Cultural Agents in Colombia
Cultural Agents is excited to announce that we have an official Cultural Agents branch based in Bogotá, Colombia. Having worked in the country for close to two decades, partnering with schools, local governments, and everyone in between, Cultural Agents recognizes the importance of having a formally recognized foundation in Colombian. As of fall 2017, La Fundación Agentes Culturales is an official NGO that promotes the divergent thinking of arts and humanities in the service of solutions to real life problems in Colombia and around Latin America.
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General News: Pre-Texts
Doris visited Argentina to facilitate a five-day long Pre-Texts workshop. The following is a translated reflection from her host, Gonzalo Aguilar:
Doris arrived to Buenos Aires Friday morning. I met her at the airport, and that same day we began our pilgrimage through the city. Doris, who I met at Harvard, came with the program Pre-Texts to train cultural agents in the vulnerable neighborhoods–or slums, “villas,” as they are known here–that the organization I work with (el Instituto de la Vivienda) is developing. First, we went to la Casa de Cultura de Villa 21-24, where we met with its director, Gustavo Ameri. There, as with everywhere we visited afterwards, Doris’s enthusiasm for learning, games, and creativity was contagious. No meeting was just a mere exchange of opinions. On the contrary, there was a feeling of participating in a mutual project: one of social change through culture and reading.
Doris’s workshop left many lessons. From my perspective, the most important element is that Pre-Texts demonstrated the link between knowledge and reading practices. It was not about sharing critique and literary theory, but rather about experimenting with texts to continue developing hypotheses, not according to abstract and old principles but rather according to experiences with reading. Secondly, in the questions round of the first Pre-Texts meeting, I came to see that allowing total freedom for questions does not spoil the course of the meeting. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of questions and paths that they opened.
Pre-Texts left its mark on Buenos Aires. Now, we must continue working so that this single footprint becomes a path.
Impact of the Training: The workshop has immediate positive effects. Teacher Eurídice Sandoval Sánchez reproduced the workshop with her own students the day after the first session. Additionally, Indalecio Salgado Uruóstegui and Carlos Francisco Rojas Gómez worked with the activities from Pre-Texts integrating them into the courses given at the Casa de Cultura in Comonfort, Guantajuato. For these activities, through the program “De la mano por Comonfort,” teacher Hortencia Chávez was invited to give a talk about Pre-Texts and the work with youth to prevent addictions and to combat social problems.
Pre-Texts went to California August 14-18, invited by Arts Bridging the Gap and YouthBuild Charter School of California (YCSC). For five days, Vialla Hartfield-Méndez and Jais Brohinsky facilitated the workshop with 25 committed and passionate teachers who work at some of the 19 YCSC sites around California. YouthBuild Charter School is a free project-based charter school, rooted in social justice, for students between 16-24 years of age who have previously left or been pushed out of traditional public schools.
For three hours each day, teachers became learners, playing and transforming two pages of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, reading aloud, posing questions to the text and creating answers, considering each other’s reflections, developing their own Pre-Texts activities, and collaborating on creatively constructing deeper understandings of the text and ways to fold this pedagogy into their own. By the end of the week, the group proposed new texts with which to try out this approach, and we spent the last day exploring “A Decent Home,” suggested by a social studies teacher. This 1944 pamphlet, published by the Los Angeles Housing Authority, advances ideas about “bad housing,” “good housing,” “blighted areas,” and “social disease.” The teachers jumped into a Pre-Texts approach to teaching about the history of housing in Los Angeles, and very quickly figured out engaging and playful ways to invite students into analysis and critical interpretation of this pamphlet while encouraging civic participation.
Many of the teachers have very concrete ideas about how they plan to use Pre-Texts. In addition, the YouthBuild Charter School administrators are working with Arts Bridging the Gap in a three-month school-wide pilot check-in structure and an evaluation of the effects of the Pre-Texts approach on student performance, based on pre- and post-trimester surveys and teacher observations. One of the pillars of the YouthBuild Charter School approach is the development of Community Action Projects, and Pre-Texts may find its way into these projects. We look forward to hearing how Pre-Texts continues to unfold and deepen for this outstanding team of teachers.