CoolBrands in Brazil – July 2013

Far removed from rush of the big cities, two hours from the town of Belo Horizonte in south-eastern Brazil lies Inhotim, a haven of serenity and beauty where contemporary art and nature have been brought together. Founded by businessman Bernardo Paz in the 1980s, Inhotim is a 110-hectare estate that houses over 700 modern art works from more than 30 countries. The surrounding botanical gardens contain many rare plant species. We plan to spend the whole day discovering the art works and the gardens – but not before first meeting with Felipe, Inhotim’s marketing and communications director, who is clearly passionate about his beautiful workplace.

As Felipe shows us to the open space of the Inhotim Theater, he tells us that he loves his job more each day since he started working here three and a half years ago.

“Who wouldn’t want to work in a place like this? Nature, art and the chance to meet people from around the world without going anywhere… it’s a unique combination. And then there’s of course the unique beauty of this place – I’ll show it to you later.”

“So tell us: what’s the story of Inhotim?” I ask.

Felipe Paz in Inhotim by CoolBrands NextWorld Storytelling
Felipe Paz and Maarten Schafer in Inhotim by CoolBrands NextWorld Storytelling

“Bernardo, the founder of Inhotim, is a businessman who at a certain point in his life wanted to do something different. So he combined two of his passions, nature and art, and decided to build Inhotim.”

“So he created a special kind of open air museum, for artists to exhibit their work and for people to enjoy art and the beauty of nature in the botanical garden. That sounds great, but is it sustainable? Can it survive on its own, now or in the near future?”

“It’s an interesting question,” says Felipe. “Our vision for the long term is to make Inhotim 100% sustainable, following the triple bottom line of people-planet-profit. In the area of people and planet, we are already doing a great job, as you can read anywhere. We have been acknowledged locally and nationally for our efforts to integrate and educate the local population and for our new approach to nature.”

“I love your approach with the triple bottom line!” I say. “Because you can invest for a certain amount of time, but at some point a project has to become self-sustaining in order to survive. How do you hope to do this?”

“There are different ways to get there,” says Felipe. “One idea is to create an Inhotim holding and to integrate the existing Inhotim Institute into it. The main objective of the holding would be to support the institute.”

“And what would its other functions be, apart from supporting the Inhotim Institute’s activities?” I ask.

“The holding could work with Brazilian and foreign partners and investors,” Felipe says. “We have plans to build a hotel and a small airport here and to improve the road from Belo Horizonte, to make our site more accessible.”

“So actually you are creating additional revenue streams, linked to the institute, to make it sustainable,” I say. “But at the same time you can still keep the focus on your commitment to people and planet. Smart thinking!”

Felipe smiles. “That’s right, you got the concept! But that’s enough talking for now – let’s go and experience the beauty of Inhotim ourselves!”