Suzanne Arbanas

Sarajevo knows how to value art

In 1996, American painter Suzanne Arbanas came to Sarajevo, where she settled down a few years later with her husband Mirza, a Sarajevan who shares a passion for the arts and makes unique hand-made frames in Baščaršija.  

Updated: 2019/10/01

She began to feel closer to Former Yugoslavia back in 1979, while visiting relatives in Rijeka, Croatia for the first time.

- Josip Broz Tito, President of SFRY, gave a speech in Split, and even today I'm sorry I wasn't there to hear it. He was an incredible statesman who was loved by Yugoslavs because he enabled them to live in peace, to have good standards and to travel the world....

Suzanne came to Sarajevo right after the war, when the city was very quiet.

- It was very emotional taking in the post-war atmosphere, but I realized rather quickly that this is a cultivated city, with a strong cultural scene.

Now, as an ULUBiH member, she has special memories of her first works done here, and exhibits held at Collegium Artisticum and Roman Petrović.

- When I first came, I was always painting: on the street, in Vijećnica, which was crumbling at times, but it was dignified and lovely. People told me to wear a helmet, but they kept watching me work. This city truly knows how to value art, without calculating. That's real love.

Theaters and festivals

- My favorite place is Chamber Theater, where I've had some of the most beautiful moments of my life, and I'm totally taken by the energy there. One should experience the beauty of the National Theater, visit museum souvenir shops, and go to festivals that keep getting better, like Bookstan, a literary festival that gathers incredible world authors and whose many events are open to the public.

She goes to the US a few times a year, but would rather spend Christmas in Sarajevo.

- Christmas is commercialized in the US, but here, in a quieter atmosphere, one can feel the richness of the holidays, then I go to the Cathedral or throw a party for friends.

Suzanne says that visitors immediately fall in love with Sarajevo because it is full of colorful characters.

- Sarajevans are warm, witty, silly, sociable and extremely creative and talented. You can feel it in the air, and people are not afraid to be who they are. This is a tolerant, open and expressive city, whose people don't want to take a lot from you.

As a big fan of Skakavac, Umoljani and the nature around town, she would love to see more trees and green spaces in town.

- I call for improvements in public transport, so that citizens could use cars less often.

She loves BiH brands like Alma Ras, whose cotton underwear makes great gifts for her girlfriends.

- I really like BH Crafts' knitted handicrafts, handbags made by the Zec family, products by LisicaLisica Studio, Bazerdžan's offering....

As for the perfect lunch, there's Začin, as well as Boccone, which has great fish chowder and whose ambience reminds Suzanne of one laid-back Italian eatery in New York.