Mexico’s Checo Valdez talks about ‘painting by listening’

York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) will explore the power of art to animate social movements in a series of events this week at York’s Keele campus and the Native Canadian Centre on Spadina Road.

deborah barndtThe impetus for the week’s activities came from a research team led by Deborah Barndt (left), FES associate dean, and colleagues from Canada, the US and Latin America. The project was awarded $152,720 this year by the Social Science & Humanities Research Council of Canada for its transnational study of creative tensions in community art and public education.

The week’s public activities begin at noon, Thursday, when Central American research collaborators and York officials will meet for lunch. Five guest community artists from Panama, Nicaragua and Mexico, all research collaborators in the VIVA! Project, will meet with York faculty members and administrators to discuss possibilities for institutional agreements and internships at their institutions for York students, in particular students in the new Community Arts Practice Certificate program at York.

Checo Valdez of the Autonomous Metropolitan University, Mexico City, will give a public seminar at 5pm on Thursday titled “Painting by Listening: Community-Based Mural Production in Mexico” in room 140, Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies Building. Valdez, a research collaborator in the VIVA! Project, will speak about his work with Zapatista communities in producing murals on community history. A reception follows the seminar which is the second in the 2004-2005 FES “Art / Nature / Culture / Communities” series.

Valdez’s talk will also feature the first use of York’s new simultaneous translation equipment, which is supported by the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation to promote bilingual and multilingual research and education. York has purchased a multi-purpose equipment set that uses wireless transmitters and receivers that allow simultaneous translation in up to three languages at once. The receivers can also be used to transcribe speech for people with hearing problems and provide journalists with an audio feed for recording. “As you can probably guess, such flexibility will be an asset to a variety of research projects,” said Gabrielle Etcheverry, graduate assistant to the project team.

On Friday and Saturday organizers are holding a two-day gathering titled “Harvesting Stories: Popular Education in Social Movements of the Americas” at the Native Canadian Centre. This invitation-only event will feature nine Canadian, three US, and five Central American elders of popular education and community arts in inter-generational dialogue with 40 FES graduate students in the Popular Education for Social Change course. The group hopes to recover histories of these practices in the Americas and compile then on a Web site.

cla and paper theatre

Left: Members of the Clay and Paper Theatre troupe

Friday’s events include a public storytelling evening from 7:30 to 9:30pm at the Native Canadian Centre, 16 Spadina Rd. Titled “Beyond Halloween: Stories Celebrating Life and Death”, the evening’s hosts will invite participants to share tales of diverse traditions of this time of year – from Day of the Dead in Mexico to Night of Dread in Toronto, reflecting on cultural conceptions of life and death. The stories will lay the ground work for a community art festival beginning at 2pm on Saturday, Oct. 30, when the Clay and Paper Theatre will lead a parade, starting at 5:45pm, with puppets and masks, and a bonfire in Dufferin Grove Park where participants can burn their fears.