Two hours from Panama City and only 30 minutes from Playa Blanca, lays the vibrant scene of the increasingly popular Art in the Park Festival.
It was a surprisingly entertaining day. Artists both old and new displayed work of all levels, sizes and subjects—some seemingly inspired by nightmares, others by Panama’s diverse countryside and ethnicity. A steady stream of visitors threaded through the park, admiring pieces in the time honored manner by pulling out their wallets and purchasing canvases to adorn their walls.
A gaggle of multi-lingual ladies oversaw the ticket sales for the striking “Senora de Noches” painting. Proceeds from the draw and the event fund the scholarship program, enabling more would be artists to develop their talents.
Penonome in the Cocle province of Panama hosts this colorful and popular event every year. Seasoned artists showcase and sell their work along with the efforts of students (some recipients of previous years scholarship programs) from the Estelina Tejeira Bellas Artes School.
The highlight of the day was the performances by the Diablicos Sucios the Devil Dancers. Costumed in red and black stripes with huge devil masks they twirl and cavort accompanying themselves with castanets and large gourds. The four whirling dervishes where a huge hit with the crowd as were the second act, satin and hoop clad ugly crones—smiling comically from blood red paper mache lips—they cavorted and wiggled provocatively. Good luck with that guys!
No festival is complete without its food vendors, so popular that the crowd was always three deep around one. Hidden in the corner were a few extra surprises from local artisans. A fragile silver butterfly with wings of sea glass called louder to me than any of the canvases lining the square.
No visit to Penonome is complete without calling into the nearby restaurant Mezon de Santa Cruz. You may think you have wondered into a church or a refectory with crucifixes, carvings and paintings depicting saint and angels on its walls. However, it is a highly successful restaurant, serving the best steaks in Penonome and worth taking the time to explore its labyrinth of rooms and series of open courtyards beyond.