Written by Bella Mara DeVaan, Intern at Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE)
Since our first mural in the Bronx in 2011, ARTE has worked extensively with communities throughout New York City, providing quality interactive arts-based activities that educate young people about human rights in schools, community-based organizations, and jails.
The first facet of our mission is to educate youth on human rights and equip them with the knowledge to identify the root causes of systemic inequity. Realizing that there was a great disconnect between human rights theory and practice in our students’ day-to-day life, we initially developed to support their communities in realizing and advocating for their inherent human rights.
We’ve found that participants become more knowledgeable, interested, and passionate in human rights through the process of public art and particularly in the creation of a public mural. Public murals are a valuable component in our curricula and are designed to empower both students and their local communities to engage in questions surrounding human rights justice and art as a tool for social change--allowing them to reimagine justice actively in their own backyards.
ARTE’s first mural focused on the issue of human trafficking. Since then, community members have learned and painted about human rights violations both within the United States and internationally. Some of these issues have included harsh sentencing, poor prison conditions, child slavery, gender inequity, and police brutality. Inspiration has come from women activists and street artists of color.
Our artwork is motivated by history and is another reason we prioritize equity in our pedagogy. We’re currently fundraising to publish a redesigned edition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s a graphic and contemporary reconception of our founding document, one which feels esoteric and out of reach after 70 years of existence. To reassert its relevance in the lives of our students, we believe releasing the document as an interactive and sleek convertible booklet and poster will bring the text’s mission into the modern day.
ARTE strives to offer a platform on which students can freely and safely express themselves and their opinions, all the while providing an arts education their schools and communities often aren’t able to offer. We equip youth with organizing skills that enable them to collectively activate others in steering society towards justice, using their lingua franca and multisensory modes of communication.
From comfort with identifying root causes of systemic inequity to feeling empowered to uproot them through the employment of creativity and galvanization of resources and communities, ARTE ultimately equips our students to cultivate equity in their own lives. The tenor and adaptability of our workshops, interdisciplinary curricula, and deep commitment to social justice are why we believe equity is at the basis of our work as a non-profit.