A Day In Spain

Spain is a fascinating country and rich in many ways. It is home to some of the world’s best loved artists and inventors. It has beautiful scenery and delicious foods. It’s full of fiestas based on superstitions and traditions. This week we will spend a day in Spain running with the bulls, tossing tomatoes for La Tomatina, having an afternoon siesta and then spending the evening listening to the musicians play guitar while the flamenco dancers delight us with a show.

Running with the bulls is a daily occurrence during the nine day, summertime, San Fermin festival that takes place in Pamplona, Spain. The festival always occurs on the same dates every year, July 6-14. During the festival spectators watch as participants run in front of 6-10 bulls through the city streets ending at the bullring. The belief is that this tradition began as a means of moving cattle from barges or even from the countryside and into the city centers where they could be sold. Soon, the act of jumping in front of the running bulls became viewed as an act of bravado and gained popularity over time. Today the tradition of running with the bulls begins at 8am on July 7 and continues daily until the end of the festival on July 14 and is televised all around the world. Did you know that participants wear a uniform when running with the bulls? It consists of plain white clothes with a red scarf tied around the neck. At Gogh Arts we made bulls from cardboard tubes. First we wrapped the tubes in brown construction paper and then attached ears and horns and snout using different natural tones of paper.

In the Valencian town of Bunol there is a festival called La Tomatina. It is a week-long celebration with parades, fireworks and street parties that culminates in a tomato food fight on the last Wednesday in August. Yes, you read that right, a tomato food fight. You might be wondering what the meaning behind such a tradition could be. As it happens, the festival is not linked to history or religion, it is just for fun! Trucks bring in tons of tomatoes the night before and dump them into the streets in preparation. The tomatoes that are used are grown specifically for the festival and are therefore of inferior quality because their purpose is to be destroyed in the name of entertainment. The tomato food fight lasts for one hour and a bottle rocket signals the start and end of the event. During this time one hundred and twenty tons of tomatoes are pelted as ammunition. Afterwards, the tomatoes are washed away and the participants head down to the river to rinse off in the outdoor showers. Did you know that due to the popularity of this event, worldwide, there is now a limit to the number of people who can participate? Only 20,000 people are allowed and as it happens, only about 8% of the participants are Spanish! At Gogh Arts we used polymer clay to sculpt our tomatoes in honor of La Tomatina. We gave our tomatoes facial expressions after imagining how the tomatoes might feel about being used in a food fight or how they might look, being of lesser quality. Students chose to make their tomatoes look angry, worried and even excited.

A popular daily tradition practiced in Spain is the midday, post lunch, nap or siesta. This tradition is enjoyed all over the country of Spain and by people of all ages. During siesta, people close up shop and go home to rest during the hottest part of the day. Siestas typically occur between the hours of 2-5pm, with people returning to work and staying until about eight at night. Siestas were born from necessity as a way of giving workers a break from the heat as most people worked outdoors, but in today's modern world with indoor air conditioning, siestas are enjoyed in a traditional sense. There have been recent efforts made by the Spanish government to align the Spanish workday to match that of neighboring European countries, phasing out the siestas. Did you know that siestas may have originated in Rome? Today, siestas are common practice in warm places around the world such as Mexico, Nigeria and even in Florida! At Gogh Arts, we used mixed media to capture the essences of a siesta. Students used colored and printed papers to make a bedroom complete with a cozy bed and pillow. We even added a window to our rooms with small watercolor painted landscapes to create an illusion of the outdoors.

The modern guitar was born in Spain in 1817. The guitar maker, Antonio de Torres is credited with the design and dimensions of the modern guitar. At Gogh Arts we celebrated this invention by making our own guitars using cardboard. We incorporated a tissue box with a cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels to make the body and neck of the guitar. We chose to use gift wrap to cover the tissue box because it comes in so many varieties but you could use paint as well to cover the tissue box and give it your own design. If you use gift wrap you will need to cut away the paper from the opening of the box. Then we painted the cardboard tube to match the body of our guitars, but you could also use paper to wrap the tube to make it colorful. You will have to cut the top of the tissue box in order to connect the cardboard tube or if you prefer you could use hot glue to attach the two pieces. Next, we used craft sticks for the bridge of our guitars and colorful tape to section the frets. Then we added sequins for the position markers and attached pompoms as the tuning pegs. Lastly we added rubber bands for the strings! Did you know that guitar strings used to be made from animal intestines? Today they are made from either steel or nylon!

The flamenco dance has long been admired by people as a seductive dance of Spain. Yet in Spain the flamenco dance was once frowned upon as a deplorable embarrassment to the National identity, but this public opinion has gradually evolved over time. Flamenco is a multifaceted art that includes poetry, guitar playing, singing, clapping, finger snapping, stomping and dance. Flamenco dancing is not unique to Spain but it is agreed upon that it originated in Southern Spain in the city of Andalusia. At Gogh Arts we explored flamenco dance through mixed media. Students drew a flamenco dancer and then included her dress, high heels and hair embellishments. The flamenco dancer’s dress is a layered piece with tulle fabric and shiny red paper. Students accordion folded the paper to make the dress appear full. Students used colored pencils to finish their monochromatic artworks. Did you know that the dress of the flamenco dancer is traditionally shaped like a guitar? This is to enhance the dancer’s figure!