Newsletter, 21 November 2014

Cultural Agents Initiative: Arts and Humanities in Civic Engagement

Pre-Texts Capacity Builder Trecia Reavis organized the first Family Night at Hokmah International School. Three more Pre-Texts Family Nights will be held at Hokmah within the next year. These events bring families and community members together to experience Pre-Texts with their children.

21 November 2014
Dear Friends,

We hope you enjoy this weekly update, which highlights some of our recent activities and the work of other cultural agents. Please see our websites for more information, news, and a list of our upcoming events: and

As we hope to support your work as a cultural agent too, please send your news to us at

To all of our supporters, “connectionists” (tejedores, tecelões), and collaborators throughout the world, thank you!

With many thanks,
The Cultural Agents Team

On Monday, November 24 at 6pm, as part of the Cultural and Humanitarian Agents Seminar sponsored by the Mahindra Humanities Center, the Cultural Agents Initiative will host a public presentation by Jorge Munguía of Buró-Buró–an interdisciplinary design agency based in Mexico City that uses innovative strategies to increase levels of engagement with projects ranging from urban planning to contemporary art. The talk, Strategies for Cultural Participationwill be held at Harvard University, Boylston Hall, Room 335.
Jorge will present a selection of projects that have been implemented by Buró-Buró, sharing strategic practices that include varying models of participation and platforms to allow projects to productively evolve over time. Recognizing the numerous challenges that cultural producers face, Jorge will show how Buró-Buró’s projects use innovative methods to inexpensively foster sustainability and engage diverse audiences. Jorge will also offer general insights on strategies to support the cultivation of cultural agency.

For more on Buró-Buró:

For information on the interpretative tools developed by Buró-Buró for the exhibition Citizen Culture: Artists and Architects Shape Policy, visit the exhibition’s online site:

Pier Luigi Sacco, Professor of Cultural Economics at IULM University, Milan and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Markets, and Heritage, gave a guest lecture to students in Doris Sommer and Francesco Erspamer’s Cultural Agents course at Harvard University this past week. Professor Sacco’s talk explored the social and economic relevance of culture, examining how cultural participation and social innovation lead to economic and social transformations. For professor Sacco there is a fundamental misconception of the relationship between cultural activity and the generation of economic and social value. This misreading emerges from obsolete views of culture that fail to recognize and foster the active cultural participation of audiences as creators of cultural products, rather than simply as consumers. To read more about professor Sacco’s work, see:

Three months after the start of Pre-texts at the Universidad de Coahuila, the  Escuela de Bachilleres Ateneo Fuente, and the Instituto de Ciencias y Humanidades (Coahuila, Mexico), students and teachers continue to explore new possibilities for teaching and learning that integrate art making into standard curriculum.
According to Voroca Dávila, the Pre-text Coordinator in Mexico, teachers have become facilitators, and knowledge is being produced collectively in the classroom through the use of art. The success of this experience has motivated its expansion into other areas besides English learning, such as mathematics, biology and chemistry. To read more about this experience see:

Other Active Cultural Agents 

United States
Unsettled by the lack of public spaces and the somber looks of the neighborhood, Jason Roberts and Andrew Howard started a movement that’s changing cities one block at a time. Beginning in Oak Cliff, Dallas, The Better Block project took the transformation of the city into their own hands without waiting for the city authorities to act. Instead, they showed that transformation was possible and then petitioned the city to support change. For instances, during one weekend, Roberts painted bike paths and crosswalks, set up cafes, shops and exhibited art on the streets. Overtly acknowledging that they were breaking city laws, the team posted them on windows, inviting the City Council to observe these regulations as obsolete, which eventually led to policy changes. This initiative has grown worldwide, and the team now provides support for the active involvement of citizens in the transformation of their communities. To read more about this project, click:

Colombia and Panama
Hacia el litoral. Acción colectiva (Towards the littoral. Collective Action): A group of young artists based in Colombia and Panama have engaged in a creative and collective exploration of the border regions of these two countries along the Pacific Ocean. Using radio, literature, photography and video, the interdisciplinary group of artists delves into a region that has been historically marked by oblivion and violence. The project proposes a rediscovery of the geographic and imaginary spaces and the relations, movements and encounters of their permanent and temporal inhabitants. By involving local communities, Hacia el litoral not only points at old and new social issues, but also provides new insights about the history, territory, frontiers and communities of a complex region. To read more about this project visit:

The Cultural Agents Initiative recognizes the arts and humanities as vital resources for positive social change. Working from a long humanistic tradition dedicated to civic development, we focus on identifying artists, educators, and leaders who have developed creative practices and respond to the role of art in building civil society and confronting its challenges.
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Copyright © 2013 Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University, All rights reserved.

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