SmARTpower by US State Dept

SmARTpower art projects by US State Department in 2012.  America artists collaboratively create “Art of Community” projects worldwide.  A valuable hour of life to watch a series of videos at SmARTpower.

LAGOS, NIGERIA – Brett Cook from Berkeley, California

Brett Cook in his project, Sharing Culture, conducted a series of workshop exercises with participants in self-portraiture,photography and visual thinking. At the All-Saints College, Jericho in Ibadan Brett ‘ruptured the silence of the school environment’ when he changed the working style and the method of teaching art.   Sharing Culture encouraged experimentation and relationship building among the participants based on a dialogue about self-awareness. By asking the participants to consider their own social network, the project also established a framework for participants to explore the expanded societal benefits of art and how art can be a force for personal discovery within the larger community. The final result was a mural at the university in Ibadan which was an aspirational vision of hope that included five upward-looking self-portraits, viewed from behind, which invited spectators to share in the skyward gaze.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA – Seth Augustine and Rachel Shachar, San Francisco, California

Seth Augustine and Rachel Shachar used the creation of puppets and the building of a large-scale puppet theater as a catalyst for stimulating discussion of local solutions to environmental problems. The artists worked side by side with community members to collect discarded refuse, which was used for the fabrication of the puppets and the puppet stage, and provided hands-on workshops to teach participants how to make puppets.  The design of the puppets and the content of the performances was ultimately a result of the creative vision of the participants. Once completed, the puppet theaters remained in the communities as a platform for future performances. The duo worked with Centro Cultural Chacao and reached out to participants in juvenile detention facilities and barrios as well, conducting a total of three workshops.

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO – Christopher Robbins, Carmen Montoya, and John Ewing

Ghana Think Tank is a collective including Christopher Robbins, Carmen Montoya, and John Ewing. Working with members of the local community in each location determined to be a site for a “think tank,” the artists collect problems from the “developed” world.  Working outside Marrakech in this case, the think tanks analyzed the problems and proposed solutions, which will be put into practice in the community where the problems originated. The success or failure of the solutions will be documented and sent back to the think tanks, initiating another round of dialogue and action.  Along the way, the entire piece—the problems, the solutions, the actions, the tools, and the conversations—will be constructed into an immersive, interactive, and collaborative installation.

COLUMBO, SRI LANKA – Xaviera Simmons from New York, NY

Xaviera Simmons worked in collaboration withthe contemporary artist collective Theertha and their Red Dot Gallery for her project: This Is Not Just A Dinner/PortraitureSessions. For 45 days, she and the artists at Theertha hosted a series of dinners, conversations, video portraiture sessions, presentations and teaching workshops directed by the artists. The dinners acted as information sessions where invited guests spoke on various topics surrounding portraiture, art practices, local politics and education, among other themes. The dinner conversations raised issues about portraiture and invited participants to consider ways of expressing their identity through the medium. In turn, they worked with young people who were invited to participate in portraiture, sculpture and movement workshops.  Xaviera and Theertha also traveled to Nurawa Eliya, Polonaruwa, Colombo and Galle, where over 200 students participated in this project

NAIROBI, KENYA – Miguel Luciano from New York, NY

Miguel Luciano worked with Kenyan youth doing a large-scale kite project modeled on a similar project that he carried out in Viequesin 2002. About a hundred participants were taught to make handmade kites that feature their own life-size photographic self-portraits. They were then taught to fly the kites, and participants saw images of themselves flying in the air above, in a visual metaphor of freedom. When the kites are flown en masse, the project conveys concepts of individuality and community, as dozens lift their images into the sky simultaneously. He worked closely with local artists, teaching the techniques so that workshops may continue, both in the marginal areas of informal housing where Miguel was working and elsewhere.

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