At the local community center, gigantic paintings were lining the walls. Claudia was helping to translate for me, but the passion of the artists surpassed the language barriers. They were explaining the purpose of the work created for Grupo Garabato‘s recent collective exhibition ERASING II. The premise all began with a simple question:
If you could erase a problem in our society, what would you erase?
The artists each created 2-3 six foot tall paintings addressing the problems with garbage and recycling, corrupt politicians, misuse of electricity, domestic violence, lack of respect for women, and inadequate funding for education.
But the artists did not just want to share their opinions: the most important component of the exhibition with a large board where the audience could participate by writing their own suggestions for problems that should be erased. The artists’ mission was to inspire change, but that inspiration only comes from an open dialogue — not didactic preaching.
The artists involved in Grupo Garabato all incorporate the local community in the creation of their artwork. Alberto Caraballo, as president of the group, talks openly with community leaders and politicians about the importance of art and organizes opportunities for the group to exhibit publicly. Danilo Peña Taveras teaches drawing classes for local kids of all ages at the community technology center. Federico Velasquez mentors young painters and encourages them to share their perspectives on his paintings and murals. Carlos Baret talks passionately to anyone who will listen about the impact that high quality art and poetry can have on an audience. Raul Geraldino is leading the charge to cover his neighborhood in uplifting murals.
The community members are often included in the planning and painting of murals in the Moca area, and the artists often refer to themselves as facilitators or mediators rather than isolated studio artists. They are community activists and organizers as much as they are thinkers and craftsmen.
As an artist myself, I like to believe that art objects can change people’s perspective (and thereby change the world). However, as I travel, I am forced to recognize the fact that art objects alone rarely impact individuals. The real impact of “art” comes directly from the personalities of the artists themselves.
While art is a powerful manifestation of the human creative spirit, artists are the impetus for lasting social change. With their eyes and hearts open, artists can see the problems that are plaguing their communities, and with their capacity to think creatively, they can envision alternative solutions for those problems.
But most importantly, as shown by these artists in Moca, artists’ creative passion can encourage others to engage in these discussions about what they want to see change.
I suppose this is why the adage “Be the change you want to see” holds such power. Artists, how are you the change you want to see in your community?