Ashley Burns describes her joy to discover a “blend of culture, fashion, and creativity” in Aruba. Here are excerpts from Islands.
[. . .] Two years ago, I heard all about a new scene that was being cultivated in Aruba’s capital city of Oranjestad. Locals eagerly told me about cool restaurants serving fun twists on authentic cuisine and bars that would pour some of the most creative craft cocktails anywhere in the Caribbean. It’s a vibe that I’ve already seen—and thoroughly enjoyed—on some other islands, but the way people were talking about it here was downright exciting.
On my most recent visit, however, thrills were coming from another part of the island. My favorite annual culinary event, hosted by Divi & Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusives, was taking place in San Nicolas, away from everything I’ve come to know like the back of my hand about One Happy Island. This time, the culinary star was Chef Michel Lambermon, master of the Big Green Egg, but the rest of the event put a massive spotlight on the island’s spectacular arts and fashion scenes.
I was thrilled to learn that on my seventh trip, I’d finally get to witness firsthand Aruba’s creative growth taking place in San Nicolas, the island’s second largest city. [. . .]
By name alone, the Aruba Art Festival was somewhat misleading. This wasn’t just a showcase of paintings, sculptures, or even those massive murals. The emphasis was on festival, as it featured art, music, fashion, and food—all of which showcased the ingenuity of an island that many tourists only visit for its electric party atmosphere. [. . .]
When I visited St. Maarten in late 2021, I had the pleasure of meeting the incomparable Ruby Bute, who is “the first dame of St. Martin’s cultural arts” but was also born in Aruba. We chatted at length about how the Dutch Caribbean islands love to showcase their talents, as St. Maarten has been encouraging young artists to paint specific areas around their half of the island, and Curacao’s street murals and sculptures are downright legendary.
I told her I hadn’t experienced much of Aruba’s art scene, but she assured me it was as alive here as anywhere else in the region. Thus, the Aruba Art Fair was my chance to finally see it all up close and personal, from the sprawling murals on the walls of local businesses to the various mediums on display in several galleries along the main street.
One of my favorite moments of the entire event occurred early in the first evening, when we were seated for dinner and guests continued trickling in, slowly moving from gallery to another. It was a little windier than usual that day—it is Aruba, so there’s always a breeze—enough to knock the island’s power out at the worst possible time. The entire venue went dark and there was an audible collective gasp as everyone wondered aloud what that would mean for the festivities.
Just as we celebrated creative artwork and cuisine, we soon celebrated creative craftsmanship. The event staff rushed to get a generator running and then weaved extension cords seamlessly from building to building, until we all watched in awe and suspense as one man climbed a light tower to illuminate the venue once more. It took a little pulling—possibly for show—but he was able to make the connection, and the string lights lining both sides of the street came to life to an appreciative, roaring crowd. [. . .]
Read the full article at https://www.islands.com/caribbean/aruba-art-fair-fusion-op-up-restaurant-divi-tamarijn/
[Photo above: The street mosaic mural “Carnival Nymph,” by Chile’s Isidora Paz Lopez. See Islands.]