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Community Arts and Popular Education in the Americas

Deborah Barndt

Publication Year: 2011

Compelling case studies of groups in Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, the United States, and Canada using the arts for education, community development, and social movement building. This compelling collection of inspiring case studies from community arts projects in five countries will inform and inspire students, artists, and activists. ¡Viva! is the product of a five-year transnational research project that integrates place, politics, passion, and praxis. Framed by postcolonial theories of decolonization, the pedagogy of the oppressed articulated by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, and the burgeoning field of community arts, this collection not only analyzes the dynamic integration of the critical and the creative in social justice movements, it embodies such a praxis. Learn from Central America: Kuna children’s art workshops, a community television station in Nicaragua, a cultural marketplace in Guadalajara, Mexico, community mural production in Chiapas; and from North America: arts education in Los Angeles inner-city schools, theatre probing ancestral memory, community plays with over one hundred participants, and training programs for young artists in Canada. These practices offer critical hope for movements hungry for new ways of knowing and expressing histories, identities, and aspirations, as well as mobilizing communities for social transformation. Beautifully illustrated with more than one hundred color photographs, the book also includes a DVD with videos that bring the projects to life.

Published by: State University of New York Press

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pp. vii-xv

This book has been created by and for people who are seeking a more just and sustainable world, who want to integrate education and art into community work, who believe that such synergy can foster greater passion for and deeper...

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pp. xvi-xx

It seems incongruous to be holed up in a library carrel writing about the cast of thousands who have contributed to this book. It would feel more appropriate to go out into the streets and break...

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Introduction. Rooted in Place, Politics, Passion, and Praxis: Decolonization, Popular Education, Community Arts, and Participatory Action Research

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pp. 1-18

The central ideas driving the VIVA! project can be seen within a circle that acknowledges our colonial history and aims to decolonize our practice as educators, artists, and activists through popular education, community arts, and participatory action research. In this chapter, I introduce these key fields that provide the common theoretical and methodological ground...

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PART I. Recovering Cultural Histories:Engaging Creative Tensions in Indigenous and Diasporic Contexts

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pp. 19-28

This section features two projects that are responses to the devastating impact of colonialism, slavery, and forced migration on Indigenous and African and other racialized people in the Americas—the Kuna Children’s Art Workshops...

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1.Planting Good Seeds:The Kuna Children’s Art Workshops

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pp. 29-41

As a Kuna and the director of CEASPA, the Panamanian Social Education and Action Center, I recall the Kuna Children’s Art Workshops as an important example of the integration of arts into popular and environmental education...

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2.The Lost Body:Recovering Memory—A Personal Legacy

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pp. 42-54

Relache. Never a kinder word was spoken when, in Hervé Maxi’s Haitian dance class,1 after multiple deep bends and ballet toes, I was finally told to relache (. . . 2, 3, 4 . . .). I found my body challenged to its limit in that class not knowing that greater challenges lay ahead. In a repertoire class in Central African...

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PART II. Transforming Urban Spaces:From Postcolonial Neighborhoods to Public Squares

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pp. 55-59

From the start, we meant to use the creative tensions first elaborated by VIVA! partners, and introduced in Part I, not as dichotomies but as dialectics to be understood in dynamic relationship to each other. At our second annual gathering in Panama, however, we began to question whether our framework...

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3.Out of the Tunnel There Came Tea:Jumblies Theatre’s Bridge of One Hair Project

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pp. 60-74

When you set out to make art “for, about, and with the people” who live in a certain place; when you claim, furthermore, that “everyone is welcome!”; and when you happen to live in Toronto, then certain things follow...

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4.Telling Our Stories: Training Artists to Engage with Communities

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pp. 75-85

It still holds true today that Toronto is “the Meeting Place,” as the First Peoples1 named it. Today, migration caused by capitalist globalization and civil wars makes Toronto a place where people originating from all corners of the world come together...

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5.A Melting Pot Where Diverse Lives Converge:Tianguis Cultural de Guadalajara

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pp. 86-98

Please come in: be our special guest. The plaza is calling. There are no isolated policies or actions, only collective initiatives, developed by trial and error. The team members of this unique independent action are facing a challenge and its resolution depends on us. Our public is ambitious and eager to learn, young, enthusiastic, and curious...

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PART III. Community-University Collaborations:Blurring the Boundaries

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pp. 99-101

Just as the global cities featured in the last section reveal the erosion of the nation-state and thus make geopolitical borders less relevant, so, too, are universities rethinking the conventional borders between universities and communities...

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6.Painting By Listening:Participatory Community Mural Production

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pp. 102-112

When I was heading toward Taniperla in Chiapas State in southern Mexico to facilitate the mural workshop, it occurred to me that maybe they were expecting me to paint the mural, while it was my intention...

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7.Connecting the Dots:Linking Schools and Universities through the Arts

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pp. 113-125

Creativity in education has the potential to spark student and teacher learning, help participants identify their personal and community strengths, and affirm cultural and linguistic diversity. Having creative outlets in school...

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8.With Our Images, Voices, and Cultures:BilwiVision—A Community Television Channel

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pp. 126-131

Many forces have shaped the multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural society found today on the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast—the stubborn perseverance of the peoples who inhabited the area during the colonial period, the initial relationships of cooperation with the explorers...

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Epilogue:Critical Hope

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pp. 132-138

Five years have passed since VIVA! partners gathered at the Indigenous UniTierra (University of the Land) in Chiapas, Mexico, for our third and final funded gathering in 2006, where we first shared and discussed our videos and draft chapters for this book. Nothing stands still, and all of the projects described here have evolved...


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pp. 139-145


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pp. 146-150

About the Editor, Contributors, and Videographers

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pp. 151-153

Contacts for VIVA! Project Partner Organizations

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p. 154-154

Photo and Drawing Credits

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p. 155-155

VIVA! Community Arts and Popular Education in the Americas:A DVD with nine bilingual videos

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pp. 156-157


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pp. 158-168

E-ISBN-13: 9781438437682
E-ISBN-10: 1438437684
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438437675
Print-ISBN-10: 1438437676

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 120 color photographs
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Community arts projects -- Western Hemisphere.
  • Arts in education -- Western Hemisphere.
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