Expat art

Expat art

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Being an expat artist is not always easy. Where can you find fellow artists or even just decent brushes? Who can explain the local art scene? Where can you exhibit your work? Art Perspectives International (API) has the answers.

Fine arts have the power to cross cultural borders and language barriers.

Art Perspectives International (API) is an association for artists and art lovers of all backgrounds and nationalities.

A considerable number of the current 60 members are Belgians, which is quite rare for an expat association.

The beginning was different, though.

Long-time Brussels resident, Lis Smith from the USA, has been a member from the start.

"API was formed as a casual group of mostly diplomatic wives in 1994 with 15 members at the first meeting," Lis explains.

"Nowadays APIers are people who love arts, live in Belgium, speak English and want to meet other like-minded people," she adds.

Lis started to paint in 1991 at the Academie de Beaux-Arts of Watermael-Boitsfort graduating with a Distinction in Painting and Art History in 2000.

She has over 30 years of experience of living abroad with her family and, she says, the problems of an artist abroad are common to all expatriates.

"Being an expatriate affects an artist initially because everything is new. The settling in period, especially with a family, takes time and effort and the expatriate artist may not speak the language and has no friends or contacts," Lis explains.

This is where API comes in.

"API offers a forum for artists to meet, exchange ideas, techniques, useful addresses; show their work and get objective criticism or help with problem areas, gallery hop or visit exhibitions in museums and salons and attend workshops. Partners are brought into the group through twice-annual dinners and the annual exhibition," the API member adds.

API’s members come from 18 different countries and they represent several different artistic disciplines.

Painters and sculptors mix with ceramic artists and art enthusiasts.

Different styles and 'isms' don’t clash, but rather enrich the work of all members.

The monthly meetings offer an opportunity to view each others’ art and get inspired.

Expat exhibition

The annual exhibition relies completely on the voluntary efforts of APIers themselves.

One of the major forces behind the exhibition this year is Marie Wyatt.

She is a Belgian married to an Englishman.

Her family has lived in Geneva and New York and Marie had given up her work as a cultural counsellor in the Brussels French administration when the family moved abroad.

"That was the best decision of my life, because I discovered that what I really wanted to do was to be an artist myself instead of giving money to the artists," Marie says.

She studied art in New York and joined API right away when they moved back to Brussels three years ago.

"I was looking to join an association where I could keep speaking English and meet foreigners.  I love the diversity of this group and also what links us together - passion for what we try to do - art," Marie explains.

This year’s exhibition title borrows the European Union's planned new motto, "United in Diversity".

"I think that what API is doing is a good example of what Europe is: artists from all around the world meet in Brussels, understand each other and help each other," Marie says.

If you have always wondered what artists want to say with their works or how they are created, the opening night and other special events during the exhibition give you a chance to finally go to the source and ask the artists themselves.

This year’s exhibition will feature works from 44 artists. The opening night is on Thursday, the 7th April from 6.30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

In addition to artists and their works, there will be a dance performance, an orchestra and a possibility for the public to get their hands dirty and create their own art.

The exhibition takes place at the Municipal Exhibition and Conference Hall “FABRY”, Avenue Charles Thielemans 93, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, and is open everyday from 8th April until 20th April, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m..

If you have a group that would like to meet the artists, Marie Wyatt can organise a special afternoon visit. Just send her an e-mail to mariewyatt@skynet.be or call 02/763.35.47.

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