Nina Bellak

(Bolinas, CA)

Nina first encountered Mexico as a teenager in 1962 when she was fortunate enough to be sent by her parents to join a group of girls staying with Frances Sciaky in her lovely home in Oaxaca. Franny saw to it that her girls were deeply immersed in Oaxacan culture, highlighted by visiting the pueblos, meeting the artisans and buying artesanía. Nina was fascinated by all the colorful impressions, as well as the warmth of the people. In 2000 Nina returned to Oaxaca for the first time in almost forty years. Much had changed, but the beauty and warmth remained. She walked up and down many streets, but was disappointed that she couldn’t locate Franny’s beautiful house. On a subsequent trip, however, thanks to the miracle of the internet, she did find members of the family that helped Franny, and through them reconnected with Arden Rothstein, who had shared both of those memorable summers with her. Nina and her husband, a retired attorney, have been making annual trips to Oaxaca for the last several years. When at home in the small coastal town of Bolinas, California, she teaches English to local immigrants.

Reading FOFA’s website about English classes it had previously sponsored, Nina had the fantasy of teaching a class in Teotitlán del Valle, one of Oaxaca’s rug weaving pueblos. Arden soon helped to make this a reality in February, 2010, through her encouragement and her introduction to Bulmaro Pérez Mendoza, a weaver, and his wife, Aurea Bautista Lazo, who went out of their way to make it happen. They not only offered their salon as a classroom, but also invited Nina and her husband to be their guests, and did outreach into the community to notify other weavers about this opportunity.

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The PBS Peabody award winning documentary series "Craft in America" filmed portions of two excellent upcoming programs in Oaxaca, one -- "Neighbors" -- partially in collaboration with FOFA. These programs explore connections through craft between Mexico and the United States.

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Oaxacan Popular Arts in the New Millennium, Nurturing Young Artists

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