Guest post by Vivian Alvarez

As a Master’s student in Art Education, I believe that it is important that future art educators and current graduate students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) become engaged citizens of communities outside their classrooms. That is why I chose to introduce the Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) and Journal of Ordinary Thought (JOT) to my classmates; its work is relevant, critical, meaningful, and potentially transformative to our work as art educators.

I was granted the opportunity to implement assignments to our course curriculum in Ethics & Pedagogical Issues. I asked classmates to read selected poems from JOT’s “Water on Fire,” Fall 2010 issue in preparation for our next class. In class, I played an audio piece, NWA’s Weekly Writing Workshop: Where the Magic Happens, and we discussed both the reading and the audio.

A lot of JOT’s entries provide examples of popular education models, meaning education is approached in a way that upholds the belief that facilitators and participants have something to learn from one another through their distinctive experiences.

Contemporary artists are looking to popular education models as part of community building processes; artists are creating art, not as solitarians in their private settings, but with the help of ordinary people from particular communities. Artists do this because integrating members related to a particular community stimulates dialogue, helping voice ordinary thought through socialization and visuals. These dialogues are educative to artists because, many times, artists interpret communities based on articles and theories, not through community members themselves. Working on arts-based community projects with community members helps bring theory to life. For instance, in Bobbie Harro’s “Cycle of Socialization,” Harro argues that the cycle represents “how the socialization process happens, from what source it comes, how it affects our lives, how it perpetuates it,” and whether the individual in the cycle is willing to make changes based on awakening experiences that happen purely through storytelling and dialogue. Unless Harro’s theory is put into practice through a diversity of voices, artists will not be thoroughly educated.

NWA is an excellent model of popular education and the Cycle of Socialization because it implements discussion, interaction, reflection, and reading and writing as art forms . For me, this brings forth questions we must ask ourselves as artists and art educators. How can artists become socially engaged in their art-making? Is there something about NWA’s model that we would like to integrate in college art education? I’d be eager to hear your thoughts.

Vivian Alvarez

Vivian Alvarez is a graduate student in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Master’s of Arts in Art Education program. She has worked at the Egan Urban Center at DePaul University, as an art instructor in a gallery in Park Ridge, and as a CPS SES Coordinator and SES Assistant Program Director in the Logan Square and Humboldt Park communities. In addition, she has volunteered at Erie Neighborhood House as an English tutor and at the Southwest Youth Collaborative as a guest artist. Vivian completed an internship at Marwen Foundation where she helps underserved talented youth obtain an art education they otherwise could not afford. Vivian earned an associate’s degree in Fine Arts and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from DePaul University.

  • Jill Goldstein

    Thanks Vivian – very nicely put. Look forward to more of this in the future!

  • DeAnna Lynette Carpenter

    Very well stated Vivian! Thank you for reminding us to stay connected to our inspiration!

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