Community Art Education: An African Experience Part I
In 2008, with the help of a professor and the NAEA Student Chapter at The University of North Texas, my colleague Rebecca Schaefer and I created art workshops for local Texas schools with the theme of environmentalism. We were fortunate enough to partner with the Ugandan artist and founder of the organization Let Art Talk, Fred Mutebi, to create a mural exchange between Texas students and students in Uganda as part of our workshop. When the workshops concluded no actual research had been done formally to evaluate the learning that took place and the meaning shared between these two cultures.
Two years later Fred Mutebi invited us to Uganda to do similar workshops and a similar exchange that would be based in Africa. I decided that this would be my opportunity to evaluate the learning and try to discover what connections were being made by all students participating through a similar mural exchange and workshops.
Many questions filled my mind about our community art program. Would the students make the connections I hoped? Would each seemingly different culture make connections to each other through the use of a big idea?
Upon my arrival I spoke with Fred Mutebi about some of the questions I was having. How could I truly teach and make a difference in the lives of each child involved in this project? Will the children in Uganda and the states learn from each other? I have to admit his answer has changed my life and potentially my career path. He said, and I summarize, that in order to make a difference in the community you cannot just come in to a place, do a project and leave. You have to come back and continue to build the sustainable partnerships with the students and community in order for ideas to blossom. You cannot just leave and hope to make a difference. You cannot just come in, teach, leave and expect for change to happen, you have to see the projects through to what comes out of it.
- Amanda Batson