Latin American artist/communicators animate York students


Students from York and other universities join Mexican muralist Sergio Valdes Ruvalcaba (front row, in glasses and beret) and artists from the Spanish-speaking community in Toronto in front of the mural they completed during one of the workshops.  Photo by MES student Erika Fuchs

Some of Latin America’s best-known specialists in popular communications recently brought their artistry and distinctive educational pedagogy to students and faculty at York. The Faculty of Environmental Studies sent YFile this account:

Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Deborah Barndt (below, right) organized the visit of five artists/communicators from Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama with the aid of a York Internationalization grant.

The visit arose from Brandt’s visit in December to institutions in those areas that offer training in popular communications/community arts, a field that emerged alongside the social movements of the 1960s in Latin America.

Communication specialists in such institutions seek to animate grassroots communities to explore issues through popular theatre, community radio, mural production, poetry workshops, popular photography, and participatory video-production.

At a day-long seminar with York faculty and students, the artists/communicators discussed the possibilities of joint research, training and exchanges with the University and of offering York students field experience at the southern institutions while their own students might come to York. There is hope that agreements to this effect will be developed with the URACCAN University on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and Universidad Autonoma de Metropolitana, Mexico City, and the non-governmental agencies of the Mexican Institute for Community Development (IMDEC), Guadalajara, the Panamanian Centre for Social Education and Action (CEASPA) in Panama and the Centre for Investigation & Documentation of the Atlantic Coast (CIDCA), Halover, Nicaragua.

Barndt says these connections will enrich knowledge and understanding about the multi-faceted nature of community arts both at York and among local community arts practitioners.

York has already collaborated with URACCAN, CIDCA and IMDEC in projects funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, Ottawa’s International Development Research Centre and the North America Mobility Program respectively. As well, students from York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies have conducted master’s research at several of the centres.

An institute in Guadalajara was Barndt’s Mexican base for a SSHRC-funded three-year research and popular education project that resulted in her recent book, Tangled Routes: Women, Work and Globalization on the Tomato Trail (Garamond Press, 2002).

York’s FES and the Catalyst Centre, a Toronto-based organization supporting popular education to promote social change, organized workshops with additional support from York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, the Graduate Environmental Studies Student Association, the Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean, York radio CHRY 105.5FM, the Graduate Program in Communication & Culture and local organizations.

During their two-week visit the artists/communicators also took part in bilingual (Spanish-English), hands-on workshops in community arts and spoke to participants at the Community Arts Ontario conference held at Toronto’s Harbourfront.