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Newsletter, February 27, 2015

Cultural Agents Initiative: Arts and Humanities in Civic Engagement
A group of 25 middle school teachers of Portuguese language and literature participate in the literary figures activity during a Pre-Texts workshop in Curitiba, Brazil in February. The Cultural Agents team is working with the sponsoring institution Grupo Positivo to develop a plan for the successful implementation and expansion of Pre-Texts in affiliated schools.
February 27, 2015
Dear Friends,

We hope you enjoy this biweekly 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:
http://www.culturalagents.org and www.pre-texts.org.

As we hope to support your work as a cultural agent too, please send your news to us at cultagen@fas.harvard.edu.

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

With many thanks,
The Cultural Agents Team


Looking Back to Move Forward: Political Crisis and Social Mobilization in Mexico
In a forum organized by the Boston-based student group Boston x Ayotzinapa on February 19, the scholars Tanalís Padilla (Associate Professor of History, Dartmouth College), Louise E. Walker (Associate Professor of History, Northeastern University) and Renata Keller (Assistant Professor of International Relations, Boston University) discussed the disappearance of 43 students, analyzing historical precedents and structural conditions that perpetuate violence in Mexico. The panelists argued that the recent events in Ayotzinapa are not isolated, but are rather the result of a longstanding environment of corruption and impunity. They centered on the role of student movements and resultant repression of these groups, previous incidents of violence, an assessment of the minimal coverage of the Ayotzinapa disappearances and repercussions in international media, especially in the United States, and the U.S. government’s overall involvement (or lack of) in the Mexican crisis.  Almost five months after the disappearance of 43 students, protests for justice, and reports of injured or killed demonstrators continue. A rigorous academic approach unravels its complexity in order to avoid the search for easy solutions and instead engage in deeper and meaningful transformations.
On April 1, anthropologist Cluadio Lomnitz (Columbia University), writer Pedro Ángel Palou (Tufts University), and art historian Robin Greeley (University of Connecticut) will continue this discussion at Harvard University at 10:30am. Mexico at a Crossroads: Political Crisis, Civic Agency and Culture, sponsored by the Cultural Agents Initiative as part of the Cultural and Humanitarian Agents Seminar supported by the Mahindra Humanities Center, will be held in Room S020, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street.
To learn more about Boston x Ayotzinapa, visit: http://bostonforayotzinapa.com/.

The Legal Medium will be held at the Yale Law School this weekend. On Saturday, February 28, artists and scholars will explore how artists engage with the law in their work in a series of panels, presentations, performances and an art exhibition. Joshua Decter, Liam Gillick, Doris Sommer, and Laura Wexler will participate in the last panel of the afternoon. This panel–Laws of the Political Body–will explore how artists use the law (as a plastic medium that one might stretch, bend, mold, or call attention to), and how they construe their relationship to the polity or seek to act upon the social or political body.  For more information on the conference, see:
http://www.thelegalmedium.com/.


Lisa Crossman and Professor Doris Sommer, both of the Cultural Agents Initiative, attended the Harvard Ed Portal’s opening event on Saturday, February 21. The space will be used for educational and mentoring programming for local children, arts events, workforce development, and a HarvardX speaker series. For an article on the opening event with a quote by Doris, see: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2015/2/23/ed-portal-celebrates-opening/. We look forward to working with collaborators such as Joan Matsalia, Associate Director of Teaching and Learning Partnerships of the Harvard Office of Public Affairs and Communications, in planning community events and other activities that will use Pre-Texts. The Ed Portal, like Pre-Texts, unites the arts, innovation and learning.

For more on the Ed Portal and its programming, please visit: http://edportal.harvard.edu/.

The Cultural Agents team continues to research and develop ways to improve the promotion and evaluation of Pre-Texts. Gabrielle writes:
Last week, I had the opportunity to research grants and arts integrated resources. This research has demonstrated that the Cultural Agents Initiative incorporates the main ideologies of many winning grant recipients; multicultural advocacy, global literacy, and alignment to Common Core standards.
Wanwan Weng has also been writing a thoroughly researched annotated bibliography, which shows that arts-integrated programs that use pre-test and post-test strategies [Davis, J. H. (2008). Why Our Schools Need the Arts. New York: Teachers College Press] are beneficial. According to Wanwan, the comprehensive assessment plan of Pre-Texts aligns with this, as it “includes measurements for teachers, students, and families,” as well as the Entry Point Approach and the Theory of Multiple Intelligences frameworks by Howard Gardner, which speak to Pre-Texts emphasis on student interpretations in art and literature.
For future development of Pre-Texts, our team is currently working to expand our outreach. Specifically, I am coordinating with another social media intern, William Ieong, to increase our viewership and enhance our social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. An Instagram, which demonstrates Pre-Texts activities through photography and video, is also in the works. On the protocol front, another Pre-Texts coordinator, Trecia Reavis, is working with fellow HGSE Intern Wanwan to adapt and translate Pre-Texts materials for a Chinese audience. Overall, we are working towards expanding our outreach, developing global materials, and increasing our arts-integrated database.


Other Active Cultural Agents 

“Stop Telling Women to Smile”
The Huffington Post reports the initiative of the artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh to battle street harassment using mural portraits of women with captions that command offenders to think about their behavior and comments in public spaces. “Stop Telling Women to Smile” began in 2012 in Brooklyn and has expanded to different cities including Philadelphia and Mexico City. On the project’s website, the artist defines street art as “an impactful tool for tackling street harassment” and argues that the murals take “women’s voices, and faces, and put them in the street–creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.” For more information, visit: http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/Abouthttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/12/stop-telling-women-to-smile-mexico-city_n_6663280.html?.

“Facción”: An Independent Collective Proposal for Media and Activism
More than 50 cultural and artistic organizations from over 15 different nationalities came together to construct “Facción,” a communicative project that aims to create cultural and social transformations by fostering a free and open communication among a variety of cultural initiatives based in Latin America. The project began in 2013, based on the principles of horizontality, reciprocity and collaboration. It is intended to democratize access to information and strengthen networks of communication supported by media activism. The website contains independent news from all over Latin America and Spain, as well as links to instructional tools to enhance the work of media activists. To learn more, visit: http://faccionlatina.org/.

GUERRILLA GIRLS: Art in Action
An exhibition of the works of the Guerrilla Girls art collective will take place at the Pomona College Museum of Art from January 20 to May 17, 2015. The exhibition features a selection of work produced between 1985 and 2012 that criticizes the sexism and racism in the art world. To learn more about the exhibit, visit: http://www.pomona.edu/museum/exhibitions/2015/guerrilla%20girls/.
To read more about the Guerrilla Girls, go to: http://www.guerrillagirls.com/index.shtml.

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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February 27, 2015
by Rodriguez