Written by: Julia Matamoros-Sanin
As I reach my second month anniversary as an intern with Funarte here in Estelí, Nicaragua, it’s about the right time for an update (for more context on our internships, check out our previous blog post).
Two months as an intern with Funarte cannot possibly fit into a single blog entry. So for now, I will share my experience as a new comer, and the process of understanding the organization. Before I can describe my work with the gender team, I would like to walk you through my initial and more general acquaintance with Funarte.
Funarte is an arts-based education organization. Thisis a true, yet generic description. As I’ve discovered, the organization relies on art for more than one purpose in very unconventional ways. As a methodology tool, free-style art for Funarte is a means for children, teens and adults to express their emotions; it offers a creative way of responding to content, complementing dialogue and reflection with autonomy and originality. Themes are introduced through short stories, poems or songs, and they may include identity, self-esteem, peace culture, gender equality, community and participation.
The collective nature of the artistic practices, as it turns out, is also, and much less conventionally, an end in itself in all of Funarte’s mural and artistic workshops. While many of the children and youth involved with Funarte have access to social interaction, these spaces are not always safe or healthy. Gangs, prostitution and drug use are common threats that youth may face in these communities. Moreover, the opportunity to develop artistic skills for these children may be otherwise remote considering parents’ working schedules, resources and formal education’s current focus on factual knowledge. Funarte’s mural workshops offer the community aspace where to gather and create socially, building a sense of community through collective creation and reinforcing different aspects of identity from those reinforced at home, school, or the streets. Mural workshops represent a crucial space for teens and children where to relate to art and cultivate social responsibility.
Artistic workshops include different painting and drawing techniques. Materials range from crayons, chalk, acrylic and water colour applied to different surfaces on which to paint and sculpt. The artistic content, further, is constantly updated in order to include new techniques and keep children and teens motivated and challenged.
In the words of two former workshop participants, “Funarte gave us a reason to look forward to saturdays”. As they explained to me, Funarte’s presence became meaningful as they grew up, it offered them an opportunity to belong somewhere outside their family – a choice not always available other than through gangs and as Funarte has proved, a preventive measure against destructive behavior among teens.
The legacy of popular education, collectivism, and self -transformative principles that have played a role in Nicaragua’s post-war social reconstruction remain constitutive ofFunarte’s artistic and educational practices. The educational experience takes place as the result of dialogue, interaction and reflection. Facilitators’ role is to accompany the process through artistic workshops, reinforcing themes and providing technical assistance but also allowing participants to elaborate their own ideas so as to develop confidence and self-esteem. The way in which the educational and artistic elements at Funarte come into play and blend so naturally is what makes this organization unique and successful.
Though the focus of the organization is children’s emotional and creative development, Funarte also works with teens and adults. The gender team to which I have been assigned is now working with male and female adults on a project to prevent gender based violence. The core of Funarte’s network are children, but over their 24 years of work, it has gradually incorporated family members of children and teens in their different projects. As children reach adolescence, moreover, the thematics approached also evolve. Social problems are addressed through all different groups as community problems that require civic engagement and participation.
Funarte’s scope of work is vast; as an organization striving to promote participation and recognition of children and youth’s creativity, it is now transitioning into other topics and other sectors of the community. The result is an on-going process, a social transformation that is alive and which over the years has transcended Funarte itself, effecting the identity of the neighborhoods where it works and of the city of Esteli, now officially named “The City of Muralism”.
Funarte’s presence over the last years has grown to include other departments and municipalities in Nicaragua as part of their two different programs, Caress and Art (Caricia y Arte) and Muralism Workshops (Talleres de Muralismo). Different projects fall under these two programs, mainly distinguished by the former’s work with formal education, and the latter’s direct work in the community. In this blog, I will share about work in the commmunity, involving children, teens, male and female adults and leaders through the project “Risk yourself, Involve yourself, Transform yourself”. But for more on Caricia y Arte, I recommend you read my fellow interns Sasha and Steph.
Hasta la próxima!