The cultural tourism project In the Native Land of Ivan Meštrović was created as an initiative of the Ivan Meštrović Museums to create a tourist itinerary (promenade) in Otavice, Ružić and Gradac by placing interpretation tables on “Meštrović’s sites” (7) and by making a complementary bilingual guide, accompanied by the brown tourist signalization.
The project was realized with funding of the Croatian Tourist Board, the Tourist Board of the Šibenik-Knin County, the Ivan Meštrović Museums and the Municipality of Ružić, in cooperation with the Drniš City Museum.
The aim of the project was to present a remarkable cultural monument – the Church of the Holy Redeemer (the Meštrović family mausoleum) in Otavice, in the context of its immediate surroundings, a part of Petrovo Polje field from Otavice, Ružić to Gradac – Meštrović’s native land – using modern tools to bring professional knowledge to the visitors and to give insight into the diversity of Croatian natural and cultural heritage in Dalmatian hinterland.
The native land in Petrovo polje, poverty, a land of stone and wood – are the basic elements that were embedded into Ivan Meštrović’s subconsciousness, that shaped his perception and followed him throughout his life. The solid link and eternal inspiration, the constant returning to the native land and the deep respect for tradition are the key reasons for choosing to end of his life journey in Otavice, the place of his childhood. Today, the Church of the Holy Redeemer stands at the pride of his native land, loudly speaking that the world-famous sculptor came from the small village of Otavice.
The programme is designed as a walk through Meštrović’s native land, encouraging visitors with the story about the life and work of Ivan Meštrović to explore Petrovo polje by following the interpretation boards placed at key locations. All of the facilities that the artist built there – the family house, the antimalaria dispensary and the elementary school, as well as some other points that were of crucial importance to Meštrović’s artistic development – were marked. For example, the place where he had his first exhibition when he was just a boy, or spring Banovača with the original Roman relief – the place of the first encounter of a future artist with figurative art. The walk includes a visit to Gradac and the newly opened local collection at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where several original Meštrović’s sculptures are exhibited. All of the aforementioned boards contain archival photographs and parallel texts in Croatian and English, and for those who want more knowledge and information, a printed guide In the Native Land of Ivan Meštrović is available.
The installation of interpretation boards was preceded by supplementing the existing brown tourist signalization which points to the Church of the Holy Redeemer and facilitates the finding of the cultural tourism offer of the area. The entire project was realized with great support from the local community: the museum shop at the foot of the Church of the Holy Redeemer became a venue for various events of local character and a venue for displaying and selling authentic local handmade souvenirs, thus reviving tradition and old crafts. The exhibited ethnological objects of Drniš area are a successful reconstruction of past times and a display of the atmosphere of Meštrović’s childhood.
The author of the project and the guide In Meštrović’s Homeland is Zorana Jurić Šabić, Curator at the Meštrović Gallery in Split. Viktor Popović was in charge of the design of the guide and the interpretation boards, and Zoran Alajbeg is author of the photographs.