The House of Birds in the Forest of Water

The House of Birds in the Forest of Water

Puerto Rico
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Exit Art recognizes that concern for the environment is the utmost defining global issue of our time. The establishment of Exit Art’s House of Birds in the Forest of Water program in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Rainforest, part of the United States National Forest Service, will encourage dialogue about the environment by creating a center and residency for the study and reflection of this delicate ecosystem. Aiming to bring awareness to global conservation and extend collaborative opportunity to international artists and scientists, the El Yunque residency is both a sanctuary and an enterprise in sustainable design, ecological stewardship and cultural diversity.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The island's watersheds provide invaluable water for people and essential habitat for a wide spectrum of plants and animals. Currently, locals are throwing their trash into the river and it is destroying the quality of water and the natural life surrounding it. The rainforest’s rivers provide roughly 25 percent of all the water used in the San Juan metropolitan area and much of the water for the island’s northeast corridor. The Rio Espíritu Santo watershed, located in the municipality of Río Grande, accounts for a significant portion of this vital public service.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

As a major aspect of cultivating and stewarding this bio-diverse residency site in the El Yunque rainforest, Exit Art has partnered with the Centro para la Conservación del Pasaje, Inc. (CCP), or the Center for the Conservation of the Land, a federally funded forest protection and management agency, to participate in the Rio Espíritu Santo Watershed Improvement-Reforestation Program. As the River Espíritu Santo is the main arterial water source running through Exit Art’s physical site, Exit Art has become the first and model participant among local landowners in El Yunque in the CCP’s conservation and prevention program. CCP is currently advising us on how to manage the land and deal with the erosion by planting new trees, creating physical barriers and creating a better habitat for the endangered parrots. As we build and foster the House of Birds in the Forest of Water residency in Puerto Rico we anticipate to eventually showcase exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, and conduct scientific research for the conservation of the region. We foresee this project becoming a prototype for how people can live with nature and the development of sustainable architecture in Puerto Rico, not only serving as a model for building in the region, but as a center for the study and appreciation of the El Yunque National Rain Forest for architects, scientists, engineers, and artists.
About You
Exit Art
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



Exit Art

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Exit Art

Organization Phone


Organization Address

475 10th Ave, New York, NY 10018

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?


Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

Exit Art’s desire to share our love of the rainforest in a singular experience with the international and local community that surrounds the area is paramount to this program. The center will be launched in the summer of 2011, bringing ten participants two at a time over the course of the first year.

The project has two components, an artist residency and a conservation education program.

For each two-week retreat we will bring two individuals to our 4-acre property in El Yunque where we will cover all travel and living expenses. The retreat will provide participants, who often come from urban areas, with both a respite from the caustic nature of city life, as well as a place to reflect on the fragile beauty of these disappearing rainforests. For many of the artists this will be a first significant exposure to the natural environment of the rainforest.

We are designing and building two autonomous “habitat sculptures” for artists, designed structures that function as living sculptures. Habitat sculptures exist between art, architecture and design, and elevate the dynamic between an inhabitant and the built environment. We have completed the Project Manager’s residence, the office, a fully furnished kitchen and bathroom, the walkway to the river and the base for the first Artist’s compound. In building these structures we utilize regional building materials, certified wood construction, post consumer building products, low emission paints, composite woods, and sealants.

Over time we will be able to establish a residency that will attract an international community to Puerto Rico, specifically the El Yunque Rainforest.


Exit Art has partnered with the Centro para la Conservacion del Pasajage, Inc to participate in the Rio Espíritu Santo Watershed Improvement-Reforestation Program. Through CCP’s Epsìritù Santo Watershed Reforestation Project, the vegetation and lands adjacent to the river and its tributaries will be reforested and improved, while a new breeding habitat for the highly endangered Puerto Rican parrot will be developed. The reforestation will be accomplished by planting indigenous trees and shrubs that will, in turn, improve soil quality and prevent erosion and sedimentation. CCP will integrate community groups to expand reforestation management initiatives and to educate tourists and locals on the importance of the river. The next step is to bring schoolchildren on site to plant trees and shrubs and to educate them on the importance of conservation.


Through our joint conservation efforts with CCP's Espirtu Snato Watershed Reforestation project we intend to create an ecological experience in the rainforest that will promote international tourism and local arts and culture. We have already planted on hundred trees on our site and we are currently exploring the use of renewable energy sources and the collection of rainwater for potable drinking water.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

For our project to be successful we will finish construction on all of the facilities and launch our residency program this coming summer. Construction began in September 2009 and we have already completed the following structures:

1. The Temple of the Collective Ego: This 18 foot high, 18 foot wide and 42 foot long building is the meeting point of the project. The temple is a living environmental sculpture, a meditative place of meeting. The building will have 26 circular windows of different sizes, representing the Roman alphabet that will each be numbered.

2. The project office: this will house the on-sight computer and be the first room the artists enter for orientation.

3. Project Manager’s residence: a second story residence above the office, which includes a bathroom and shower.

4. Fully furnished kitchen that includes a stove, oven, refrigerator/freeze, a washer/dryer and a bathroom and includes a large common area for communal eating

5. Walkway to the river and

6. Base for the first artist residence.

Other Sustainable Design Measures:
• Utilizing regional building materials, certified wood construction, post consumer building products, low emission paints, composite woods, and sealants
• Use of renewable energy sources (solar, wind power, etc.)
• Construction of a platform walkway to reduce visitor impact upon the ecology
• Collection of rainwater for bathrooms, laundry and potable drinking water
• Reforestation of property by an accredited arborist

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Without major investments in the next year we will not be able to initiate our programming in Puerto Rico in the summer of 2011. Our future with this project rests heavily on funding and support from foundations, individuals and our board.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Centro para la Conservacion del Paisaje, Inc.

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Our partner, the Center for the Conservation of the Land (CCP), is a non-governmental organization that supports and advances environmental and forest conservation and management projects. CCP will have the task of working with the private landowners and encourage them to take an active part in watershed conservation initiatives along the boundaries of the Río Espíritu Santo watershed. The partnership with CCP is extremely important to our conservation work in the region as they will continue to advise us in our efforts.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1. We are intent on completing the construction of the homes to launch the residencies in the summer of 2011.
2. Our goal is have artists and scientists residing in these homes for two-week, all expenses paid.
3. It is of critical importance that this program has a positive impact on the land - and so we will continue to work on reforestation with CCP.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The land in Puerto Rico was purchased in 2007 and Exit Art has been working to realize this vision ever since.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Papo Colo, the inventor of the project, imagines a space in Puerto Rico that works in harmony with nature. We are committed to protecting and maintaining this invaluable, bio-diverse, and increasingly imperiled national resource.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Newsletter from Changemakers

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer

MIF Opportunity 2010
Has your organization been legally constituted or registered in your country or one of your target countries for at least three years?


Does the applicant organization have sufficient financial resources to guarantee the co-financing required by MIF during the execution period of the project? (This amounts to at least 50% of the project’s total budget with 25% in cash and 25% in-kind.)


Does the applicant organization have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations? Please describe below

In our 28 years we have produced hundreds of multi-media exhibitions, film screenings and theatre performances with artists from all over the world in our 17,000 square foot cultural center located in New York City. Our space includes two exhibition spaces, a film theater and a performance theater.

Please classify the applicant organization according to the options below


What problem-area does your project address?

How will your project address this problem?

Many people who live in and visit this region are unaware of how delicate the ecosystem is. Locals are throwing their trash into the river, littering along the banks of the river and on the beaches. Through our partnership with CCP we will educate local communities and school children in reforestation and protection of the watershed.

Who is benefited by the initiative? (Please highlight the type and number of beneficiaries, and their role in the tourism value-chain.)

Through our initiative the immediate community will benefit from the educational programs implemented. Since our residency program will host international artists, we intend our project to be a center for international culture, specifically Puerto Rican culture. Once we have had a number of international guests, they will in turn expose the region to a larger international community.

Ultimately, tourists could come and spend the day on our land and with the right financing we'd be able to create a space for tourists to stay over night. This would be geared towards tourist who want to have a certain type of ecological/environmental experience while visiting Puerto Rico.

How will the project's results assist the region’s tourism sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises?

We would like to make the rainforest a destination point for locals and tourists. This project would have an educational program attached - intimate, hands on experience of the rainforest through implemented conservation practice. To begin, we would invite small manageable groups to our property to experience the rainforest. We will host film, music and theatre festivals that will expose the culture and arts of the region and pull in both locals and tourists.

A. Total Budget (100%)


B. MIF Contribution (up to 50% of total budget and US$. 500.000 max)


C. Cash co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)


D. In kind co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)