In preparation for my visit to Costa Rica, where I am traveling as a U.S. State Department artist for cultural exchange and mounting an installation for the Art in Embassies program, I have been reviewing my teaching archives and cycling through the many PowerPoint presentations I have made over the last 15 years. The good folks in the Cultural Affairs department at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose have enthusiastically scheduled four additional workshops for me to introduce the concepts of social practice and participatory art.
As an artist involved with creating participatory installations for the public for well over 10 years, to present workshops on an art that takes the viewer beyond contemplation and encourages a socially engaged audience is an authentic core value of my practice. One challenge of this opportunity was crafting a relatively brief but cohesive presentation on social practice and participatory art, given that my regular course lectures average around 60-75 minutes. However, I believe that I have crafted a fine introduction to social practice and participatory art that will lead naturally into my text-based pieces.
During the next week, I will be giving this lecture to students in the Universidad de Costa Rica’s Escuela Artes Plásticas, museum representatives at Museos del Banco Central, art teachers of Arte por la Paz’s program in women’s detention centers and to students and teachers at National University’s School of Art and Visual Communication.
This agenda also includes the key invitation that got me here in the first place: to install one of my text-based works in Ambassador S. Fitzgerald Haney’s residence and launch it at a reception of the exhibition, “Reflections on Diversity.”
I have Camille Benton, an Arts in Embassies curator, to thank for contacting me last year to submit a work. I gladly accepted and offered to come down and do an installation. The week of outreach, lectures and workshops developed organically in a couple of teleconferences with Ms. Benton and Beverly Thacker, Cultural Officer in the Public Affairs section of the U.S. Embassy in San Jose.
Tomorrow I meet with 6 local San Jose artists who will collaborate with me to transcribe text – in English on one blackboard, Spanish on the other. The text is a short piece about how language is a gateway to our comprehension of cultural diversity and that encountering new languages reveals the collaborative mystery of new cultures.
I will post more thoughts on these upcoming events and experiences later this week.