Spring 2013 Newsletter

Using Art as a Tool for Engagement

How can we use the arts to animate democracy?

That’s the question asked by Rosa Cabrera, Director of the Rafael CintrĂ³n Latino Cultural Center, on March 13 as she opened her IPCE-sponsored Brown Bag conversation focused on “Civic Engagement and the Arts” with UIC students, faculty, staff, and interested community members.

Dividing the audience into four groups, Cabrera directed participants’ attention to the Cultural Center’s mural. Each group used a portion of the mural as a talking point to identify a civic issue impacting the well-being of society and how their personal assets can be applied to stimulate a conversation at the local and national level. The mural, "El Despertar de las Americas" (The Awakening of the Americas), is one of the largest indoor murals in the City of Chicago and features concerns about identity and stereotypes, immigration, gender roles, human rights, poverty, and education.

For Cabrera, the mural demonstrates the power of art to supplement and stimulate conversation. Art allows people to bring their own interpretations, their own stories, to the dialogue. One student responded to the activity by acknowledging that art serves as an “ice-breaker” and functions as a foundation for future conversations. Another student expressed that having a neutral space like the Cultural Center is crucial for conversation.

Cabrera shared with the audience that people involved in the arts have a tendency to be more civically engaged than the general population, according to a study by the National Endowment for the Arts. They are more inclined to show an open mind and are more likely to work toward social change.

This event was held as part of IPCE’s Spring 2013 Civic Engagement Brown Bag Series.


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