I have been following Casa Santa Ana on Instagram for years (click here to follow their account). I saw that they had opened a physical space and wrote to them to organize an interview for this website. Carolina Hausmann, the director of the space, replied and invited me to pass by. I put “Casa Santa Ana” on Google Maps and it took me to a building on Central Avenue after the Machetazo supermarket. I couldn’t see the art gallery anywhere. I had to contact them again, since I did not have the correct address.
Through a video they sent, I could see that the location of Casa Santa Ana is on the Terraplen, which is the entrance to the Casco Viejo neighborhood. This area was recently remodeled and only allows entry to a small part that turns towards Chinatown. I left the car there and walked around trying to find the building in the video. I arrived at a building that has not yet been restored, without a sign, which was the same one in the video. Carolina opened the door after I rang the bell.
Anyone who wants to see the Casa Santa Ana exhibits can go from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday. On Thursdays they are open until 8 p.m. They will soon be putting up a sign to identify the building. They mention special events on social media such as exhibitions by resident artists.
What is Casa Santa Ana?
Casa Santa Ana is a non-profit foundation that connects people through contemporary art. They seek to understand current contexts and build a stronger and more inclusive community. This foundation started in 2015, but it was not until the end of 2023 that they opened a physical space to have an non profit, independent space that exhibits art. Check out the other art galleries in Casco Viejo.
Johnny Roux is the founder, who is a super serious art collector with a heart of gold. He wanted to do a project related to art, which is his passion, so Casa Santa Ana emerged. They consider themselves “a global local project.” You can visit their website to see their history in Panamanian art.
Before they worked in a “nomadic” way, since they did not have a home and they held exhibitions in collaboration with other spaces. The name Casa Santa Ana comes from the space where they were originally going to be, but in the end it did not work out. They kept the name since “everyone is welcome in a house.”
Collaborations and Workshops
Casa Santa Ana makes publications, exhibitions, workshops, conservatories and has a residency program. They do a lot of fundraising to maintain the non-profit organization and work in collaborations with other associations and companies to raise funds.
Among the collaborations they have done with other spaces, we can mention an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Panama (MAC) from May to September 2023 by Donna & Jonathan. They also did another exhibition at this art museum in Panama City in 2016 with a New York photographer named Larry Fink. They have collaborated with Diablo Rosso, another space and art gallery located in Plaza Santa Ana, and with the Panama Canal Interoceanic Museum where they exhibited works by Samuel Fosso from October 2022 to March 2023.
Casa Santa Ana also did a book with Sandra Eleta. Since 2017 they have been doing a workshop called “Voices in Action” led by Donna Conlon and Jonathan Harker. 56 local artists have participated in this program that lasts between 6 and 8 weeks on a weekly basis. Carolina tells me that “they have a family of artists who have passed through there.”
Another Casa Santa Ana project is a children’s library called La Leonera that will be a five-minute walk from its art gallery. They started this project before the pandemic because the country was deficient in reading, which worsened during the pandemic when public schools were closed for 2 years. They do not have an opening date, but they estimate that sometime in 2024.
On the top floor of Casa Santa Ana there is an apartment where artists reside. The idea is to receive artists from different parts of the world who work on site for six weeks while they produce works and do workshops with children or people from the area.
When I went, the Colombian artist Lorena Torres was on residency. On their social networks they were offering an open workshop with Lorena that is by call since spaces are limited. You must apply to participate in one of the workshops with artists. The person who teaches the workshop is the one who selects the participants. These workshops are sponsored by Casa Santa Ana and are free of charge for participants.
I had the opportunity to meet Lorena and see her beautiful works. I was surprised by all the paintings she had painted in such a short time. Her works were inspired by Panama with many traditional elements and local ethnicity. On February 17, the works done by this resident artist will be exhibited to the public.
Casa Santa Ana has also hosted Adam Goldstein and John Fou as resident artists. Some artists sell their works at the end of the residency, which serves to finance the operation of the NGO, as they cover the costs of bringing and hosting the artists. All residencies are by invitation.
Memories of the Terraplen, Part 1
When I visited they had exhibited a collection titled “Memories of the Terraplen, Part 1” with works by Afro-descendant artists from different parts of the world. There are only two local artists: Jose Braithwaite and Giana De Dier. The rest are international, including some African artists.
None of the works are things that really happened on the terraplen, but anything could have happened. The curator is Ana Laguna who wanted to talk about the terraplen, which today is known as the entrance to Casco Antiguo. This area has always been a place of historical events, including the famous Tajada de la Sandía. It is also a meeting point between people and peddlers.
All the works have themes that are repeated worldwide including conflicts, upbringings, markets, displacements, meeting points, nostalgia, among others. This exhibition is a conversation with visitors. The works exhibited are from a private collection, therefore they are not for sale.