When a previously undisturbed tourist destination becomes popular beyond sustainable levels, what's the solution? That's the question founders of the Art With Me festival in hope to answer as the summer season kicks off and thousands prepare to descend on the once sleepy beach town of Tulum.
Art With Me *GNP "Presented by TANE" emerged in 2018 as Tulum's first Arts & Ecoculture Festival, and returns this year April 24-28 with a diverse lineup including performances by Michael Franti, Brooklyn house duo Bedouin, a live band performance from Berlin-based techno artist Jan Blomqvist and Monolink. There will also be art from Mexican surrealist artist and designer Pedro Friedeberg, American painter dubbed "the godfather of pop surrealism" Mark Ryden, multidisciplinary artist Daniel Popper, and more.
What sets the festival apart from others of its ilk, however, is its focus on being a community-driven platform designed to inspire change. This year's theme, Change Stars With Me, is based on the festival's key focus of bringing awareness (and solutions) to the pressing environmental and infrastructure challenges currently facing Tulum.
"One of the main missions of Art With Me is to bring the private sector together for the common cause of promoting more sustainable business practices," Art With Me co-founder and Ahau Collection founder David Graziano told PAPER. "For the 8 years that I've been living in Tulum, I've seen a big disconnect between much of the private sector. Even though there are businesses and owners who are working on positive things for the environment, none of them were communicating with each other. Through Art With Me we are looking to build a community where business owners can join together, become a part of the Care With Me program and have access to environmental consultants that can assist in improving the environmental practices of each business."
To help educate those business owners, Art With Me's sustainability arm, Care With Me, is partnering with people with experience in the environmental sector. The effort goes beyond one weekend a year — last year the group hosted The Plastic Solution Forum, along with Greenpeace, UN Environment, Organi – K, and the Chalchi Foundation and formed a national alliance with more than 30 NGOs to ban single use plastic in Mexico. In addition to sponsoring events like beach clean ups, advising hotels on sustainable practices and hosting events with Tulum businessmen, government officials, hoteliers and environmentalists, the platform is working to normalize a focus on sustainability and moving away from wasteful and harmful models.
The festival itself will feature more than 300 events and activities, combining art, music, talks and workshops and 'wellness experiences,' all based on an ethos Kelly hopes guests will internalize and take home with them.
"The event also really wants to focus on how to create a more environmentally aware tourist," Kelly said. "We're looking to do this through sustainable art, educational talks and workshops, and by encouraging attendees to take the pledge in the Care With Me section on our website. By taking the pledge people can learn how to be more environmentally aware visitors, earn a discount on their festival ticket, and take these ideas home to make their communities more sustainable."