from participating in the show just three weeks before the opening, which was a hug

e loss. So many of our patrons had wanted to visit to shop for orchids and we had none. We had to forge ahead with just having an art show, and that is what we did!

We opened the show on Wednesday, November 16th, and had a very nice day! Alane had worked her magic once again, and had executed a great presentation of art, including many of our sponsors, who had asked to have some space. We had increased the artists and vendors for this show once again, and honestly, we did not have enough space for the number of participants. We could have used more space, but now we know what to do next time.

Growing pains, for sure, but not impossible to repair moving forward. We are already looking for a much larger space for the next show, and we have a couple of venues we are keeping our fingers crossed on! We are also going to go back to our Friday and Saturday format, and we are going to try to stay open longer on Friday night, allowing more of you to attend.

But back to the show! We had a very eclectic and diverse group of artists and an incredible amount of talent on hand. There were so many different mediums being offered throughout the show, making it easy to find something to buy as a gift, or as a lifetime investment.

We had several exceptionally talented artists from San Francisco de Ibarra, north of Quito, who brought some truly amazing art with them to Manta. We had a glass fusion artist from Cuenca whose glasswork was spectacular! Modern art, traditional art, watercolors, and lots of outstanding abstract work was on display throughout the floor. Beautiful ceramic work from AJ DeLissa of Burning World Pottery in Canoa, one of the leading potters in Ecuador, and several jewelry artists with truly unique and rare pieces, were on hand to highlight the selection. If you did not attend this year’s show, we hope you will mark your calendars for next year!

We did some things differently this year and they worked out quite well. One of the things we did that raised over $2000 was to sell sponsorship spots to local businesses that wanted to help support both the art and the fundraising effort for the You & Us group. We cannot thank them enough for their help! We plan to expand the sponsorships next year to include more businesses, so please contact us if you would like to sign up for the next show. We also had several private donors who contributed to the foundation, and we certainly want to thank them, as well! And every artist who attended donated 10% of their sales to the You & Us group, which was a very nice addition this year!

The best part of the show was the final numbers raised for the charitable efforts of the You & Us for Manta’s Children group. A combination of sponsorships and private donations, artists’ contributions, raffle tickets, and door donations netted us a bit over $4000 this year for the charity, a substantial number that we will look to beat next year. Every dollar of that money has gone to the group and is helping them with several projects, including Christmas gifts for kids, and stocking a new library in the city.

A few special thanks need to go out to all our artists, without whom there would not have been a show. To Alane Oriard, our Show Director, who once again pulled a rabbit out of her hat, to Marcos Chiluisa, owner of EcuaAssist, for all his help with so many things, to Kay Ward, who handled our Sponsorship and Donations, and did a fantastic job, to Pam Feltman, President of the You & Us group, and to each of her members for their hard work taking care that things went smoothly. And a very special thanks to Mike Bombrys, my good friend, for everything he did both days! He was amazing! And a huge thank you to Paulo Ulloa for hosting our event at his incredible restaurant, La Briciola! It was a terrific venue, and the food was exceptional. If you have not been there yet, make it a point to go soon. You will not be sorry!

Thank you to each of you who came and helped us succeed in our efforts! Without you we could not have done it! And to those of you who for various reasons could not get to this year’s event, we hope that you will join us in November for our 2023 Manta Art Show and so much more! We have a few new things up our sleeves, so mark your calendars when you see the event officially announced in the next couple of months!


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