or such a small country, Costa Rica gives a lot of support to its arts. The Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports sponsor music and dance performances in towns throughout the country, workshops for kids, and an annual international arts festival. The government subsidizes the House of the Artist, founded in 1951 and offering free painting and sculpture lessons ? many Tico artists began their careers here. Musicians and dancers have the Conservatorio Castella (started in 1953), and the state-subsidized Editorial Costa Rica (founded in 1959) publishes local writers and sponsors yearly writing awards.

There is also the National Symphony Orchestra, until the early 1970s a small ensemble playing a few poorly attended concerts each year. President Pepe Figueres sparked the revitalization of the orchestra, asking “Why should we have tractors if we lack violins?” Now the orchestra is first-rate, playing not only in the elegant National Theater but also in small-town plazas throughout the country. When musicians are hired (often from outside the country), they know they must not only play but also teach: The “second orchestra” is one of the few state-sponsored youth orchestras in the world.

The National Dance Company is also on the upswing, as are all sorts of theater groups, including expat troupes that perform works in English.

Private financing of the arts is also on the rise, with some of the larger multinational corporations supporting mostly music and theater, and La Nacion sponsoring yearly writing awards.

Film here is pretty much a Hollywood import with blockbusters shown at multiplexes not unlike the ones back home. In San Jose, there is the occasional foreign film festival, and two venues-Sala Garbo and Teatro Laurence Olivier, right next door to each other near Paseo Colon-regularly show foreign and independent films. There is a Centro de Cine that sometimes organizes film series, like recent series, like recent series of Cuban films. The Costa Rican film industry is in its infancy, though business forces are trying hard to sell the country as a beautiful and economical movie location.

Almost all of the cinemas in the country are in San Jose. Outside of the capital, the cultural pickings in general can be slim, though you could always start you own theater group, film club, or chamber orchestra.

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