81 F
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

A Mérida couple carves out plenty of room to create

Ric Kokotovich and Alison Wattie expanded their Mérida home by buying the lot next door, they took an opportunity to reconsider how they work at arm's length

Latest headlines

Pig farm accused of hiding cenotes and filling them in with cement

A pig farm in the municipality of Homún is being accused of filling in and hiding two cenotes from environmental authorities. 

New augmented reality app tells the story of Mérida’s iconic corner plaques

Mérida´s municipal government is launching a new mobile phone application to tell the story of the city’s iconic Centro corner plaques.

Tortas in the Park: Family carries on the tradition for 63 years 

Taqueria Don Beto in Parque Las Américas. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht Strolling through charming Parque de...

Kankí, the Maya city where the stone eyes of ancient gods burn as hot as the sun

Kankí may be only 10 miles or so from the Mérida-Campeche highway, but feels a world away.
Yucatán Magazine
Yucatán Magazine has the inside scoop on living here. Sign up to get our top headlines delivered to your inbox every week.
Succulents dominate the landscape outside the entryway to Ric Kokotovich and Alison Wattie’s home in Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

When Ric Kokotovich and Alison Wattie expanded their Mérida home by buying the lot next door, they took an opportunity to upgrade their workspaces. 

And upgrade they did. Their original home is now a guest house. Casa El Tamarindo, the home they built, is all new. It’s dramatic, airy and bold — and immediately suggests that an artist and a writer live there. Which is, indeed, the case.

Ric Kokotovich’s sun-drenched art studio has multiple projects going at once. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Kokotovich’s casita, which only barely touches the main house, greets visitors who approach the structure from the front gate. Inside is an obviously busy, large workroom with tables covered with art supplies and works in progress.

Floor-to-ceiling windows face east and the morning light floods in. The pandemic inspired a series of masks on the far wall. On a table is a series of paintings based on Haiku. Elsewhere are street photos he took in the early- and mid-80s, in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, a years-long project capturing a community of saucy drag queens at Mardi Gras.

Ric Kokotovich and Allison Wattie’s living room is separate from the office and studio, but still filled with art. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Past a kitchenette and bath is yet another workroom, this one with a large photo printer and two workstations for digital work. The task chairs face the twisted trunk of a sheltered, old tree. This room focuses more on Kokotovich’s work as a photographer, 

The house appears to peer out from behind an angled wall that runs along the garden path. Its dramatic flourishes and wide-open art-filled interiors suggest a creative couple craving room to think. 

“We have a lot of art in Canada, we know a lot of artists here, we trade a lot of art,” says the Alberta native. The pieces from back home he drove all the way down in a pickup truck. 

Ric Kokotovich. Photo: Courtesy

Wattie, who ran a marketing firm in Canada and still works as a writer, poet and graphic designer, works on the other side of the property, closer to the master bedroom. She requires less physical space, but her office is similar to the studio in that it’s filled with light and artwork, and is obviously a comfortable space to think and create. 

“She’ll come in here if she needs to talk to me, and I’ll come into her studio if I need to talk to her,” Kokotovich says, “We have tried to create a mutual respect around our working environments.”

In the early- and mid-80s, the photographer undertook a years-long project capturing a community of saucy drag queens at Mardi Gras. Photo copyright Ric Kokotovich

That would be difficult if they shared a small space, “but we’re quite lucky. It’s like we live in a park.”

Their compound is shared with two contented rescue dogs named Iggy and Chucho and with `Karma, an apparently shy house cat — all of whom appear to have run of the house.  

The home, built in the San Sebastián neighborhood by Mérida architect Victor Cruz, is anchored by a well-proportioned living, dining and kitchen space, adjacent to a patio that leads to a long swimming pool protected by a black Luis Barragán-inspired wall.

Artist Ric Kokotovich’s vast art studio space includes workstations in an adjoining room. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The rooms inside the home and studio are all warm and earthy chukum, a smooth stucco infused with the translucent resin from the bark of a native tree. Its use dates to the period of the Maya and was revived in the late 20th century by builders seeking a natural material that references the region’s heritage.

A rainy 2020 and the pandemic slowed progress on the house, and like many of the art pieces in Kokotovich’s studio, remains a work in progress. The couple is agonizing over the kitchen backsplash, some barn doors are waiting to be installed on rails, and a huge central courtyard, shaded by what appears to be an ancient tamarind, is still rocky and ungroomed.

Alison Wattie’s spacious office is on the opposite side of the house where husband Ric Kokotovich has an art studio. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The neighborhood, south of the main plaza and away from areas more clustered with foreigners, suits them.

“Because we’ve been here for eight years,” he says, “the barrio is very safe. Our neighbors look out for us.” 

Although Kokotovich had first visited Mérida in 1993, the couple initially moved to the Pacific coast town of Manzanilla, “but we’re not beach people. So right away we started looking for a property to switch up our lives.”

They set aside the conventional advice to rent first, buy later. 

“We looked at properties and bought one. An emotional purchase that worked out.”

Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

When they first moved to San Sebastián, there were far fewer expats. But today, a well-known Swiss jazz drummer is down the block and two fellow Canadians across the street have settled in full-time. 

An exhibition at Fundación Centro Cultural La Cúpula immersed Kokotovich into Mérida’s community of international creatives. And it was the city’s broader community of artists that makes life here work for them.  

Follow Ric Kokotovich and Alison Wattie on Instagram: @rickokotovich, @alisonwattie

A version of this article appeared in Issue 1 of Yucatán at Home.

- Advertisement -

Subscribe Now!

More articles

Court sets limits for ‘racist’ immigration checkpoints in Mexico

Mexican soldiers review documents at a Zacatecas checkpoint in March. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP via Getty Images

You won’t miss the meat or dairy in these recipes from Yucatán

Vegan, vegetarian and plant-based lifestyles are easy to enjoy, despite living in meat-centric Yucatán.  Now that we’ve listed our...

Yucatán COVID patient 1st to die in 49 days

Coronavirus cases rose steadily in a week that ended with Yucatán's first COVID fatality since April 2. A...

Expats in Mexico face impossible deadline to comply with new tax law

Taxpayers in Mérida wait for their numbers to be called at the SAT office. Photo: File A tax...

What is the Loop Current and how does it affect hurricanes on the Yucatán Peninsula?

A current of warm tropical water is looping unusually far into the Gulf of Mexico for this time of year, with the power to turn tropical storms into monster hurricanes.

Izamal revamps its infrastructure while seeking investment

A walking tour of Izamal includes Mayor Warnel May Escobar and Yucatán Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal. Photo: Courtesy

Mexico looks to its southern neighbors for investment and international cooperation

Historically Mexico’s economic footprint regarding its neighbors to the south has been negligible at best, aside from a few large corporations such as Banco Azteca and Bimbo. 

Activists in Mérida observe International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Trans pride flag flies over the Monumento a la Patria on Paseo de Montejo. Photo: Courtesy Jornada Maya

The Most Famous Mexican Mathematicians

Photo by Nothing Ahead via Pexels By James Collins The subject of mathematics can be...

Mexico’s COVID-19 vaccine contracts to remain a state secret until 2025

The true cost of Mexico’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign will not be known until well after the next round of federal elections....