by Suzanne Hinton
The show consists of a series of photographs from work by Estephanie Vásquez, a multimedia artist from Medellín, Colombia. The work explores themes of industrialization and its brutal impact on local brick-makers and everyday life in her mountainous community of Itagüi, just south of Medellín.
This is Vásquez’s second visit to the United States. In 2010, as part of her studies, she visited Emerson College through Proyecto Boston Medellín (PBM), a transnational research art collaboration between Emerson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, sede Medellín. (PBM was founded by Dr. Tamera Marko, Assistant Director of the First Year Writing Program at Emerson, Suzanne Hinton, Associate Director of the Office of Service Learning and Community Action at Emerson and Jota Samper, an architect, urban planner and native of Medellín; Samper is a graduate of La Escuela de Artes in the Facultad de Arquitectura, and a Ph.D. candidate in the Program of Urban Planning and Design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.)
Through this multi-institutional collaboration over the last three years, more than 150 students in service learning research writing classes at Emerson and art and architecture classes at the National University of Colombia have collaborated to bring eleven student artists from Medellín to exhibit at Emerson and in Boston and beyond. All of this work, including the art itself, focuses on social justice.
Students from all participating institutions who have developed both skills and relationships through this work report being fundamentally transformed by their participation as they learn how to adapt and respond to new challenges, how to innovate and lead in the community, and how to discover commonalities rather than focusing on differences.
The Office of Service Learning supports this kind of pedagogy in order to advance scholarship and creative work that increases consciousness and brings innovation, depth and diversity to the disciplines. “Service learning and community engagement at a liberal arts school expands students’ consciousness and helps them understand how to use the tools of communication and the arts to dissolve barriers to authentic exchange,” says Suzanne Hinton, Associate Director of the Office.
“By fostering respect for human diversity through the practice of Emerson’s core values like community service, collaboration, inclusion and ethics, the relationships created through service learning allow students to put theory into practice by contributing to real-world needs and problem-solving,” she adds.
During her 2012 tour, Vásquez has connected with her Emerson collaborators and presented her work in two of Tamera Marko’s service learning Multilingual Research Writing classes. Those students viewed her exhibit engaged in actual and virtual discussions with the artist about the writing process, the communication of ideas and the power of language, stories and images. Vásquez also shared her work in Marko’s English class for members of Emerson’s maintenance staff.
Vásquez, too, notes the transformative power of the project. For her, the fruit of her experience here is included in “Reminiscences,” a research project for her thesis in the School of Art at the National University of Colombia. Images and writing from this work are brimming with nostalgia, everyday life and re-encounters with faces from the artist’s childhood. “This work is a resistance to forgetting,” she says, calling herself a “spectator of a world that is rapidly changing.”
“There is a power in images that makes the body overflow, that breaks time and flesh to bring us again to those places in the past where the stories of our lives remain written,” says Vásquez, whose first career was working as a nurse in various clinical settings before she entered the National University of Colombia to study fine arts.
In addition to the show in the Iwasaki Library, her first solo show in the United States, Vásquez is exhibiting at various public and private spaces in Boston and Cambridge.
To view Vásquez’ work, visit: estefvasquez.blogspot.com
For more information on the work of PBM, visit: www.mobility17.com