Staff, guides, guests and the local community

The lodge is manned by very professional staff from the local community who all speak Spanish and some English. Many speak very good English but all will welcome any effort you care to make in Spanish. Either way, I found conversation easy and good-humoured and people were so committed to sharing their passion for the place with me. As long as you are respectful of the jobs everyone has to carry out, I would be very surprised if you don’t end up making friends with everyone. 

You will also meet the guides whose job it is to take guests on nature walks. They each have different areas of specialisation (ornithology, entomology, seed dispersion, a certain breed of parrot!) and were incredibly generous with their time. As long as you are sensitive and considerate and understand that the experience of paying guests take priority, you should be able to learn a lot from them and tag along on some explorations of the rainforest. All you need to do is befriend one or more guides and ask them if you can join their hikes. They will agree if their group is small but the paying guests are promised a certain guest-to-guide ratio which has to be respected.

The four guides I met on my trip, all working with a passionate interest for the forest. Fountains of knowledge.

*Note* Rainforest Etiquette.  As artists in residence usually stay at the lodges longer than most of the guests, you may, after having been on the trails with a guid several time, be then given permission to go out walking without a guide. Should this be the case, we ask you that you please travel in pairs (there will more often than not be two artists in residence at a time) and that you take with you a walkie talkie which you can pick up from the lodge.  Please also tell one of the staff that you are heading out and provide a rough time for when you expect to be back.  It is also extremely important that while you are out and about that you be quiet, in consideration for other groups who may also be out walking.  Sudden movements and talking loudly is especially disruptive when a group has stopped to observe the wildlife, as such an intrusion will scare away animals.

Guests at the lodge who make such a demanding and expensive trip for just a few days often have very interesting stories to tell and at the very least an inquisitive mind. Ask questions of them and talk about your practice in equal measure. Trust that people will be interested in what you do, that meeting an artist and your practice in the middle of the rainforest is something they will remember. 

The lodge also has a tight relationship with the Infierno Community centered on the township of Puerto Maldonado. It will be up to you to define what interaction you have with the clients, the staff, the guides and the community but I would strongly encourage you to reach out and make those connections. It is the best way to ensure that other artists can follow in your footsteps but it’s also an extraordinary opportunity to experience your own practice through the eyes of people who have relatively little contact with contemporary art.  Think of bringing some images of your work with you (10-20 images is enough) ready to share with some guests after dinner or with the staff in their time off or with some children at the local school, soon after your arrival. And then, as you settle into your practice, share your process, talk openly about difficulties, challenges, studies, notes. Remember: don’t wait to have finished work to show to start a discussion. Inspiration can come from the most unexpected quarters.

Exchange, discussion and collaboration.

These are the cornerstones of the Trelex Residency in Switzerland which have inspired the creation of this residency. Though the residents will likely be the only artists there, it is my hope that this will not keep artists from reaching out to those around them. There is a growing interest in developing local crafts in the area in response to tourism: can you work with local craftsmen? What can you learn? What can you teach? Local wages are very low: can you outsource any of your production? Some of the staff are keen musicians, one of the guides paints very well, for example: make sure to ask...

This said, true to the Trelex Model, you do not have to write an application form or commit to any output during your stay. Kurt Holle shares in my belief that the most productive residencies  (productive by the artists own standards) are those where the artists are given absolute freedom and where the exchange between artists and host is based on absolute trust. 

Finally, it is also hoped that you will be able to link in to the community of residents in Trelex, Switzerland (and other places where Trelex Model residencies will pop up in the future). We will at least try a Skype call or two and exchange emails about our work and experiences in the different places. Though you will undoubtedly be in a very remote location, we will make sure that you do not feel isolated as an artist and support your practice in every way we can.

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