Rainforest Masks of Costa Rica

17th Annual Exhibit

January 5 2020 to January 26 2020 · 10:00am  – 4:30pm

Visitors will enter a world of native Costa Rican art at the 17th annual Rainforest Masks of Costa Rica exhibit and sale at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Experience the vibrant, hand-carved and painted balsa wood masks showcased in the Museum of Botany & the Arts. The exhibit runs Jan. 5 through Jan. 26, 2020.

The Rainforest Mask exhibit and sale showcases artists from the Borucan Indian tribe of Costa Rica. The masks were originally created hundreds of years ago to scare away Spanish invaders and have since become celebrated works of art admired by collectors worldwide. The masks combine the talents of wood carving artists and skilled painters, making for an eye-catching and dynamic display of two distinct artistic traditions, while also serving as a representation of Borucan culture and history. For the past 30 years, the mask making revival plus the making of other traditional crafts such as textiles have become an important source of income to this indigenous and agricultural community.

“The masks are a reflection of the Borucan culture, while also being collectible works of art. The creation of these masks has continued for generations, and having this annual exhibit and sale gives garden guests the opportunity to bring these stories into their homes,” explained Jeannie Perales, Vice President for Museum Exhibits, Learning & Engagement.

More information about the history of the masks can be found HERE.

FREE with General Admission


OPENING RECEPTION – JANUARY 4: This reception gives you the first chance to purchase the masks of your choosing before the exhibition opens to the general public over the month of January.

LECTURE-JANUARY 8: Costa Rica – The Road to Boruca and Beyond: Free with general admission, reservation required.



In the 1980’s, elders from the tribe feared their younger generations were losing their cultural roots. Artist Don Ismael Gonzalez trained a group of young boys from 11-12 years old in traditional mask making. Later, some of his students were invited to the capital to study art and painting, while others remained in Boruca to attend high school. For several years, this group continued working in Ismael’s workshop, sharing their carving and new painting skills. Of those original young students, three Borucan master artists are featured in this 2019 exhibit including Bernardo Gonzalez and brothers Marcos and Francisco Rojas.

Around 1995, a client commissioned a mask featuring a macaw and a “little Indian face.” Thus, began the success of the rainforest masks depicting local flora and fauna. This has also empowered and inspired artists to keep preserving their environment and to rediscover their culture.

For the past 15 years, the Selby Gardens exhibits has been a fertile ground for creativity to flow and for this art to reach new levels. The modern masks keep evolving thanks to new admirers and provide a beautiful cultural exchange between the Sarasota community and the Borucans.



What does it take to create the Rainforest Masks? Watch our visiting artists demonstrate their carving and painting skills at the mansion between January 5-12.

Event Details

This event finished on 26 January 2020