In January 2023, Susan Gott and Derwin Leiva – two Art in Embassies artists – traveled to Guatemala City, Guatemala, as part of the first Democracy Collection Initiative Artist Exchange. Over several days of programming, they met and talked with local students and artists creating in a variety of media to lead master classes, have conversations about life as a working artists, and speak to the freedom of expression offered through the arts.
When she arrived, Susan Gott met with a group of eighteen early-career women artists to talk about her experience as a woman in the male-dominated field of glass art at the cultural center in Guatemala City. She spoke about what it’s taken her to succeed, the lessons she’s learned along the way, and the importance of women’s entrepreneurship for economic freedom. “Everyone asked wonderful questions and seemed curious and engaged,” Gott said. That afternoon, she led a master class and portfolio review both in-person and virtually for a small group of local artists working in a variety of media. At the same time, Derwin Leiva spoke with an assembled group of nearly twenty local artists about self-expression and the promotion of democratic ideals through art.
The next day, both artists traveled to the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala to host a series of events. Gott spoke to a class of more than thirty engineering students about the science of glass sculpture and how she designed and built her own glass studio. She also brought glass pieces from her studio so the students could hold for themselves what engineering can accomplish. Meanwhile, Leiva led a master class in painting and his personal style for a smaller class of university students. He also did a portfolio review for visual arts students ranging from painters to photographers to sculptors. The day concluded with an Art in Embassies reception at Ambassador William W. Popp’s residence.
As a final event the following day, both artists sat down for a listening session with a group of Guatemalan artists to hear first-hand their experiences, stories, and challenges. The artists had been present at the reception the night before but now had the opportunity to speak and share with the American visitors in a more open, casual forum. Of the experience, Gott said, “These conversations are important, to both myself and the Guatemalan artists to see each other as individuals and understand the common struggles, which we all go through.”