Peter Karavais Explains the Motivation Behind Casa Cascabel

Elizabeth Valdivieso, from the Oaxacan duo Valgur, performs on the last night of their recording residency at Casa Cascabel in Mérida. Photo: Steve R. Garzo / for Yucatán Magazine

By Peter Karavais

Tina Marie Wood and I spent a year traveling around Mexico with the intention of finding the right place to build Casa Cascabel. 

As we went to these different places, nothing was feeling quite right. We really wanted to find a place that seemed to be in the earlier stages of its modern art and music scene development. A place that was accessible for artists to still live and work and one where you could tangibly feel its acceptance of new things and feel its growth happening. That was incredibly important to us because we wanted Cascabel to be a place that supported artists at every level. That was a home for creativity and support and care. 

After feeling very unsure of where we wanted to land, we spent a week in CDMX and were speaking to some of our friends about what we wanted to build. In four days, four separate friends that exist in all different disciplines of art, in four completely separate conversations, said the same thing: Mérida. 

Columba Diaz was one of Cascabel’s first artists in residence. Photo: Steve R. Garzo

We booked a flight, spent five days, and the decision was made. We found the property on the second day of our arrival. It’s now been two and-a-half years since we moved in and started the work to build Cascabel.

Before we even started the residency program, we wanted the local community to be aware and a part of the space. We held a few events that were all local bands and DJs. This allowed us to get to start to get to know the community and also meet the artists that would join in the shows and events to come, both as observers and participants.

Artist João Incerti prepares for the opening of his exhibit following his Casa Cascabel residency, during which he created this new body of work. Photo: Steve R. Garzo / for Yucatán Magazine

Outside of Mérida, Tina and I have both been involved in art and music communities for a long time. We’ve always supported the work of our friends (and strangers) in different capacities and, in doing so, we’ve seen certain spaces of need that exist. That community became the starting group. We focused primarily on our friends around Mexico and leaned on them to point us to friends they knew that would benefit from being welcomed. Plus, this is also our home, so we wanted to make sure the artists and musicians would be good people to share a space with. 

Those residents then referred other artists and it just kept going from there. Always by reference of artistry, friendship and general energy. 

A mural by frequent collaborator Aldo Cazao looms behind founders Tina Marie Wood and Peter Karavias. Photo: Steve R. Garzo / for Yucatán Magazine

That process has been beautiful because almost every artist has left the residency feeling like family. We find each other in other cities. We still try and help and support one another. The residents who met there have collaborated. It’s truly beautiful and we’ve been so grateful for everyone’s partnership in building this thing.


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