Art With Me *GNP took place May 10–13 in Tulum, Mexico. It was the area’s first arts and cultural festival, focused on preserving the natural environment and strengthening the artistic community of Tulum. This first year looked at waste management and the threat to the Mesoamerican Reef System, the ocean, and the local population. Over four days, panel discussions, exhibitions, and performances took place involving artists (like Tatiana Trouvé and Marcos Castro), business leaders, and environmental activists.
Whitewall spoke with founder David Graziano about the launch of Art With Me*GNP, how he hopes it will continue, and a more creative approach to sustainability and environmental awareness.
WHITEWALL: What first brought you to Tulum?
DAVID GRAZIANO: I no longer wanted to live in a city. I wanted to simplify my life and connect myself with nature again. I felt really compelled to open up a small hotel, a bed-and-breakfast style originally, where I could live on the beach and spend most of my time in the water. Tulum was the first chance I had ever had to spend three weeks with no shoes on in a holiday, in 2007. Ever since that holiday, I worked on wrapping up my life in New York City and making a transition to fully live in Tulum. It took three years.
WW: What is your initial hope for Art With Me?
DG: Art With Me was always meant to be a platform where sharing information and educating ourselves about the environment could be done in a way that was fun and inspiring. We initially wanted to showcase all the creative talents—60 percent Mexican and 40 percent international—and use creative arts to inspire business owners, locals, and tourists to take more notice and action toward about Tulum’s environmental issues.
We wouldn’t have done this festival if we weren’t able to have a large connection and impact on the local community. It was very important that the outreach extended way beyond the tourism industry and into the municipality, private sector, and especially the local Tulum community. I believe that all sectors—private, municipality, local, tourists—need more awareness and education on the environmental situation in Tulum, and they need to all participate in the solution.
WW: What kind of message did you want to extend?
DG: I believe that the approach to sustainability and environmental awareness needs to be more creative. We need more creative ways to share information, to cooperate among the different forces and to all work toward a common goal. Through the power of inspiration and art, we can open up that window where individuals will put more effort and take more interest in understanding the dire situation in Tulum and change the way things operate within this beautiful city, to protect it for generations to come.
WW: Why did it make sense to launch this year?
DG: The idea has been brewing for couple of years now. While I was witnessing the downfall of what was happening in Tulum with waste management, pollution, and negative press, I was also witnessing a rise in creativity with a lot of the new galleries and artists and creative projects in Tulum. So I felt like this year was critical to channel that creativity and use it to send an important message. I wanted to showcase the creativity that is already happening throughout Mexico and counteract the negative things that were happening with the environment. It felt like a critical time to launch the festival and bring positive action toward resolving the environmental issues. We couldn’t wait any longer to address this.
WW: What do you hope for the future of the festival?
DG: My hope is that the festival continues to be a catalyst for change. Each year, I hope that additional businesses will participate. Right now my properties are the only hotels in Tulum that have achieved Green Key international certification status, but I think my team can lead by example and help others become Green Key sites, too. We hope that Art With Me will continue to convey the message behind the environmental campaign so that tourists and locals won’t just attend the festival and be wowed by the art, but will feel personally inspired to make a difference.
At this year’s Art With Me festival, we had waste separation teams working overtime at recycling station at each of our venues, sorting compostable, recyclable, and garbage. And out of this year’s festival a “Care With Me” alliance was formed between hoteliers, business owners, restaurateurs, and activists in Tulum to expedite the creation of a permanent solid waste management plan.
Tulum is already a breeding ground for creativity, and my hope is that Art With Me only amplifies our collective imagination.