UPON arriving at Hotel Milvia in the eastern San Joséarea of San Pedro, I was taken aback by its tranquility andcalmness. The hotel is a place to get away from the hustleand bustle of city life. It is a place to experience true CostaRican cultural identity and of course the perfect place tochill out and be pampered.Costa Rican artist Florencia Urbina and her husband,Stephen Longrigg, recently renovated the Hotel Milvia –it took more than five months, but the results are trulyfantastic.“This has really exceeded our prognosis of success.We have received a lot of excellent feedback about thishotel – people love it,” Urbina said. “The emphasis is thatyou are in a house close to everything in San José, youare in your own oasis away from all the buzz of city life.”The hotel also has been masterfully organizedaccording to the rules of Feng Shui – one main feature ofthe hotel being the serene Zen gardens situated at thefront of the hotel.“We want our guests to feel calm, safe and clean –surrounded by fantastic art,” Urbina said.The house itself has a lot of history – it is more than80 years old and retains many of its original features andcharacter, giving it a true Costa Rican authenticity.LARGELY because of its uniqueness and secludedlocation, many famous guests have stayed here.Musicians, dancers, artists, writers and Oscar winnersJulia Roberts and Susan Sarandon have all chosen to stayin the Hotel Milvia.Hotel Milvia features amazing works of art in everyroom. On the second floor there is a gallery, which opensout onto the balcony and the stunning views of IrazúVolcano.The compositions on display are by Urbina, membersfrom the Bocaracá movement and also several otherinspiring artists all of which are available for purchase.The Bocaracá movement formed in the late 1980s inCosta Rica and is made up of a group of artists who decidedto unite to exhibit their works outside Costa Rica. It isimportant to note that the Bocaracá does not share similaropinions about the function of art, all members are individualartists with different ideas about the concept of art.“The hotel allows you to be in direct contact with theartists and their work – our guests feel inspired when theystay here,” Urbina said. “It gives you the opportunity toattend exhibitions and mix with important Costa Ricanartists you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity tomeet.”Urbina’s decision to take on the renovation of HotelMilvia is an extension of her aspirations to move art intothe public sphere.HER compositions are bold and colorful. Her use ofperspective is fascinating and captivating creating worksthat are truly unique.Urbina cites the British Pop art movement, as well asartists such as Lucien Freud, the Guatemalan masters andTracey Emin among her influences, although her tastesconstantly diversify.“I admire people who have their own voice and theirown identity,” Urbina said. “I look at the news a lot tokeep myself informed and I find that I am constantlyinfluenced by colleagues.”Urbina, the self-described Costa Rican identity artist,believes in the concept of confrontation in art.“I like to expose things in a humorous way in orderto capture you,” she said. “I try to confront the person, tomake them think and establish a dialogue and extractinformation. Irony is very powerful and I enjoy using itto get my message across.”SHE has been a member of the Bocaracá movementfor more than 15 years. The main motive of the group isto break down borders by traveling and exhibiting theircompositions in countries, such as El Salvador, Panama,France, Dominican Republic, Germany and Guatemala.In doing so, the group creates a cultural interchange,awareness and a consciousness of the problems in CostaRican society and the world.“It is very interesting and refreshing to meet artistswho have had a much longer trajectory than the Bocaracámovement,” Urbina said. “Artists who have been confrontinggovernments and been incarcerated because oftheir ideas. I have been the most outspoken because ofthe atrocities in Costa Rica. It is interesting for me to seehow other artists express their own opinions throughtheir work.”Urbina highlights the importance of art being a liberatingforce that helps educate people and create an awarenessof local and global polemics.She is passionate about art being present in publicplaces and has completed many murals that can be seenthroughout Costa Rica. In 2002, she took on the task ofpainting a bus on the Escazú route with artist LuisChacón. In 2003, she painted three murals at theChildren’s Musuem and the Calderón Guardia Museum.“I see artists making art in public places, getting theirideas and images censored and struggling against corruptionand bureaucracy,” Urbina said. “For me the paintingis the media that prevails and we have to confront peopleabout our beliefs without any fear.”A NEED for art in society is there as much as thereis a need for dentists or grocers, Urbina said.Art “is the only way that you can liberate yourself from false values and be able to seereality through someone else’s eyes,” she added.For Urbina, art is an essential part of life. The Hotel Milvia can be seen as an introductioninto the world of Costa Rican art and identity and it provides its guests with anopportunity to view a wide range of compositions that are both unique and authentic.The Hotel Milvia is located in San Pedro near Muñoz y Nanne. For info or current rates,call 225-2543. For info about Urbina and forthcoming exhibitions, please visit www.florenciaurbina.com.