I am back at the BAJ building this morning for Day 2 of the Symposium. Overnight I have been reflecting on the incredible learning and insights I experienced yesterday as well as the generosity of spirit of the Balmaceda Arte Joven team. I have also been considering the film we watched yesterday of the work of Alicia Vega (‘100 Children Waiting for a Train’). Alicia is a film practitioner and workshop leader – and, as well as working as a film professional, worked for over 30 years in a very deprived area of Santiago, including during the Pinochet era. This has struck a real resonance for me and is a fantastic example of the real difference the arts can make to the lives of children and young people.
This morning I learnt that one of the children who took part in Saturday film workshops with Alicia in the 1980s went on to study architecture and now works in cultural management and advocates for the value and benefits of the work he himself experienced. Apparently his home is filled with film and videos! He has not seen Alicia since the 1980s, but will meet her again for the first time later today. It should be a moving occasion. I would like to show the film to Artswork staff.
After the opening speech setting off the 2nd day of the Symposium, Cristiano Gallegos gave a presentation of Santiago es Mio – a programme of residencies in different communities across parts of Chile. Cristiano spoke about residencies being a space of protection to help develop creative process and work – to build a utopia in places working through and with a collective voice to think about that utopia. He gave an overview of the 11 x 6-month residencies in 11 neighbourhoods. The approach was to integrate the artist into the local community to learn and understand its cultural capital, and then intertwine this with the artist’s own creative interests and processes. Through the residencies, each community worked with the artist to build a new history and memory. It was also important that the community could continue with the artistic activities beyond the project and be empowered to continue to build their own cultural capital going forward. Viviane Bravo, one of the artists involved then shared some of the work she had undertaken. She spoke about Topofilia, Archive del Presente. She outlined how in working with different age groups that, when dealing with memories, the older generation bring their traumas in through these memories.
Nick Owen, CEO of The Mighty Creatives gave the second presentation of the morning: ‘How can arts and culture improve cohesion between migrant communities and host communities’. He shared The Mighty Creatives Risk Change model and talked about the approach of a large scale European Project working with a range of countries covering a range of issues
He outlined progress and findings to date:
- 4 artist residencies
- A conference focused on developing skills of writers
- ‘Heroic journey’ – to move away from migrants as problems
- Training trainers programmes
- Yes – arts and culture can make a difference: www.voicesofculture.eu
- Inform policy makers - culture makes needs visible
What are success factors to date
- Build in skills of refugees – i.e. regard them as skilled
- Provide safe spaces emotionally and physical
- Work from community level
- Use research methodologies
- Focus on process and product
- Encourage external evaluation
- Provide opportunities for positive interaction
- Invest in mediation
- Get local leaders and opinion formers involved to counteract myths and negative stories
- Don’t assume – build links with wide range of partners including e.g. Faith communities
- Not too many one off events
- This work takes time – running a marathon not a quick sprint
After a third presentation by Leira Martin, talking about an arts centre in Spain created from a former tobacco factory and the work undertaken with young people, we then came to the final moment of the conference – an homage to Alicia Vega. One of the most important arts education leaders in the country, Alicia was born on Aug 23 1931. As outlined above, amongst her considerable record of award winning professional film work, she had worked for more than 30 years with children in extremely poor communities giving them tools to give them dignity. She introduced vulnerable children and young people to cinema, received a National award for education and was named as an Honoured Outstanding Woman in the cinema world. She had brought art, creativity, dignity and thought to where it was most needed. She was an ‘educartivist’. Further tributes followed including from Victor – the man mentioned above - who had been waiting for 30 years for an opportunity to see Alicia again. Of the cinema workshops he attended, Victor said:
This work gave us dignity. It posted a seed in my heart and seeds in other hearts. The seeds continue to grow
In responding to the homage and tributes, Alicia said:
You can be rich inside - no one can strip you of that richness
The symposium finished at lunchtime and after a celebratory glass, we said goodbye to Loreta Brava and her team at BAJ – although our agenda for tomorrow will mean I meet up in Valparaiso with Frederico who is Director of the BAJ centre there.
Since there has been so much reference to the role of art in reflecting and responding oppression, I then went with Emma to the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memories and Human Rights) which is about the history of the violent overthrow of Allende’s socialist government in 1973 by Pinochet who become the dictator who ran Chile until 1990 when he was deposed. His regime resulted in oppression, torture and death for many in Chile – -a legacy that still haunts the memories of those who lived through those times.
This was an extremely moving experience – particularly the candlelit glass cube overlooking the wall of faces of just some of those who died during Pinochet’s regime (picture to the right).
We then went on to the Museum of Visual Arts for a tour by the Director. This included some extraordinary work by Chilean artist, Emma Malig ‘Sola Tierra’ which can be seen at the top of this post.
Our final session of the day, was to go to an evening concert by young people involved with the Foundation of Orchestras for Children and Young People. A vibrant and dynamic performance including works by Beethoven, Mussorgsky and Bernstein. The Foundation delivers programmes in several areas of Chile that enable CYP from poorer backgrounds to have access to instrumental tuition and orchestra participation of high quality. It was established by Chilean Music Teachers who returned to Chile after exile in the Pinochet era and who – while in exile in Venezuela – had helped to set up Il Sistema there. On return to Chile, they then worked to set up the Foundation.
This has been another day full of inspiring and thought-provoking moments. Being at the 25th Birthday International Symposium of Balmaceda Arte Joven has been a real privilege. I have learnt much, have had my horizons widened and received artistic refreshment and stimulation. While the contexts for working in and through the arts with, for and by children and young people are very different in our countries, we have much in common in terms of the challenges and barriers. We can learn from each other to devise and frame up solutions. Thank you BAJ.
This week, Artswork’s Chief Executive, Jane Bryant, is working in Chile – and blogging daily about her travels. Keep up with Jane on Twitter @JaneVBryant, and read her previous blogs at the links below