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Find Inspiration at Curacao's Creative Mecca - Landhuis Bloemhof

Jun 26, 2008
Known for its historic architecture, Curacao is home to a wealth of unique colonial buildings and picturesque sites. For art lovers, one destination stands above the rest. The remodeled plantation known Landhuis Bloemhof - a collection of galleries, workshops, sculpture gardens ('Bloemhof' is Dutch for 'flower garden') and archives - has a deep connection with the island's creative past. Once a private meeting place for Curacao's most creative individuals, the site has been open to the public since 2002. If you are seeking inspiration while in Curacao, visit the site where the island's most gifted artists have found their muse for generations.

The Landhuis Bloemhof plantation may not be one of Curacao's largest, but it is certainly among the best preserved. According to records, the land first changed hands in 1735, allowing historians to date some of the structures to this colonial period. Though the estate was a treasured resource throughout the centuries, the fields never supported significant crops. Instead, the Landhuis Bloemhof plantation was known throughout Curacao for its fresh water. Using a pair of dams and an extensive series of wells and cisterns, the plantation was able to collect large amounts of clean water to sell in Willemstad.

Landhuis Bloemhof began making its transition into a center for the arts in 1919 when the property was purchased by Emma Maduro-Lopez Penha. For several years, the main home and the seven picturesque acres surrounding it were used as a retreat. The property has remained in the hands of Penha's extended family to this day. Approximately 50 years ago, Landhuis Bloemhof became the home and studio of Max and May Henriquez. For decades, this creative couple welcomed writers, artists and performers into their home to create and discuss ideas. As a result, the plantation was known as one of the most vital creative destinations in Curacao throughout the latter half of the 20th century.

When the plantation was remodeled in 2001, the spirit of Landhuis Bloemhof was retained and the workshop of May Henriquez was kept intact. In honor of the Henriquez family and those who came before them, Landhuis Bloemhof opened to the public in March 2002 as a place for Curacao residents and visitors to celebrate the arts, history and the relaxing atmosphere of the island. In addition to permanent exhibits, the center now features classes and daily activities for visitors of all ages.

In the main hall of the plantation home, visitors will encounter a space devoted to the talented artists of Curacao. Occasionally, Landhuis Bloemhof will highlight work from their diverse permanent collection, but the focus often rests on up-and-coming contemporary artists from Curacao's close-knit community. The main hall is also used for a number of events, ranging from poetry readings and plays to lectures and dance performances. The former bedrooms located above the main hall are also used for such events, while local artists are encouraged to use the relaxing space to create their own masterpieces.

Visitors are also welcome in the barn and warehouse, known as the mangazina. Inside the peaceful buildings, guests can flip through the library of May Henriquez which includes a vast collections of books, photos and nearly every article and exhibition card relating to Curacao's artistic history. The coach house located amongst the mangazina buildings features a preserved version of Henriquez' sculpture studio. Besides examples of the owner's and her collaborators' work, the studio features a collection of tools and materials that allow visitors to see how some of Curacao's most enduring artworks were created.

Outside the buildings, amongst the impeccably landscaped property, visitors will notice an impressive collection of sculptures. The sculpture gardens at Landhuis Bloemhof feature the work of both local and internationally-celebrated artists. Visitors are invited to saunter through the property at their own pace, admire the diverse artwork and enjoy the weather and scenery that have made Curacao such an attractive destination.

All of the exhibitions, archives and sculpture gardens at Landhuis Bloemhof are open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM, and Saturday, 9:30 AM to 1 PM. Tourists can also check local listings or ask their concierge for a schedule of events and performances.
About the Author
Justin Burch writes articles about travel in Curacao for the Marriott Resorts.
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