Many members of the international community were left inspired by the College's alumni, students and faculty
Posted 03.15.12 by MICA Communications
Though MICA's roots are in Baltimore, members of the MICA art education community are spreading seeds of art-based empowerment across the world. Not only are alumni and faculty members participating in a wide range of art education programs abroad, but the College and the Nathan Cummings Foundation recently sponsored the online publication of the Community Arts Journal, a publication that centers on the historical aspect of organizations and collectives from several regions around the world. Led by Ken Krafchek '95, graduate director of MICA's MA and MFA in Community Arts programs, the one-of-a-kind journal stimulates dialogue and supports continued local and national investment in community arts. To read more, visit mica.edu/communityartsjournal. Following, artists and teachers with ties to MICA detail their experiences overseas.
Karen Carroll, EdD, dean of art education, helped expand MICA's reach overseas when she spent a month in Singapore last summer as a consultant. While there, she helped the Singapore Teachers' Academy for the aRts (STAR)-a new initiative by Singapore's Ministry of Education-to develop art education for the primary and secondary schools in that country. Carroll also did a series of workshops for elementary art teachers and provided advice and counsel regarding all levels of education and teacher preparation. "My role was really to assess where they were at in the development of art education programming in their schools," Carroll said.
A delegation from STAR visited MICA in early March to meet with faculty from the MAT program, observe teachers in Howard County, and consult with Carroll. She envisions many opportunities for collaboration between MICA and the academy in the future. MICA will try to recruit some students from the school, while Singapore will likely recruit some students from MICA as art instructors. Some teachers in Singapore are also thinking about coming to MICA to enroll in a graduate program, and the College is developing a proposal for supporting a Center for Excellence that would become a hub for training teachers. "They want more creativity, and they know they want a more child-centered curriculum. These are things they can develop with some training and support," Carroll said.
"You can talk about community-based art in theory, but its practice really doesn't come into focus until you go to other places in the world," said Krafchek. Natalie Tranelli '10 '11 and Anne Kotleba '12 found that out firsthand when they traveled with Krafchek to Azerbaijan earlier this school year to facilitate photography projects in the capital, Baku, and the second-largest city, Ganja. Kotleba, a current MFA in Community Arts student, describes this US Embassy-funded project as "an opportunity to share our community arts philosophy on a greater scale, using photos as a vehicle to lift up the voice of otherwise invisible young people."
In Baku, the group worked with youth from the Azerbaijan Children's Shelter, many of whom are orphans, refugees, or homeless. "The youth executed a series of self-portraits, and then completed a photojournalism-style project where they told their story from their perspective. They went out into the community and photographed people and places important to them," said Tranelli, who received her MA and MFA in Community Arts in 2010 and 2011 respectively. In Ganja, they trained college students during the day and then sent them home with cameras to photograph their personal stories.
Krafchek conducted monoprint workshops at multiple locations throughout the country while also helping to train the volunteers and youth that worked on Tranelli and Kotleba's projects. "From my perspective as a teacher, watching these students conduct very complex projects in a new context and succeed was very gratifying. I'm hoping this is a stepping stone to similar initiatives on an ongoing basis."
Nicaragua, Central America
Every summer, MICA students and lifelong learners have the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua for a month-long community arts collaboration with Nicaraguan artists. For Maria Gabriela Aldana '03 '06, an alumna and Nicaraguan who's been leading such groups since 2004, "The Art of Solidarity program is a dream come true."
For four weeks, program participants build relationships with over 50 people, including artists, collectives, and community art organizations, while also discussing social and political issues of the day. Both Baltimore-based artists and those in Nicaragua benefit from the program, said Aldana, who earned a general fine arts degree in 2003 and an MA in Community Arts in 2006. "We are all learners and teachers so we work toward common goals with a lot of conversations about our process."
Aldana, the community outreach coordinator for the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, credits MICA with providing some of the inspiration for the program. "MICA gave me new lifetime influences and access to some of the best artists in the world," she said. "I came in thinking I was some hot and amazing artist and left finding a greater purpose and use for art."
Brazil, South America
Another MICA alumna who is shedding light on the international art scene is Jaime Bennati '08 '11, who has spent a lot of time living and working in Brazil. "Since graduating from MICA, I have been interested in work that is created through community involvement," said Bennati, who received her BFA in sculpture and her MA in teaching.
Over the past two years, Bennati has spent more than a year's worth of time in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto, Brasilia, and Rio de Janeiro, where she has family. Late last year, she was awarded a partnership to work with the University Federal of Goiás in Goiânia, Brazil, providing insight to college students and assisting with art exhibitions through an artist grant funded by the Maryland Arts Council. "I was invited to present my work and give the students a perspective about the American art scene as well as talk about my experience going to an art school in the United States," she said. She found that MICA's reputation preceded her. "MICA has really established itself as a prestigious school. Many of my friends in Rio in the design department know of the work of MFA in Graphic Design Program Director Ellen Lupton and the school so it is internationally wellknown, which is really honorable."
Bennati is currently working with photo and video classes in Goiânia and has plans to begin teaching techniques to a group of women who meet weekly to create crafts out of recycled materials. Earlier this year, a sculpture Bennati made using bus tickets she collected in Brazil was showcased in a paper show at Goucher College called Paper Shapers. "I think now more than ever I am using my experiences at MICA as a way to expand my career in the art field," she said.
St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands
Cynthia Hatfield '04, an adjunct professor at the University of the Virgin Islands who received an MA in Art Education from MICA, wanted to create a community arts program similar to what she experienced at MICA. She raised funds and started the SmART Summer Institute, a six week community arts program that Hatfield said "gave the island's most gifted teen artists a place to gain skills and build friendships they wouldn't normally have access to."
Last summer, the program took place at three sites-the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, the neighborhood of Mon Bijou, and the University of the Virgin Islands. Joining Hatfield in the yearlong planning of the project were Nora Howell '10 '11 and Michelle Faulkner '10 '11, both of whom received an MA in Community Arts and an MFA in Community Arts. Through community-centered art experiences, more than 100 of the island's youths learned new artmaking, problem-solving, and conceptual skills. "The program was designed to use art as both the means and focal point for youth to express themselves as well as the issues that mattered most to them," Howell said.
The friendships forged between the youth, teachers from the island, and MICA students still resonate. "I still get emails updating me on what they're doing," Faulkner said. The program's success was also a testament to MICA's ability to train art leaders since MICA "gave me the skills, the training, the practical experience, as well as the confidence that I needed to lead my teaching team and the youth at the Caribbean Museum," Howell said.
While the three SmART Institute programs were different, they all built upon MICA's belief in the power of cultural exchange. "These types of exchanges can lead us to even more effective and transformational approaches to art," Hatfield said.