With a population of 1,300 people, cutoff from the influx of tourism money, Akumal is a small coastal town located in the Yucatan Peninsula that has often been plagued by government under-funding. At a time where social and environmental degradation has created a multi-divided, broken community, Akumal needed its community to heal.
Since as early as November 2018, Akumal has used its love and passion for art to bridge the gap between the East side of the Yucatan peninsula connecting Cancun to the coastal beach resorts and Akumal, literally and figuratively, tackling the many unaddressed public services left behind by the government municipalities.
For over six years, Jennifer Smith, owner of Turtle Bay Bakery and Cafe and founder of the Akumal Arts Festival has spent her time developing the partnerships between Akumal and its delgados, or mayors to change out the light bulbs at the entrance of Akumal and its bridge due to the increasing safety concerns for her staff and employees.
These ‘delgados’, according to Smith, act as a liaison between Akumal and its municipality, who have the ability to work with public services to facilitate the changing out of lightbulbs. The problem, however, was that it could often take months for these changes to be made:
“Akumal has always been this abandoned pueblo,” she said, referencing the many municipality and government changes.
“We were living in this ‘no man’s land’ where we weren’t getting any services and weren’t being treated as we should be. And that’s when I came along. Due to my restaurant and its location, I was very social and acquainted with all the tourists and everyone in trouble. I was really tired of telling people that everything’s okay with our town, when it wasn’t okay.”
As for providing public lighting, safety has continued to be a motivating issue when it comes to helping individuals get from one side of the bridge to the other, as it was dangerous for employees returning home at night without streetlights. And for Smith, it was clear that of the many things Akumal needed, overhead street lights were the starting point.
Ultimately, Smith created the Akumal Arts Festival in 2018 to act as a funnel for Akumal to have access to modernized technology and resources that could help keep the light shining in the tiny village by addressing the neglected public services it has endured with for so long. Each year the festival brings artists together from around the world to paint murals, offer workshops, performances, and engage with the local community and each other.
The first annual festival changed the face and heart of Akumal, bringing to light Mexican & Maya culture, conservation, women’s empowerment, sustainability, and climate change by publicly showcasing wall paintings from over 100 national and international mural artists including New York’s Konstance Patton (SoHo Renaissance Factory), Cbloxx (Nomad Clan), Denver’s Tukeone, SF Crew graffiti artist Frase, London’s Jim Vision, Mexico City based Nia Fase and more. These renowned street artists from around the world ascended on the village of Akumal with a joint purpose: to beautify the city with art.
Fast forward to 2022, where issues of safety still exist, but so do under-developed public services, including education.
This year’s Festival achieved a greater impact with support from Hublot, a luxury-watch brand brought on by Third Rail Art as an official festival partner. Hublot provided financial support for the festival and commissioned Cancun-based artist Frank Banda to create a masterful mural paying tribute to the Maya calendar and the Maya-inspired limited-edition Hublot watch.
“NFTs 4 Good” Helps Create Positive Social Impact
Street art is ephemeral, but NFTs are the pathway to immortality.
The Festival, which ran from January 28 to the 30th, brought over 100+ artists from Mexico and around the world into its tiny town for three days worth of mural painting, workshops, performances, and local community engagement.
Third Rail Art, a returning sponsor for this year’s event, is a hub for street art and digital art lovers, returning to the heart of Akumal for its latest venture, following in suit to its earlier projects, most notably Walls For Good in 2020 – whereby Thirdrail Art donated money to Akumal each time an Akumal artist went up at The Great Wall of Savas in NYC with the walls of the Akumal Arts Festival, helping to improve the local children’s learning skills and conditions – as well as its Akumal T-Project, where Third Rail Art sells t-shirts depicting artists’ work where 100% of the profits go towards Akumal’s social initiatives.
For many of these high-level artists, who applied and were chosen by a curator, it was more than simply showcasing their work, but an opportunity to beautify the city of Akumal and help make the town a nicer place to live, converting the town from grey, cement buildings into beautiful works of art to inspire the community.
Over the next few weeks, Third Rail Art will be announcing their new NFT platform where they will drop NFTs of the ephemeral works of art created throughout the town of Akumal. Many of these artists were enthusiastic about minting an NFT of their mural for charity, seeing this as an opportunity to help grow their portfolios and professional bandwidth.
The proceeds from each NFT sale, according to the company, will be donated towards Akumal Art Festival’s vision of “…beautifying the town for locals and visitors.”
The website further describes Akumal as:
“…a rapidly developing area and considered [to be] a ground-zero site for ecological disaster. We believe in art-as-activism for our town.”
The anticipated NFT drop will be around February 26, the company said, where Third Rail Art will be spending the majority of February in post-production stages in building out the NFT drop.
To gain early access to the Third Rail Art NFT-4-GOOD drop, visit https://thirdrailart-nft.com/.