Venezuela Opens National Art Gallery and Launches National Reading Plan

Over
the weekend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez inaugurated the newly constructed
headquarters of the National Art Gallery, launched a national Revolutionary Reading
Plan, and commemorated the anniversary of the government's Culture Mission,
which promotes cultural programming in local communities.
By Tamara Pearson – Venezuelanalysis.com

Chavez_National_gallery_ABN.jpg

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the newly expanded National Art Gallery (ABN)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the newly expanded National Art Gallery (ABN)
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Merida, April 28th 2009
(Venezuelanlaysis.com) - Over the weekend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez
inaugurated the newly constructed headquarters of the National Art Gallery, launched
a national Revolutionary Reading Plan, and commemorated the anniversary of the
government's Culture Mission, which promotes cultural programming in local
communities. Chávez also met with Venezuelan artists and with Italian tenor Andrea
Boticelli.

The construction of the National Art Gallery was paralyzed
for 20 years, but in 2005, the Chávez government recommenced construction on
the 30,000 square meter museum. The gallery has a permanent collection of 7,000
Venezuelan art works spanning four centuries, of which 700 art works are currently
on display, as well as pre-Hispanic art.

Elida Salazar, director of the new museum, said, "It's
the first museum institution in Latin America of this style and magnitude... this
space is evidence of the importance that the government gives to Venezuelan
art."

Chávez spoke of the significance of art to people's
liberation struggles. "All art is liberating. Anything that claims to be art
but represses the people can't be considered art," said the president.

However, "A change in spirit hasn't been achieved
yet," Chávez said, motivating the need for the Revolutionary Plan for Reading.
This plan will be the "base for the injection of consciousness through reading,
with which our revolution will be strengthened even more."

Chávez announced that under this plan, the government
will distribute 2.5 million books to develop the communal libraries and said
part of the plan was a "rescuing of our true history for our youth." He
explained that many standard textbooks do not acknowledge the European
imperialist genocide of the indigenous peoples and their resistance.

Specifically, Chavez mentioned Eduardo Galeano's history
of Latin America, ‘The Open Veins of Latin America', which Chávez recently gave
to US president Barack Obama at the Summit of Americas. He said he would seek
permission to print the book on a large scale in Venezuela.

Chávez recommended that people do collective reading
and exchange knowledge, mainly through the communal councils and the popular
libraries. He called for the communal councils as well as "factory workers,
farmers, and neighbors, to form revolutionary reading squadrons, each squadron
made up of 10 members." He said one of the tasks of these reading groups would
be to have discussions in order to "unmask the psychological war...of the
oligarchy."

To mark the anniversary of the Culture Mission, which
is also called "Corazón Adentro" or "Heart Within [the community]," there were
also circus performances, theatre, music, dance, and distribution of free books
in the Poliedro, a large stadium in Caracas, on Saturday.

With 500 cultural promoters from Cuba, and another 500
from Venezuela, the Culture Mission aims to take cultural activities directly
into the barrios, providing a range of cultural classes and performances that
reaffirm Venezuelan identity and history. So far, the mission has only reached
the greater Caracas area, but according to Culture Minister Hector Soto, "we
are planning to expand it to eight more states this year."

Chávez met with Italian Tenor Andrea Bocelli as part
of his effort to highlight culture this weekend. Bocelli then gave a concert in
the Simon Bolivar University
accompanied by the Venezuelan Youth Symphonic Orchestra as well as the National
Children's Symphony. Bocelli's visit to Venezuela formed part of a world
tour.

Soto and Chávez also met with a range of prominent
Venezuelan artists including writers, actors, painters, dancers, cinema
directors and musicians, who displayed a collection of Venezuelan poetry,
talked about the recovery of culture in Venezuelan television, and presented a
document from musicians and composers which expressed their desire to rescue
Venezuelan folklore and the rich musical diversity of the country, among other
things.

Venezuelan artist Saul Herta said that the National
Art Gallery needs to go beyond being an exhibition of art. "There has to be
interaction between the artists, directors, the Culture Ministry, and the
community," he said.

Next April will be the 200th anniversary of
the Venezuelan struggle for independence from Spain. Chávez suggested that Venezuelan
artists come up with an "extraordinary plan" to gather Venezuela's historical
memory to prepare for the celebration of the anniversary.

"Culture is a priority, even in moments of financial
crisis" said Chávez.