Reading Borucan Rainforest Masks delight and touch hearts for 20 years! 5 minutes
20th Anniversary Rainforest Mask Exhibit at Selby Gardens, Sarasota, FL 2024

2024 marks the 20th anniversary of the Borucan Rainforest Mask exhibit at Selby Gardens in Sarasota, FL

The Rainforest Masks return to Selby Gardens for this exhibit's 20th anniversary!  From January 6-21st, 2024 immerse yourself in the flora, fauna and culture of Boruca Costa Rica, through the eyes of 17 indigenous artists and their 350 impressive artworks. With outstanding artistry and creativity, they keep surprising us with pieces that delight the eyes and touch our hearts.

It is an honor to be part of this unique project of collaboration between a botanical institution and an artistic indigenous community whose ancestral art, heritage and innate connection to Mother Earth raises awareness for preserving the rainforests and our interconnectedness.

20th Anniversary Rainforest Mask Exhibit at Selby Gardens, Sarasota, FL 2024

This 20th exhibit is also an opportunity to celebrate the role of early curators Lauren Jawser and Marylynn and CJ Shelly who connected Selby Gardens and the Sarasota community with the artists.  

The story begins when Lauren Jawer, an artist and teacher, discovered this relatively unknown artform and had the vision to bring it to the US.

“In 2002, during a family vacation in the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, I was introduced to the Borucan masks. Their uniqueness, artistry and story deeply moved me, and I was compelled to meet the artists. It was clear to me that there was an audience in the US that would be enchanted by their art and I wanted to help making that connection.” Lauren Jawer, artist and originator of the rainforest mask project

In 2003, she visited the remote village of Boruca for the first time to meet the artists. Back in Sarasota, FL, Lauren reached out to Selby Gardens and found enthusiastic support from Marilynn Shelley, then Manager of Classes and Exhibits.

20th Anniversary Rainforest Mask Exhibit at Selby Gardens, Sarasota, FL 2024

Together, they organized the first rainforest mask exhibit for 2004. Over the following years, the enthusiasm for the Boruca masks kept growing and a beautiful cultural and economic exchange was established.

“The world premier of the Borucan Masks was a big hit with our members and visitors. People were enamored with these unique masks and the three artists from Boruca (Melvin Gonzalez Rojas, Bernardo Gonzalez Morales and Francisco Rojas Morales) who offered demonstrations of carving and painting during the first week. We anointed them with the title of "Block Stars" for creating such beauty from a block of balsa wood and because they quickly attracted a "paparazzi" of fans who in subsequent years wanted to be the first in line to purchase another of their masks. There was no doubt that this would become a recurring exhibit.” Marilynn Shelley

Lauren was in charge of the exhibit for three years before moving to the West coast. To keep it going, Marilynn Shelley and her late husband CJ continued it.

“I couldn't be more pleased that this collaboration has continued and I know my late husband would be thrilled as well. The exhibit sales offered an income for the artists to provide for their families and village. When Lauren moved to Oregon we knew we had the responsibility to continue with her good efforts. My husband and I gathered our resources to import the masks and curate the exhibits from 2009 to when I retired in May of 2016.” Marilynn Shelley 

In 2016, as Marilynn and CJ were retiring, Jeannie Perales, Director of the Museum, invited Lucuma Designs to take over the mask project and we said yes! At Lucuma Designs, our team is proud to be part of this beautiful effort and so honored to have been representing such talented artists ever since. 

“I am extremely gratified this exhibit has carried on so it can continue to support the Borucan art form and their community. I never imagined such a history would build and yet it makes perfect sense to me as it seemed at the time a completely natural pairing. It reinforces for me the relevance and the importance that both nature and artistic expression are an integral part of being human.” Lauren Jawer

20th Anniversary Rainforest Mask Exhibit at Selby Gardens, Sarasota, FL 2024

We can’t thank enough everyone and all who through the years has contributed to make this happen including the staff and loyal volunteers at Selby Gardens, the artists who strive to keep their art fresh and in constant evolution, and for the incredibly supportive Sarasota community without whom this could not be possible.

Still time to see for yourself these splendid pieces of art at the Selby Garden exhibit in downtown Sarasota, Florida from January 6th to the 21st of 2024. If you go, give us your thoughts!


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