Stewart has always been interested in art, design and business. After living many years in Costa Rica, he had the opportunity to combine all three by opening Tico Pod, an art gallery and shop in Playa Jacó. The first store was super narrow and very long, like a seed pod. The pod was filled with all things Tico, thus the meaning of the store’s name. Stewart contacted many of the artists, designers and artisans that he met while travelling the country and talking to people. The result is that many of the products he carries are one of a kind items.
Four years later, Tico Pod is larger and more centrally located, filled with unique art, much of which comes from the Jaco/Garabito region. “I was happily surprised to see how many talented people live in our community,” he says, adding “I know all of the makers and try to support fair trade as well.”
One of the unique, popular items found at Tico Pod are Boruca masks. The Boruca Indians are an indigenous culture in Costa Rica. Stewart was introduced to them through a friend while living in the Southwestern region of the country. Tourists find their story interesting and “their work is beautiful. It helps them to support themselves while also keeping their culture from disappearing.” By creating a strong relationship with some of the best Boruca mask makers, many have come to the gallery to give classes and demonstrations. “It’s an honor to showcase their talent and culture. In fact, every year I go to their village for their annual “Dance of the little Devils” festival. It’s just one of the interesting places my job has taken me.”
Tico Pod puts a lot of focus on handmade and interesting design. Some of the best-selling items are wood carvings from sustainable sources like fallen trees, recycled wood or roots. There is jewelry from several passionate, talented Costa Rica designers who generally work in silver, brass, copper, shells and semi-precious stones. Paintings from local artists are chosen mostly for the colors, sights and sounds of Costa Rica that they conjure in an abstract way. “Vibrant color seems to be a theme in many of the pieces even though the styles and subject are all so different.”
Another goal with the store was to bring more focus to art in the community. Stewart believes art can help bring about a stronger sense of community. “I think it can make people feel safe, valued and connected,” he explains. He helped create the facebook page Jaco Arts & Culture Movement a few years ago with a few local business owners who wanted to work together in order to provide a more vibrant arts & culture scene in Jaco. A small festival of art, food, music, film and surf kicked it off. The scene is growing and many musicians from San Jose have inquired about being a part of the music scene in Jacó. “I’m really thrilled, especially, for all the musicians in this town… there is talent here. Combined with our small beach town vibe, it all works harmoniously.”
Tico Pod offers weekly acrylic painting classes and does art workshops a few times a year. A smaller initiative called Artify Jaco, spearheaded by local Emily Easton is in the works to bring more art to Jaco. The first project “Wings” includes three sets of wings painted throughout the town. People are invited to pose with them and post on social media with #findyourwings” and #buscatusalas.” The idea combines a positive message with a fun interactive piece of art, inspiring the people of the community to rise to their potential, lift themselves up and spread positivity and art.
Follow Tico Pod on instagram @ticopod_art and Artify Jaco @artifyjaco ~ Find both on Facebook
Thanks for your time Stewart and for all the ways you are edifying the arts in the community of Jacó.