Pintando La Parva: Afterschool art classes at La Parva school. Viña del Mar, Chile.
I’m going to try to keep this entry quite general because I have some big exciting news to share for this current week, and I’d like to decide an entire post to my updates. I hope this cliffhanger is exciting for my dedicated readership (Hi, mom and dad!).
As you remember, since my arrival to Chile, public school teachers have been on strike, making the realization of my project painfully slow. The strikes continued for the past several weeks and we saw inconsistent attendance and a growing feeling of lethargy from everyone. Furthermore, the past two weeks were winter vacation, so many students were visiting family and could not come to class. We decided to open up the classroom twice a week to give more opportunities to the students who were able to come.
Each class we had between 1 and 7 students. We pulled out big paper, paints, markers, went outside to observe trees, googled pictures on our phones, brainstormed positive messages for the community and took selfies. Two friends of mine came to volunteer their time with us– a North American exchange students I met here, and a Chilean artist who currently resides in France. We had a blast. One of the great elements of my project is that the students are being exposed to people different from themselves right there in their own school.
During week four we divided into groups and each group picked a wall in the school to realize their mural. We all donned stylish paint smocks and got to painting the wall with white paint. This class was really enjoyable because we started to truly envision the final products and the impact they will have on the school. I left the school that day feeling that my confidence in our project had been rekindled.
The following week we started planning the murals, but our progress felt sluggish. The main frustration with the lack of a consistent attendance is that our project is by nature collaborative. When one or zero group members shows up, the whole process of collaboration falls apart.
A major personal success during these weeks has been the growth of my relationships with the students. Since we have had so much downtime, students who show up regularly have seen a lot of me. They feel totally comfortable asking me any random questions that might occur to them about my life. I am so impressed by the confidence with which certain students express their emotions and goals. One young man in particular has spoken to me a lot about his goal if moving into an apartment with friends because he finds his home situation to be stressful. Since I have lived with friends, I encouraged him to follow his dream, and also explained some of the potential challenges of that independence. They are definitely growing on me, even though they totally pretend that they suddenly don’t under my accent when I say it’s time to clean up.