Pacifica Prize


A joint project of Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy, based in San Francisco, The Esalen Pacifica Prize was launched earlier this year to highlight the role of the arts in enriching and deepening ties between Russia and the United States across a range of common interests – cultural, scientific, business and economic.


Daria Bonet, Olga Bulgakova, Rema Ghuloum, Sarah Hotchkiss

This year’s winners of the Esalen Pacifica Prize are all accomplished, young artists whose distinct styles and talents signal great promise for future success. While all four regard themselves primarily as painters, their preferred traditions range from realism and impressionism to abstract, geometric and structural design. In interviews during their residency at Esalen Institute this spring, each of the artists described their initial interest in the Esalen Pacifica Prize as an opportunity to explore and enrich their artistic vision and experience. In spite of the many “divides” – geography, language, culture, painting traditions – the four achieved a remarkable understanding and common purpose, as evidenced in their numerous collaborative works. All four artists have recently completed their graduate studies and intend to pursue careers in fine arts.

Daria Bonet lives and works in Vladivostok.  A 2011 graduate of the Far Eastern Academy of the Arts, she currently teaches painting privately; works as a designer at the Arsenyev Museum, and is studying vitrage technique.  Her work has been exhibited in the Russian Federation at leading venues in the Primorsky Region and, most recently, in St. Petersburg.

Olga Bulgakova lives and works in Vladivostok. Currently, she specializes in commissioned ornamental wall paintings; teaches painting privately; and is studying vitrage technique.  She is a 2011 graduate of the Far Eastern Academy of the Arts and completed undergraduate studies at the Vladivostok Art School. In recent years, she has exhibited extensively in the Primorsky Region of the Russian Federation.

Rema Ghuloum, from Los Angeles, California, will begin teaching as a professor of art at California State University in Long Beach, California, in the fall of 2012.   She completed her undergraduate studies in drawing and painting at California State University, Long Beach, and obtained a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2010. She has exhibited her work nationally, including in solo exhibitions, and has won numerous awards and art residencies.

Sarah Hotchkiss is based in San Francisco, California.  When not painting, she is a regular contributor of art reviews to local media and also devotes time to exploring how art can be used to illuminate visions of the future.  A graduate of Brown University, she received a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree from California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2011.   She has exhibited her work in several major cities in the US and has received numerous awards, including several residencies.


Pacifica Prize Background

Rooted in the long tradition of nongovernmental cultural exchange between peoples of Russia and the US, The 2012 Esalen Pacifica Prize was conceived to create new and enduring connections between the artistic and larger communities of Vladivostok, Russia’s largest Pacific Ocean port, and the California coastal communities of San Francisco and Big Sur.

In cooperation with the California College of the Arts, based in San Francisco, and The Far Eastern Academy of the Arts in Vladivostok, a group of four young, talented artists (two graduates from each institution) were selected in early 2012 as the first recipients of The Esalen Pacifica Prize.  The four artists, specialists in painting and drawing, then spent four weeks in May working and living together at Esalen’s breathtakingly beautiful campus overlooking the Pacific.

From May 18-20, 2012, during the residency of the artists, Esalen hosted a public arts weekend workshop focused on the power of art to connect and inspire new thinking about areas of common interest, with subjects ranging from Russia’s evolving role in Asia’s economy to the impact of climate change on the Pacific Ocean.  Session leaders included representatives from The Asia Society, Scripps Oceanic Institute, and the Dean of the California College of the Arts. The weekend’s highlight was the first exhibition of the collaborative paintings created by the artists during their residency held at Esalen’s arts center, The Art Barn.

The Pacifica Prize also includes two exhibitions of the works: in San Francisco and in Vladivostok, where the American winners will travel for the show.

Based on the initial success of this project, the organizers hope to expand The Esalen Pacifica Prize to include other arts disciplines and locales in the future.