My Secret Eden by Dubravka Lisak

An Art Residency in Greece
An amazing art story unfolds in sun-bathed Rhodes, deep in the shade of a centuries-old pine forest. Plunging deep into these woods, birds were singing, seemingly urging me to keep walking, to discover a gem that most tourists to this Greek island overlook.They had reason to be chirping happily. Here’s a place where artists can create and also exhibit, experiment and work at their specialties next to a 150-square-meter gallery containing scores of paintings and sculptures. As the scents of oleander wafted through the air, Damon Papakiriakou greets me, and soon talks about this hidden Art Park as a place where nature meets inspiration. It’s his secret have, a type of reserve where artists can escape from the stresses of the world’s chaos, and just focus on their creative impulses.

He placed his idyllic enclave in the small town of Arhipolis, in the center of the island, which offers artists a wealth of scenic and other natural riches in every seaside vista. Here they have a free working place: most attractively, their own space in outdoor workshops. Yes, totally free, and they can stay as long as they want, as long as they create art. It sounds like some amazing utopian story but Damon has the perfect answer for it. “Art must be available to everyone by the price but also with the possibility for the artist to create his works freely, without pressure. Is there a more ideal place for that than a Greek island, in the middle of a forest, in an olive grove, where inspiration lurks from every stone, tree, and bird that rests on it? ”

In addition to organizing exhibitions every month, they collaborate with Art School London. Their visitors were able to attend art workshops this September and thus develop their creativity.“We’ve made so many friends here,” Damon continues, modestly. “This whole place exudes cosmopolitanism and culture from all over the world. Everyone is welcome all year round. Artists get to know other artists, broaden their horizons and create even more works of art. Every year more and more people come to our park. That is our magic. The magic of art. “

Damon often shies away from talking about his support of artists. I had a hard time extracting his motivation for opening the Art Park, why he’s impelled to help artists find alluring work space. And yet, when I asked about his artistic expression, he brought to light his favorite project: a park of stone sculptures under the sea, the only one in the world. I could already imagine diving in the beautiful blue sea of ​​Rhodes, surrounded by tiny fish, and watching the play of sun and sea on the beautiful sculptures. I realized that Rhodes is truly a magical place and it is no wonder that such beautiful art in ancient Greece was born right here, where its warmth and nature are so tame.I finally asked him “why did you build this wondrous place?”

He answered,  “So far, we have financed and built everything ourselves. The Art Park’s electricity is supplied only by photovoltaic, as solar energy is environmentally friendly. We also help artists who come to us financially. I am a famous musician and I can afford it. So many people have passed through our doors that someone has heard of us in the European Union. They recognized our efforts and work and generously offered us the funds to expand Art Park in the future. “The magic of this story started while I was living in Denmark,” said Papakiriakou, while fixing a straw hat with long fingers.  He is an established Greek guitarist and sculptor.  “I decided to return to the country where I was born, Greece, to create and find inspiration here. As a young man, I often encountered the problems of young, unknown artists. I decided to do something for them, give them inspiration and a path to fame. That’s how the idea of ​​Art Park came about.”

Thoughtful and surprised that such an amazing story exists in today’s materialistic times, I thanked Damon for having the vision and the will to put it into action. I was thankful for all the young artists  who had found inspiration here.Now my only hope was that his underwater sculptures would thrive, close to some other warm sea. As for idyllic Rhodes, I would return, visit the Art Park again and maybe create my own work of art. I knew Damon, the hot Greek sun and sea would surely welcome me into their Eden.

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