Art is all around us

I feel it in my fingers… I feel it in my toes…

All of a sudden I’m surrounded by art-based projects, conversations, research and learning. Here are some of the things that are opening the doors of the arts world in academia and beyond:

Courses at UVic

The Cultural Leadership and Social Learning through the Arts course that I’m taking at UVic. It is increasing my awareness of arts-based research and projects all over the world, and it is showing me a new way of thinking and doing, sometimes challenging my preconceptions about some art forms. I didn’t understand how, for instance, quilting is a vehicle for social change;  although I understand how fabric artists can build community and become adult educators (more about this topic is described on chapter six of the book The arts and social justice. Re-crafting Adult Education and Community Cultural Leadership). Here is an example of a New Zealand quilt from My Place, a traveling exhibition of contemporary art quilts.

A couple of weeks ago, during class, we looked at a quilt that was created during a conference. We talked about our ability to “read” the quilt and to extract hidden meanings by looking at the way it was stitched; in this particular case, the quilt showed that many different hands had put it together. I’ve never been exposed to quilts as a way of expression, cultural learning or art and it was very interesting to learn about quilts, activism, and the marginalization of fabric in relation to fine arts.

Last week, four of our classmates facilitated a workshop that focused on expression and learning though music. We danced to different rhythms, created music in small groups and sang together. I absolutely loved it! But I am biased, I love music and singing but I realized that I don’t sing in a community as much as I used to. When I was in junior high school I was part of La Estudiantina del Colegio Guadalupe; my sister was, too, and my brother played at La Trova de la Ciudad de México. Almost every weekend we had a performance and we rehearsed daily. Now that I think of it, we were singing all the time, even when my siblings’ friends came home, we sang and played music.  I love that time of my life and I’m sure that singing has a lot to do with it! Unfortunately, now there are very few times when I sing with others. I do like the “om” and “shanti” mantras at the end of yoga class but it is not the same…

Last week, during the Research Methods in Leadership class we explored photo-elicitation as a method for gathering data. We had a mock research question and through images we explored the topic. The process provided information for the researchers, and it was a learning experience in itself, maybe a transformational one for some folks.

Besides the courses, I think that the University of Victoria values art-based learning and research much more than other universities. I can definitely feel it within the Faculty of Education but it spreads beyond it. Various events organized centrally feature art methods or have an arts-based format.


Last week I facilitated a four-day theatre workshop. This experience deserves its own blog post (and I’ll write it, I promise). It was such a good learning experience! It made me think about aesthetics and good theatre, about the effective implementation of Theatre of the Oppressed, and about the initial resistance to theatre or to anything that it is not “conventional”. I also had an opportunity to experience the power of process: the process of participants opening up, little by little, to new ways of learning and being. I agree with Boal, there is no doubt that thinking with our bodies short-circuits the censorship of the brain


Somehow I ended up at the Royal Conservatory of Music trying out a pre-natal music class. Unfortunately I was the only participant but the facilitators were not discouraged and we sang children’s songs and improvised music by playing the xylophones. It was what I call “a moment”. Yes, we had “a moment”.

The Victoria Film Festival is on and it adds up to my arts awareness. Also, Puente Theatre is presenting WordPlay, featuring plays from around the world. Plus, I ended up in a Knitting group of retired ladies…

I’m excited about everything that is going on and it is my intention to continue to engage in art and to find ways to express myself through multiple media!

Published by Val Cortes

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