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10/20/2011 in Headline News Bookmark and Share

Five-nation VIVA! Project yields new book on community arts

Viva collaboration!  

After five years of transnational research by educators and artists in Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, the United States and Canada, the VIVA! Project is launching its new book, iVIVA! Community Arts and Popular Education in the Americas, edited by project lead Deborah Barndt, a professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) and coordinator of the Community Arts Practice certificate.

“The book is the culmination of years of research and rich exchange with partners,” says Barndt of the 2003-2007 Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada-funded participatory action research VIVA! Project. “Each partner undertook research of a community arts project and annual transnational workshops allowed them to reflect critically and creatively, collectively and comparatively, on their diverse educational and artistic practices.”

iVIVA! Community Arts and Popular Education in the Americas (SUNY Press and Between the Lines), which includes a DVD that brings the projects to life, will launch Friday, Oct. 28, from 6:30 to 9pm, at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, 16 Spadina Rd., Toronto. The launch, co-sponsored by the Catalyst Centre, will include performances, poetry and video screenings at 7pm and 8pm, as well as displays of VIVA! partner organizations and local community arts groups. Refreshments will be served.

The launch is part of a larger Arts & Communities Network event, which will run from Oct. 27 to 31. Five of the international VIVA! Project partners will facilitate professional development workshops over the five days, a cross-faculty initiative funded by York’s Academic Innovation Fund.

The workshops represent unique community-University partnerships, says Barndt. Community partners include the West-Side Arts Hub, Nomanzland Theatre, Young Peoples Theatre, Centre for Indigenous Theatre, Regent Park Focus, Digital Storytelling Toronto, Latin American Art Centre Collective, Latin American Canadian Art Projects and Mural Routes. Academic partners include York’s Community Arts Practice program, York's Faculty of Environmental Studies, the TD – York Centre for Community Engagement, York’s Department of Theatre and Department of Dance in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Destination Arts in York’s Faculty of Education, the Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean and the Centre for Refugee Studies.

Left: Deborah Barndt

The first workshop, Sharing Lives and Cultures: Community Media on Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast, an evening dialogue with Margarita Antonio, will take place on Thursday, Oct. 27, from 6 to 9pm, at Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre, 38 Regent St. (lower level), Toronto.

Antonio is a Miskitu journalist, a leader in regional Indigenous women’s networks and the UNESCO Officer on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. She is founder of the Institute for Intercultural Communication of URACCAN University and she helped develop BilwiVision, a youth-run community television program. Antonio will share Central American experiences and open up a dialogue with Toronto community media activists.

The second workshop, Movement and Poetry Workshop, will be with Amy Shimshon-Santo on Friday, Oct. 28, from 1 to 4pm, at West-Side Arts Hub, York Woods Library, 1785 Finch Ave. W., Toronto. Shimshon-Santo is a Los Angeles-based performing artist, educator and researcher. As director of ArtsBridge for University of California, Los Angeles, School for the Arts & Architecture, she prepared arts educators, built arts education infrastructure and cultivated K-20 community partnerships.

On Saturday, Oct. 29, the Community Mural Production Workshop with Checo Valdez will take place from 10am to 4pm, at the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre, 1900 Davenport Rd., Toronto. Valdez is a well-known graphic artist, political cartoonist and muralist who teaches at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana in Mexico City. He has recently developed a training program in community-based mural production and has coordinated mural projects all over Mexico.

On Sunday, Oct. 30, The Arrivals Creation Process: Recovering the Lost Body with Diane Roberts will take place from 2 to 5pm at West-Side Arts Hub, York Woods Library, 1785 Finch Ave. W., Toronto. Roberts is a Caribbean Canadian theatre artist working from an AfriCentric perspective. She is currently artistic director of urban ink productions, which develops and produces aboriginal and diverse cultural works of theatre, writing and film, integrates artistic disciplines and brings together different cultural and artistic perspectives and interracial experiences.

The final workshop, Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way with Monique Mojica, JoséÁngel Colman Pérez and Alberto Guevara, will take place on Monday, Oct. 31, from 6 to 8pm, at 612 Markham St., Toronto. VIVA! Project partners Pérez, Mojica and Guevara will speak about the collaborative and intercultural creation process in producing the groundbreaking play Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse in May.

An established senior artist, Pérez is a master storyteller and oral historian and was the first professionally trained theatre artist of the Kuna people in Panama. Best known for his work in cultural recovery through theatre, Pérez was a major leader in the Kuna Children’s Art Project. Mojica (Kuna and Rappahannock nations) is a Toronto-based actor, playwright and artist-scholar spun directly from the web of New York’s Spiderwoman Theater. Her first play Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots was produced in 1990 by Nightwood Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille. Guevara, a York theatre professor, is the coordinator of the Community Arts Practice (CAP) certificate offered by the Faculties of Fine Arts and Environmental Studies and was the assistant director of the play Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way. Originally from Nicaragua, he integrates performance and politics. His research has focused on the theatricality of violence in Nicaragua and Nepal.

All the events are open to the public and admission is free. To RSVP for the launch, visit the VIVA! Facebook page. For more information about the workshops, visit the Community Arts Practice website.

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