Using Art and Service-Learning for Social Change in Los Angeles

By AIDA LUGO

Aida is a teaching artist in Los Angeles, and an alumnus of CWI’s Summer WEST Institute, and a member of CommonLore’s teacher cohort. Aida’s goals include encouraging her students to get directly involved, beginning with establishing communication with law makers and people in charge of the LA River revitalization effort. She is working with her students to make positive change by going through the process required to propose and ultimately design and install public art.

I feel super excited to call myself an alum of an Institute with such important work. The ideas that were expanded on in this week of exploration will have to be constantly refined and understood in my practice as a teaching artist. I will have to continuously expand on them experientially throughout my artistic community practice now. Being a part of CWI’s Institute made me proud of the work I do and has inspired me to continue my work in community engagement through the arts. Service-learning, sustainability and place-based learning are all in the utopic vision for arts education. Taking CWI’s Institute was a reminder of the importance these factors have on deep learning experiences beyond what the classroom has to offer.

CWI’s Institute connected me with many tools, resources and models to strengthen these roles in my planning and in building in more moments for student lead, service based opportunities in lessons and projects and modeling and teaching sustainable habits for healthy communities.

I am a teaching artist. One of my projects is starting up art in the garden classes in schools and hopefully branch out into city parks and property. I’m starting out small with one elementary school and in partnership with a non-profit, DA Center for the Arts, and another non-profit named Pomona Hope, which has its own community garden. There are a lot of places to incorporate sustainability into this project. And I took many notes and suggestions from Paula’s presentation. A few project ideas include: A Community cookbook, urban gardening/container gardening/re-growing from kitchen scraps, food journaling.

Place based learning opportunities include site-specific art. Yarn bombing; murals are two ways to create a space. Paula showed a mandala or spiral garden, which sets a mood in the garden. By making something similar or anything that creates a special place where students feel ownership and have a feeling of pride in that space we can have place based learning opportunities though the creation of that space which also helps it become a safe place for learning and sharing. In addition to that when we honor what makes a place special in art by capturing the essence or spirit of place we can activate place based learning. Through experiencing the place, learning its history and the community we can make meaningful connections to the space.

Service learning projects ideas inspired by the institute or previous ideas expanded; recycling container gardening, trash sculptures, teaching the life of an object, visiting land fill, creating plastic bags woven into blankets, and mats for homeless, using food from garden to feed homeless or feed children from cafeteria salad bar or feed families in the community. On a personal gain, art services the spirit and creative brain, and gardening services the earth and our environment.

Naturally I had many AHA moments during Institute faculty member Paula Cohen’s presentation because my art in the garden project. I had many AHA moments in our RiverLore cohort discussions on how to connect service based and place based learning to a natural place.

The LA River in general really grabbed my attention this summer. I had passed it in my commute though out my LA based school and work life. Its current state demands so much more attention than its getting. I’m excited for the opportunity to be alive during this time of the river where we have the technology and people to care about the river and improve its state for the environment and our communities. There is so much opportunity for the river to bring together communities from along the river for a connected cause. to free the river, take ownership and revitalize the river and its communities. The LA River can then live as an example for activating other rivers as natural resources within their neighboring community. These places are rich with learning experiences waiting to happen.

I really enjoyed my time at CWI’s Institute and I know I will have to keep returning to the material as a resource as I continue to build projects and communities. The week long institute was like a crash course — always leaving us wanting more.

Aida is Multi-disciplinary artist from Pomona, California. She is extremely interested in Los Angeles history. Aida holds a Bachelors of Fine Art and Community Arts Engagement from Otis College of Art and Design, along with a certificate from UCLArts and Healing: Social Emotional Arts Certificate Program. Her fields of study include: Sculpture New Genres; Installation Art; Film; Photography; Drawing; and Painting. Aida’s artistic mission is to work with local communities on projects using art to beautify and strengthen our personal and collective identity and our environment.

Aida sees the LA River full of possibility for bringing together communities from all along the River around a connected cause — to free the River and be able to utilize it as a natural resource. “The River in its current state needs love and attention from the community to begin to get involved in revitalization efforts and envision what the future of the River looks like for us.” “I would like to partner with different environmental and arts non profits to document the River and surrounding communities through photo and film and capture what we would like to see the LA River become.” Aida’s LA RiverLore related goals include encouraging her students to get directly involved, beginning with establishing communication with law makers and people in charge of the revitalization effort. She will also be working with her students to make positive change by going through the process required to propose and ultimately design and install public art.

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