My personal interests, and the responsibility to my country and its development have lead me to get very interested in an organization named Walls of Hope. This organization is an art school and open studio situated in Perquín, a small town in the department of Morazán, El Salvador. Among its objectives, the school tries to empower the citizens of the town and generating new sources of jobs and education by the insertion of art as a constant presence in their community. It was funded by Claudia Bernardi and directed by artists/teachers. Bernardi is an internationally renown artist and educator who works in the fields of human rights and social justice and who has exhibited her work in over 40 solo exhibitions. She has influenced thousands of people with her integrity, compassion, and truthfulness. Her labor has been expanded to other countries like Colombia and Guatemala. Studying this school, it came to my mind another inspirational initiative created by Jane Addams and Ellen Starr: the Hull House. In the nineteenth century, this wonderful project was created to help the community of the Nineteenth Ward of Chicago, a neighborhood living in inhumane conditions that resulted from industrialized poverty. Hull House brought together a community that possessed different cultural heritages. Addams’ belief on art’s unifying power was a key point on reaching this goal. My interest stems from the success these schools have had on gathering two very different communities divided by ideologies and cultures, and the international extension and attention acquired. My personal contact with community-based art education programs is not extensive, but I have been becoming aware of their power to build communities and my interest on this type of art education has been increased. My research goals will be to find differences and similarities in this two projects in order to have a general idea of how new alike projects should be handled, to be aware of the potential obstacles imposed in their developments, and to promote and celebrate their existence (especially that of Walls of Hope). By means of interviews (by telephone and email) and contacts with Bernardi, we would have a closer view of their experiences, which would provide important insights to understand the events.
A Comparative Study of Two Great Arts-Based Community Projects