The first time I visited CaSa was for the inauguration of the Oaxaca Photography Biennial in 2016. I did not live in Oaxaca at that time and it seemed strange to me that the inauguration was not held within city limits. When I got out of the car, after driving for half an hour and crossing a tree-lined road, I was stunned by both the architectural and natural beauty of the place. The small church, the sound of the water, the variety of flowers and trees convened in perfect harmony with a majestic building. I immediately understood that such a grand place – in scale and design – was indeed the ideal place for such an important photography event. The exhibit was well worth the trip outside of the city centre. I quickly realised that any exhibit at CaSa could claim the same. I certainly make sure to visit – and bring visitors – to CaSa every chance I get.
Located in the Etla district, 15 km from the capital city of Oaxaca, the Centro de las Artes de San Agustín (San Agustín Centre for the Arts) is one of the many cultural precincts Maestro Francisco Toledo has established to contribute to the region’s artistic and cultural development.
From the 19th century until the 1980s, this complex housed La Soledad Vista Hermosa spinning and weaving factory, founded in 1883 by the Spanish businessman José Zorrilla Trápaga. In 2000, Maestro Toledo launched the project to create the first ecological art centre in Latin America in the abandoned factory. With the support of the National Arts Centre (CENART), the State of Oaxaca, the Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation, and Friends of the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca (IAGO), the restoration of the old factory was undertaken with the end goal of creating a space for training, creation, and innovation for local and visiting artists. CaSa opened its doors to the public in March 2006 and continues to impress artists and visitors from all corners of the world.
CaSa is at the same time an art precinct and a work of art itself. The restoration of this exceptional complex integrates structures from the old factory with new elements. Its impressive façade and the beautiful staircase at the entrance leads visitors toward the great nave (formerly a weaving hall) which hosts temporal exhibitions. The sound of water running close to the stairs is as relaxing as it is seductive and invites people to continue to the second floor. Here, you can find the tranquil water mirrors and the former factory cauldron leading to the second art gallery of the building. The visual effects created by the water, harmonising with the landscape and ambient sounds, generate an inspiring atmosphere, one that has inspired generations of artists who have worked here since the late XIX century.
In addition, CaSa is a platform for contemporary artistic production where both national and international artists meet for workshops, diploma courses, and artistic residencies. Local artists also mount their own productions and exhibitions here on a regular basis in a variety of artistic disciplines. For example, CaSa recently hosted the Contemporary Graphic Art exhibit in celebration of IAGO’s 30th anniversary featuring graphic artwork from the Oaxaca area spanning three decades.
CaSa is also a space for reflection and dialogue between the arts, society, and the environment. Many of the photography and visual arts workshops hosted in CaSa include ecological issues as a key component.
Without a doubt, no art or nature lover should visit Oaxaca without visiting CaSa. What a great pretext to leave the city and immerse yourself in such a rich environment! While you are there, I also recommend you wander the town of San Agustín Etla to admire its murals, have a coffee, explore the quiet streets, or, if your need for artistic discovery hasn’t been satiated, visit the artisanal paper factory that neighbours CaSa.
There are several ways to get to CaSa. You can take a maroon and white collective taxi (colectivo) at Prolongación de Valerio Trujano, close to Central de Abastos and near the AU second class bus station. The fare is $13.50 and the ride takes about 40 minutes. Disembark at Vista Hermosa which is only 100 metres from CaSa. You can wait for a return colectivo at the same place.
By private taxi, the daytime rate from downtown is about $180. Night rates vary between $200 and $250.
If you go by car, take International Highway 190 Oaxaca-Mexico and head towards San Agustín Etla when you reach the San Sebastían Etla turnoff. Follow the Balneario Vista Hermosa signs and continue on 100 metres to CaSa. There is limited street parking.
Entrance to CaSa is free every day for both local and foreign visitors.
Address: Independencia Avenue (no number)
Vista Hermosa, San Agustín Etla
Visiting hours: Every day, 9am to 8pm
Photos: Pedro López MendozaPedro López Mendoza