The Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center, known as GAM, is an expansive arts and culture space inaugurated in the heart of Santiago in 2010, with the goal of serving as a hub for public access to the arts. Named after Chilean Nobel Laureate poet Gabriela Mistral, GAM is committed to strengthening and encouraging the public’s active participation in the arts, and its rotating program offers a chance to experience contemporary Chilean art, music, and theater firsthand. Along with an extensive arts program, GAM houses one of Santiago’s best bookstores, a café, a wine shop, and several welcoming outdoor spaces that are often filled with young people practicing dance routines or displaying artwork from a recent workshop at the center. GAM is an ideal place to stop in for an afternoon coffee and browse the open-access art exhibits, or for a night of music or theater on the town. Nearby, Barrio Lastarria is filled with chic cafes and restaurants, making GAM and its surrounding neighborhood a great stop in Santiago.
The building in which GAM is housed was originally constructed in 1972 to host a United Nations conference; itwas used sparsely during the Pinochet years, and fell into disrepair after it was damaged by a fire in 2006. The building is itself a work of art, designed by several of Chile’s top architects and audiovisual experts with the idea of connecting outdoor and indoor spaces and thus encouraging transparency between the art world and the public. When a consortium of Chilean artists established the cultural center, it was with dedication to “culture and the formation of audiences” through an arts program rooted in the concept of “social transformation through experiences of discovery, inspiration, and joy,” as stated on GAM’s website.
Each month, GAM offers a wide variety of music, dance, and theater performance options, many of which are developed at GAM itself, through its artist-in-residence program and studio spaces. Among past performances are the play “Amores de Cantina” (2011), which won the National Theater Prize, the musical theater work “Victor sin Victor Jara” (2013), in which more than 40 Chilean artists take the stage in remembrance of the many artists executed by the Pinochet regime, and the flamenco dance performance “Cambiar de piel” (2013). The center’s visual arts program includes both events, such as the 2013 interactive mural event called “I imagine a Chile…”, and a rotating lineup of exhibits in the subterranean floor’s Sala de Arte Popular that include photography, fiber arts, sculpture and paintings from throughout Latin America, often in collaboration with the University of Chile’s Museum of Popular American Art (MAPA).
GAM is located at 227 Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins, the main street in Santiago’s Center, and is a short walk away from the Universidad Catolica Metro stop and the chic, pedestrian-friendly streets of Barrio Lastarria. The prices for performances range between C$3.000 and C$15.000, and entrance to the visual art exhibits is almost always free. Upcoming events and ticket information can be found at GAM’s website: http://www.gam.cl/. While language barriers are transcended by most art forms on display at GAM, the theater performances are not recommended for the non-Spanish speaker.