(unknown festival photographer)
So if you aren’t living in Barcelona, and/or spent time here in late August you might be wondering just what is this Fiesta de Gracia that I am so excited to have the privilege of helping to “preparing for”..?
(*And just before you read on, I need to tell you that next summer -2017- will be the 200th anniversary of the festival. SO much history within this festival!)
For a week after the feast of Our Lady of August
Day: August 15
Gràcia was a small town farmer who, in the course of the nineteenth century saw a major transformation and became a singular area of workers and small traders. With the growth of Barcelona and the Cerdà plan, the core was incorporated into the city; however, has never ceased to demand characteristics and a way of its own.
The festival Grace is considered the ultimate expression of the identity of the neighborhood and is composed of a series of celebrations that combine participation and samples of popular and traditional culture. Neighbourhood associations, divided by areas, organizing a part of the celebration, each in his street or square, and the result of all this is almost a week of activities in every corner of the town, which is possible thanks to the contribution of Gràcia and gracienques involved are many.
The Foundation Gràcia festival brings together organizations that adorned the streets and squares and participate in the festival by organizing dances, concerts, workshops, popular meals …
While the reason for the festival Grace is controversial, some attribute to St. Roc, some others to the Virgin August- mostly is considered to be the feast of the Assumption, because tradition says the district is under the patronage of the Mother of God. However, the day of San Roque also celebrated: the neighbors do a tribute to him and Castellers of Vila de Gràcia devote a pillar of offering, with the presence of popular festive imagery Gràcia.
The origin of the festival is almost parallel to the development of the town. It is the first documented reference in 1817, when it recorded a gathering which was Can Trilla in honor of the Virgin of August.The festival is consolidated during the second decade of the nineteenth century and takes a character more and more civic than religious, with many organizations and associations to collaborate.
The following two images below are from a beautiful little book that I picked up downstairs from my residency at JIWAR. It’s called ‘Vila de Grààcia: Walk with Me’. They describe the festival in a more casual way.
I arrived in Barcelona on Friday afternoon, and within minutes of arriving at JIWAR, residency co-founder Mireia Estrada Gelabert was on the phone to a wonderful Berga woman named Teressa about my helping to create decorations for their area of the festival, Berga (This is Teressa’s 12 year volunteering for the festival!). By 5:30 Saturday evening I was working with members of the Berga community of Gracia (communicating primarily thought terrible ‘sign language’ with the group, or in French with Teressa translating!). They were extremely kind, and that first evening just flew bye. I got to work immediately sculpting with chicken wire, and sewing draped fabric over plastic tubing along side of other volunteers performing tasks such as balling up old newspaper and taping them to central skeletal-like forms that will eventually be spray-painted bright colours. Just after 9pm we called it a day! (They work in the evenings, even though many of the volunteers are retired, to avoid the hot hours of the day.)
JIWAR has articulated the values of the festival as being “Known for high artistic quality the artistic and the creative asp, there is a strong social sense in it. The inhabitants of every streets work together most time the year to achieve the decoration starting the project in winter time. During the period of the festivity (from the 15th of August to the 22th of August) more than 1.500.000 visitants look over the streets, squares and balconies.” http://jiwarbarcelona.com/open-call-balcony-and-garden-design-in-summer-2014-festa-major-de-gracia/
A few things that you should know about Festa de Gracia, each participating street has it’s own community of volunteers who live in the area and work on the decorations. During the festival, people vote for which street they feel has created the most exciting/elaborate decorations. Also individuals may choose to participate by decorating their balcony, and there is a separate category for people to vote on the favourite balcony.
Above, you see a photo of the outdoors of Berga’s studio, or ‘creative’ space to prepare their decorations for the festival. Inside is dirt floor courtyard for creating, scaffolding to work on tall sculptures, and two trailers for storing supplies and decorations from year to year. When I asked about this year’s preperations, Teressa informed me that in Berga they began to create the works in February (I can’t tell you ‘what’ exactly they are creating because I think that it’s a secret.. Try and guess though!).
Stay tuned, there will be more to come.
Check out these sites for more information on the festa: