Friday, June 3, 2011

RESPONSE: El Sistema, Theater of the Oppressed, and Big Ideas of Arts Education

Jennifer Kessler at Createquity (see Ian I read the byline this time!) has a great history of the El Sistema orchestral movement from Venezuela:
El Sistema is a system of youth orchestras in Venezuela designed to save the lives of under-served children through intensive and fun participation in music. Founded in 1975 by a visionary man named Jose Antonio Abreu (the former Venezuelan Advisor of the National Economic Council and the Minister of State for Culture), El Sistema has become a paradigm for social action through quality music-making.
It's a great look at a bold cultural initiative from a different part of the world. It reminds me a lot of its theatrical equivalent, Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed that grew in Peru in 1971 (excellent book here) that became incorporated into a radical "arts literacy" education program.

Boal's writings on education were very formative in terms of my own views on arts education: he believed in starting from empowering students to use the forms of art at their disposal to communicate their thoughts and emotions, before needing to teach them specific forms.

Post-revolutionary Latin America is a world that I confess to not know much about, but it seems like it was an amazing time to be an out-of-the-box thinker. You know, before things turned sour.