Newsletter, August 2016


Arts and Humanities Civic Engagement


Cultural Agents is an interface between academic learning and civic engagement. The Initiative promotes arts and humanities as social resources.



  • Pre-Texts pilot in alliance with Waltham Public Schools
  • WHEN: August, 8 – 12th
  • WHERE: Waltham, MA
  • WHAT: A team made up of academics of Harvard’s Education School and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, led by Doris Sommer, Gigi Luk, and Eileen de los Reyes will work in a pilot Pre-Texts program with teachers from Waltham Public Schools. Thanks to the support and collaboration of the Waltham Education Superintendent, Drew Echelson, this program will not only contribute with an innovative methodology that focuses on literacy, innovation, and citizenship within schools, but it will also encompass an important impact study.

General News: Cultural Agents 

Public Policy at the Brink: Immigration and Integration as Cultural Challenges

In July, Cultural Agents Inc. participated in the IAP-UAM XII Research Symposia for Spanish and Latin American Academics, Creating Public Value: Challenges for Management and Public Policy, which took place in the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. The sessions of Public Policy at the Brink: Immigration and Integration as Cultural Challenges were lead by Doris Sommer and Leonardo Ordoñez, director of the program Santiago Creativo in Chile. These sessions, focused on the conceptualization and implementation of Cultural Public Policy in Latin America, represented a new endeavor for Cultural Agents Inc. in the formation of leaders in cultural public policy. It will be implemented as of 2017 in alliance with Harvard University.

General News: Pre-Texts

Pre-Texts in Universidad Complutense,
San Lorenzo de Escorial


The Pre-Texts: Education, Creativity, and Citizenship course began with participants around the materials table creating their own books while one of the facilitators read a chapter of Don Quijote out loud. The first activity consisted of creating a soundtrack for the reading utilizing four songs we had played. Afterwards, participants were invited to create a circle and to answer the question, “What did we do?” This dynamic created a democratic atmosphere that lasted until our last day together. Between the course sessions, conferences were given by some of the most important figures within Spanish education. Every day, participants were asked to bring “branches” for the cloth line, where they hanged their own texts and exchanged in reading the texts of others. During the course, participants proposed a number of activities such as: creating a comic, Taboo game, reading in different moods, creating a letter from an absent character (e.g. Dulcinea), chained theater, mimicry, and mindfulness.
– Borja Manero, Visiting Researcher at Harvard University
Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Faculty of Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Pre-Texts in Universitat de València

During July, Professor Doris Sommer also led a session with members of the Consell Escolar de la Comunitat Valenciana geared towards a reflection about the problems that the education system currently faces. Through the exploration of interpretative alternatives, they formed a creative space for reflection, where empathy and understanding between the different political and social strata could materialise itself in different forms. Participants became the protagonists of behaviours and arguments, therefore, susceptible of directly influencing the decision making process. Which is important in order to tackle the multiple issues of the educational system and to create and improve a space of civic coexistence. Following the work session, Professor Sommer presented educators in Valencia the Pre-Texts workshop, in addition to offering the Cultural Agents Initiative plenary conference.

All photographs belong to Universitat de València. For the full album of this event see:

Featured Story

“Artist Imagines A Healthcare System That Doesn’t Fail Women Of Color”


“The Waiting Room” at the New Museum in New York is the latest work of artist Simone Leigh. Through this piece she pays tribute to the life of Esmin Elizabeth Green who spent 24 hours in a hospital waiting room expecting to be seen, and collapsed after a blood clot in her leg spread to her lungs. The hospital’s surveillance footage showed hospital’s staff negligence towards her that resulted in her losing her life in the waiting room floor.

In “The Waiting Room”, Leigh demands that the concerns, roles, and rights of women of color be recognized as central, rather than pushed to the margins. For her exhibition and residency at the New Museum, the artist considers the possibilities of disobedience, desire, and self-determination as they manifest in resistance to an imposed state of deferral and debasement. Whereas discourses of patience, pragmatism, and austerity often underscore political debates surrounding the failures of public health care and related conditions, Leigh finds inspiration in parallel histories of urgency, agency, and intervention within social movements and black communities, past and present. Troubling the notion of separate narratives, she implicates violent, institutionalized control and indifference as the conditions under which forms of self care and social care can become radical or alternative.

Focusing specifically on an expanded notion of medicine, “The Waiting Room” references a wide range of care environments and opportunities—from herbalist apothecaries and muthi [medicine] markets in Durban, South Africa, to meditation rooms and movement studios—and involves a variety of public and private workshops and healing treatments that the artist refers to as “care sessions.” Blurring the distinction between bodily and spiritual health, or between wellness and happiness—and, in doing so, countering the perception of holistic care as a luxury good—Leigh has convened practitioners who view social justice as integral to their work. The all women led “care sessions”, evoke the words of writer and activist Audre Lorde when she wrote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Leigh’s installation inaugurates the Department of Education and Public Engagement’s annual R&D Summers, a research and development residency and exhibition program that will foreground the New Museum’s year-round commitment to community partnerships and to public dialogue at the intersection of art and social justice.

“The Waiting Room” is on view until Sept. 18, 2016 at the New Museum in New York. For care sessions and public lectures visit:

For the Huffington Post article see:



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Caminos de Paz Cases for Culture Cultural Agents Opportunities Partners Pre-Texts Rennaisance Now
September 2, 2016
by Rodriguez