Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
I was extremely fortunate to be granted this opportunity to do research in Buenos Aires. It was a fruitful and gratifying experience, especially considering the nature of my research. The research entailed exploring how the arts and creative expression in Buenos Aires help bring about awareness and critical thinking, as well as create a collective identity amongst the youth. Argentina also has a long history of social political movements under several grave dictatorships, and it was clear to see the remnants of those historical movements on the walls of the city. During the Peronist movement, after the 1940s, street art graffiti was one of the mechanisms employed to bring about awareness and communicate messages. Furthermore, the youth were determinedly invested in bringing about sociopolitical change. On my arrival at the center of Buenos Aires, by the Plaza de Mayo, I was immediately invited into an energetic and vibrant view and feeling of culture, activity, and art. There was a section of the plaza occupied by members of an indigenous group from the North of Argentina who set up signs and messages protesting their rights after two of their members had been killed. They were also selling creative artistry that they made. Furthermore, many of the walls in that area were covered in stencil graffiti or murals with sociopolitical messages.
It was not until I set off exploring the next day that I began to understand and appreciate the fact that Buenos Aires was an ideal place to do research on the arts and creative expression, specifically, in the public sphere. I was interested in investigating the relationship between social transformation and creative capacity, and essentially, how young people openly express themselves in a movement that encourages communication, through shared experiences and concerns, and thus begin to promote an active social change and engagement. During my ventures around the city, I found a myriad of places and sources that I had not encountered while surfing the internet at St. Lawrence in preparation for the Travel Research Grant. For example, I found a store/gallery that was called "Paseo de la Resistencia- Artesanía" which means "Pass of Resistance- Artistry," where the artisans make a variety of creative and artistic goods from raw materials. This is a strategy for raising awareness, and engages in movements that fight for the rights of those who have been subjugated.
I also had a formal interview with one of the coordinators and founders of CREANDO, an association that work with the youth offering workshops that use the arts and creativity towards social critical thinking and awareness. I acquired some great insight from him. I visited several art museums and cultural centers, including MALBA, La Boca, San Telmo and Palermo. I also went on a graffiti tour, which was very informative and interesting, and I was fortunate to be able to meet several artists, and took the opportunity to ask them questions as well. I visited three universities, however, students were in the middle of exams at this time, and it was difficult to talk with many of them. That being said, I ended up gaining great insight from the diverse and numerous young people that were staying in the same hostel as I was. One girl from Australia was telling me about an art exhibition she organized with her father in Melbourne to bring about awareness surrounding suicide. Reflecting on my encounters with the various young people I met from all over the world, it was motivating to see how interested they were in my project and were looking forward to staying in contact to hear more about it and collaborate in future projects. To me, this was a significant step and success towards creating a global network of youth that can make a difference. Overall, the experience opened my eyes to ways that we, specifically the youth, can adopt the public sphere and use our creative capabilities in a movement towards bringing about awareness and solidarity which enables progression towards social and human justice and equality all over the world.