A quick note (please scroll down to rewards section to see them and get excited!)
Hello world (hopefully!). Im super excited for the launch of our first Kickstarter campaign. The team has put a lot of effort in breaking everything down for you. But please let us know of any doubts you might have. I will be answering questions everyday from 6pm onwards, Puerto Rico time. So please don't hesitate.
Super grateful that you are stopping by. And if you like what you see and read, please share it!
Gerardo Lebrón, Olita Founder
Cerro Calero is a beautiful favela like neighborhood in the northwestern coast of Puerto Rico. Located on a hill just behind the Mayor's Office, this urban "poverty pocket" faces the same challenges of the poorest sectors of the country:
Lack of access to entrepreneurial resources and opportunities
One of the results of this unluckiness is generational government dependence, a factor that prolongs the cycle of poverty. With La Vía, Cerro Calero is one of the two poorest and neglected communities in the municipality of Aguadilla.
Incredibly, an artistic mystery that lives inside Cerro Calero is changing this reality.
Billy Joe and his son Jwan are residents of Cerro Calero. They live alongside their mom, Maya, and her sister Gogó and her daughter Malí. They are the leaders of Arte Carabambú, a community driven art collective.
As natural as a plant in the shadow seeking light, this collective turns the abandoned walls of their neighborhood into beautiful murals. They gather inspiration from the characters that live around them, from their profound love for Puerto Rico's culture, and from mystical creatures. Their murals, all rooted on a democratic participation methodology, not only beautify the community, but celebrate its culture and integrity. The end result is a magical story written in the walls around Cerro Calero.
Billy and Jwan have been identifying abandoned structures in the community for a while now. One of the houses started taking the shape of one of Billy's dreams, a Community Art Gallery, a place where he can give art classes for free and expose the artistic talent of the youth, like little Malí's hand painting techniques. In that same structure, Jwan also started one of his long thought ideas, a Tattoo Workshop. As a marketing strategy, he pledge he would tattoo one person per day for free...
They have all kind of ideas: A gym for the community boxers, a library, a balcony for the sunsets...But if you ask them what they need or how can you help them, they say "Just some good company to paint with. Bring a can of Cheez Whiz, and we will put the bread and paint. We need nothing more"
So we already have the Cheez Whiz, but we want talked to them to bring something more to the table.
Hand in hand with Billy and Jwan we are going to transform one of the abandoned houses of the neighborhood into an Airbnb. Billy named it El Hotelito (Little Hotel).
Having Billy Joe and Jwan as Project's Community Leaders, they will guide the artistic design of the project and we will support it with the rehabilitation of the structure and Airbnb training and skill development. We will train Billy and Jwan as co-managers of El Hotelito, which will take us to the fulfillment of the first project milestone: Employment.
El Hotelito will be just an extension of the magical work they already do in their neighborhood. The difference will be that they are going to get paid, thus having the possibility of investing and living of their art.
El Hotelito will be the catalyst for the development of Cerro Calero's grassroots community tourism industry. Part of it's revenues will be directed to the rehabilitation of other forsaken structures in the community. These structures will be hubs for locally driven business models which will seek to multiply resident employment.
The protection of the community's culture and integrity will be at the strategy's core (no gentrification). Meaning that the growth of this movement will be community driven, community directed, and community owned.
The location and the tourism advantage
Besides its attractive labyrinth design, Cerro Calero has a privileged location that provides tourists the benefits of a pedestrian urban area. Great gastronomy options are within a 15 minute radius, and beautiful Rompeolas beach is just a 10 minute walk (also a surfing beach when the season starts in October). Also, panoramic sites like Punta Borinquen and Playuela are just a 15 minute drive away.
But above all, El Hotelito offers an opportunity to know another side of Puerto Rico's coin. Its an option for those looking a closer view to some of Puerto Rico's raw realities, to dig in into a hidden place that besides having some tough luck, its has a unique charm.
Its also passage to meet two amazing artists and the magical works they have under the carpets. Taking the community's Mural Tour with Billy and Jwan will be by far one of the most significant experiences El Hotelito will offer.
The creation of El Hotelito will be directed by sustainable design and minimalism. The project is divided in two phases. Phase 1 looks to rehabilitate the structure and Phase 2 seeks to create energy and water sustainability. This Kickstarter seeks to fund Phase 1 only. (And ny surplus will be for Phase 2)
We want El Hotelito to serve as inspiration of a new housing possibility for the community's residents, as well as a model for sustainable living throughout Puerto Rico.
The Budget: Phase 1 - $23,280
Budget for Phase 2 - $14,500
Ing. Roberto J Lebrón Laboy
Olita's Director of Photography and Film and R&D Advisor is also a certified engineer member of the Colegio de Ingenieros de Puerto Rico. He has a deep passionate focus on sustainability. That is, on doing things the right way. His most recent resume update is his involvement in Hurricane's María Relief operations by FEMA as a Project Specialist.
Roberto will make sure that El Hotelito development complies with security and sustainability standards while also integrating appropriate technologies. He will also be playing an educational role, offering Billy, Jwan, and other community collaborators engineering insights.
Greg is a freelance cameraman that works with filming and editing. He will be documenting the whole process while also taking a closer view at the community's day to day reality. He also will be documenting on Billy's and Jwan's artistic backgrounds and magical works, with a particular focus on its impact on the community.
The result will be a short film that exposes the beauty of Cerro Calero and it's people and how art is playing a bigger role than economy.
(Quick fun fact. Greg is the responsible for this campaign. On a follow up trip he made with Waves for Water to Cerro Calero, he met with the Olita crew, who then showed him the project's site and vision. He instantly fell in love with it. A week later he sent us the video you just saw and told us he wanted to share it with his friends and that we should do a Kickstarter with it. So, this is it!)
In exchange for your support, we tried our best for you to take home a piece of the project. Hope you like them!
Sticker (#1) and Bookmark (#2) art:
"Salimos de Aquí" mural by Billy Joe and his son. This mural was done by them just after Hurricane's María disaster. Their purpose was to lift up the community's spirit by reminding them of how beautiful their community was before the damages and to work to get it back in shape.
One day, on a visit to the community, a guy got amazed by the mural. He happened to be an LA Times editor. Check out what he wrote about it here.
Pick your favorite frame and hang it to remind yourself you need to come and visit!
"Artminded" Conventional Tote Bag (#4):
This project is actually a celebration of art. And we wanted to show that in some of our rewards.
Celebrate the artist mindset grocery shopping with this tote bag.
It features "Cosmos", an art piece by Olita artist Athos Castro.
"Billy" Ringet Tees (#5 & #6)
"Billy" is a verb. Is the act of feeding yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually of ART. Is the use of art as a tool for unification, hope, and culture proliferation. Its the recognition of ART as a necessary element for the well being of society. Billy means creating art for art itself and nothing more.
This tee celebrates ALL BILLYS OUT THERE who are not seeking the spotlight because their art shines perfectly enough for them.
Early Bird of "José" (#8)
"José" is our first product made in Puerto Rico, manufactured in the mountains of Utuado (with pride!). It's a button down shirt with a Guayabera feel.
It's made of 55% hemp, 45% organic cotton, with Corozo buttons.
P.S. This reward actually has triple impact: You support El Hotelito, while also supporting Puerto Rican manufacturing, while also supporting us (a puertorican family social enterprise) for the launch of this new product in the Fall. So yeah, feel good!
A Portrait of "You" by Billy Joe (#9)
Billy Joe's most passionate form of art is pencil drawing. It helps him lose himself inside his mind and reveal in paper his love.
Send us a portrait photo of you and Billy Joe will hand draw it in pencil and send it back to you.
A Portrait of "You" in El Hotelito "Backers" Mural (#10)
Send us a portrait photo of you and Billy and Jwan will paint it in the "Backers" Mural in El Hotelito.
If you choose this reward, you definitely need to pass by sometime before you die. We will receive you and give you a tour around Cerro Calero!
Billy Joe Art Rewards
Now, this are special. All are Billy Joe's original works. He offered them for the benefit of the project. Each piece shows a bit of his mind and carries a part of his soul. Each is a treasure on its own, since more than art, you will be taking home an extension of the artist.
Our humble advice is to take advantage if this great opportunity, not just to be part of a project that looks to do some good in a community that needs it (and much more), but to be able to appreciate in your home the mysteriousness of Arte Carabambú's art, in a very very very reasonable price. You all know how high end the art industry can be. And we are more than certain that once the world sheds light into the incredible work Arte Carambabú has hidden in their Community Art Gallery, the prices will go insane.
Real quick. All art prices include a buffer for shipping. Because of the unpredictability of the backers origins and the high variability in shipping costs depending not just on the country but on the specific area + art piece wights and measurements, we decided to put a standard $50 shipping margin on all pieces (except the Jesus canvases because of their small proportions in relation to the other pieces). This margin maybe enough for some pieces, and in the cases it does not cover it, at least its a good enough "cushing" for us to handle whats left needed.
Without any further delays, here are some of Billy's pieces:
So, in a nutshell, this is the plan:
Mid August - Kickstarter Launch
Mid September - End of kickstarter Campaign (and hopefully we reached our pledge!). We will say "YAY" real loud in our heads, and then...
(21 days until Kickstarter processes payment))
October - Reward production + packaging
November - Rewards shipment (of those that havne't been shipped already) + Start of project El Hotelito (see timeline of the project).
P.S. This timeline has sufficient margin of error. We are going to work as effective as possible so that the exposed timeline would be the worst case scenario.
Olita is a family built organization that seeks to deviate families from the cycle of poverty. Following our empowerment model, we strive to achieve our mission through the development of community empowered projects, ones which we try to finance through our products (like reward #8)
Our empowerment model is simple: Know the community from the inside out in order to learn from their potentials and built business model projects around them.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge we have is harmonizing our progress vision with the municipalities administration. There is a bunch of legal stuff that we need municipality's willingness to cooperate in order to fulfill them. And in order to expand the project (our strategy) we need to put all of this in a Development Plan in the Office of Development of the municipality since it requieres lots of coordination and joint efforts.
To put it simply, we need to unite in order to be more effective.
We have met directly with the director of the Development Office whom got delighted with our proposal. We also met with some in the private sector who are willing to help in the legal needs. So its really a matter of getting the talks to the serious table and seal the deal.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)