Brave Hearts
Painters and Muralists
The Corazones Valientes Painters Association is a group of women from the rural village of La Unión de Monterrey, San Carlos, in northern Costa Rica. These women paint and create ceramic murals. This group has been together since 1990 with the help of Rebecca Hart (now Rebecca Hart McElroy), a Peace Corps volunteer in the village at the time. The group started when Rebecca took a design and drawing course in the capital city San José from top Costa Rican artists Ana Barrientos and Fernando Páramo and taught the women in the group what she had learned.
Later, the women studied with Ana and Fernando directly for several years. At first it was very difficult for the women in Corazones Valientes because of their low income level and the lack of understanding of their friends and family. Consequently the initial group of fifteen women dwindled down to six: Marina Méndez Cruz, Toribia Mairena Guido, Viria Salas Araya, Esmeralda Rivera Ruiz, Luz Ríos Duarte and Ivannia Zambrana Ríos. These 6 original members are still in group. Lanny Zambrana Ríos and Patricia Quesada Méndez, who are daughters of two of the original members, joined the group around 2005.
Once trained, Corazones Valientes started an intensely productive period with much experimentation involving landscapes of the exuberant tropical rain forest, their daily lives in a rural village, and their hopes and dreams. It was a search, as a group and as individual artists, for their own esthetic language with acrylics on paper and canvas. Throughout the 25 years plus that the women have been painting, they continue to strive to express themselves and the world inside them and around them.
Since 1991, Corazones Valientes has been exhibiting and selling its paintings in North American galleries in New York, Atlanta, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Northfield, Minnesota, and in New Haven, Connecticut. Their most recent show in the U.S. was in Kansas City, Missouri in 2014 at the Mattie Rhodes Center with the help of Penny Armstrong, a big supporter of the group. They have also exhibited in Nicaragua and in different places in San José, Costa Rica. They have also had exhibits in several Costa Rican hotels, bookstores and arts and crafts festivals. Their art has also served for book illustrations and covers, posters and postcards. They illustrated a children’s book celebrating tortillas and traditions titled “Tortillas and Lullabies/ Tortillas y cancioncitas” by Lynn Reiser published by Harper Collins in the U.S. in 1998. In 2001 they started working with Costa Rican artist Loida Pretiz and Fundecooperación creating tile murals. They created their first one in 2001 the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica in Santa Clara called Dreams and Realities of Rural Women on Technology and the second mural in 2002 on the Pacific coast in the Puntarenas Marine Park.
Corazones Valientes has its own workshop with its own mural in their home village, La Unión de Monterrey. This is where they meet to paint and share new ideas. As Luz Ríos Duarte, one of the women in the group, says, “El arte es pintar los ideas que llegan de nuestras corazones y nuestras mentes.….Me ha gustado y me sigue gustando cada día más. ¿ Por qué? Porque he conocido mucha gente, otros paises. He tenido experiencias muy bonitas y mi corazón está en la pintura….”(translation) “Painting is an art of expressing our hearts and minds.…. I like painting and each day I like it more. Why? Because I have met many people, many countries. I have had very nice experiences and my heart is with painting….”
Thank you for your interest in the group. It has been my pleasure to work with the group and to watch them grow as artists.

Written by Rebecca Hart McElroy, Feb. 20, 2015

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