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Art and Social Transformation / Arte y transformación social

Rethinking Arts Education with “Ser Feliz Creciendo Feliz”

This past pandemic year has proven to be a challenge for everyone, a globally shared experience of uncertainty, isolation, fear, and exasperation. At the same time history shows that pandemics breed innovation and social changes that were not previously imagined. The 1918 pandemic helped to bring about the popularization of socialized medicine in Europe, stoked the embers of independence movements in colonized nations around the world and brought forth the cultural boom of the “Roaring 20’s” ranging from the publication of great literary works to the development of jazz. It may be too soon to know how Covid will change the world in the coming years, but we can already see how it is changing CREAR as we prepare to reopen for live classes later this month.

Last year, in response to the pandemic, we scrambled to adjust as in person classes were halted and we were forced to innovate with our “CREAR en Casa” program. One of the surprising successes of “CREAR en Casa” was the enthusiastic involvement of family in our student’s education while they were confined to their homes. Having had time to rethink our programming we realized we did not want to lose the magic of family involvement in the children’s education, and we questioned if there were ways to use art education as a vehicle to promote social inclusion and collaboration.

Starting this month, we will launch the “Ser Feliz Creciendo Feliz” program which will guide our educational programming throughout the year. The year is divided into three, three-month blocks that include thematically centered workshops, student and family gatherings and culminating with public expositions. The program rests upon CREAR’s focus of Art and English education with the overarching goals aimed at stimulating critical and creative thinking and expression, enhancing self-esteem and self-knowledge, and strengthening familial ties and community engagement.

The first block begins March 20th where students and family gather for an introduction to the year and are presented the themes focusing of self-knowledge, environmental awareness of the jungle and personal health. These themes were chosen to reflect our social and cultural realities that include coexistence with the environment around us as well as the necessity to think of our health during a continuing pandemic. Family involvement will include a family excursion to a local river where the children will have the opportunity to be educators for their families on environmental issues, linking person health with community and environmental health. By June, the first block will conclude with a public exposition that highlights these same themes.

Block two will focus on themes of oceanic health, the importance of trees and the local legends and legacies of the Chorotega indigenous people of the Guanacaste peninsula. Family involvement and exposition follows the theme of “filling my community with colors”, demonstrating the rich environmental and cultural diversity that exists right here in our local community. The final block begins in September and expands the student’s awareness to include the entirety of Costa Rica as a country, exploring the many different communities and reinforcing the idea that we all have something of value to give to our community no matter who we are, no matter our talents or the cultures we are descended from. This third block mirrors many of Costa Rica’s national celebrations celebrating cultural diversity and promoting social inclusion. The final public exposition will conclude in November and the program will invite feedback from students and family as part of a final evaluation.

In addition to our exciting curriculum, this format allows us to have a “soft reopening” in which class sizes are kept small and we are better able to adhere to public health guidelines as we return to in person education. We are cognizant of the fact that the pandemic is not over and even though there is some light at the end of the tunnel we must remain flexible to the prospect of changing circumstances over the coming year. For this reason, the format of public expositions and other gatherings will be adjusted based on changing circumstances of the pandemic, with the safety of the children and their families foremost in our hearts and minds.

All of these incredible projects are thanks to a grant we earned through the program Puntos de Cultura from the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud from the Costa Rican government. We are honored to be endorsed and supported by such an esteemed cultural organization within Costa Rica, and we are confident that this will open many doors for our programming in the future, as well as bring numerous benefits to all of our students and their families throughout their coursework in 2021!

Finally, we are most grateful to all of you who are a part of our CREAR community. Whether you have given $5 or $500 your support has made our work possible. You are helping to bring much needed supplementary education to children who have few educational opportunities afforded to them in our community. You are also helping us to remain innovative in not just the delivery of educational programs but also in the content. We aim to nurture the whole child through our art and language programs, helping them to become young adults who will feel confident in themselves to pursue dreams of their own making. Thank you for you continued support, we could not do this without you.


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