Art reference

The Barrio Art Course teaches students how to work with, learn from, and better engage the communities they serve

“What do you see?” Luis Garcia asks elementary school students gathered in front of one of the Sac State campus murals.

A person, said a student. A fish, says another. Hands. Water.

“You talk about art just by sharing what you see, and what I want you to think about is don’t be intimidated when you go to spaces where you see art,” Garcia said. , assistant professor of art. “You just talk about it, and you’re not wrong, because that’s what you see and what you think.”

The students, from Washington Elementary School in the Alkali Flats neighborhood of Sacramento, were on campus in early May as part of Garcia’s “Barrio Art in the Community” class, which he taught during the spring semester.

Sac State art student Hector Rodriguez, left, speaks with a Washington elementary school student who was on campus to learn about barrio art and tour the science museum Organics from Sequoia Hall. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

During the course, Garcia’s Sac State students learned the historical and political contexts of what is known as barrio art, while working directly with Washington elementary students and their families.

The goal, Garcia said, is to teach students how to interact with Sacramento’s diverse communities, learn from them, and develop culturally relevant ways for them to engage in art so they feel welcomed and valued in arts and learning spaces.

“I say this from my own experience: you just have to take a different approach if you really want to engage students in arts education in communities of color, especially marginalized communities of color,” he said. declared.

The course draws on Garcia’s own experience as a high school art teacher in Los Angeles, previous iterations of barrio art classes at Sac State, and the legacy of the Royal Chicano Air Force, a art collective founded in 1969 by professors and students of Sac State. including Jose Montoya, Ricardo Favela and Esteban Villa, recent recipient of an honorary doctorate. Villa died in May at the age of 91.

Barrio art, Garcia said, does not refer to a particular genre or style of art, but rather suggests where the art comes from: barrios or neighborhoods made up of marginalized populations.

In the art world, barrio art — examples include graffiti and murals — is often viewed separately from other art forms, he said.

“There’s often a reference to fine art, and then there’s a reference to folk art,” Garcia said. “To me, why can’t these two be fine art?”

He said it was important for people looking to work with marginalized communities to counter this bifurcated thinking by engaging directly with them to understand their experiences and learn what they have to offer.

During the course, students learned about various forms of barrio art and how current artists have worked in barrios, how art has been used as a vehicle for change, and how marginalized artists have created spaces for themselves.

Off campus, Sac State students mentored Washington elementary students and developed programs such as art and wellness workshops at the nearby Washington Neighborhood Center.

“You just have to take a different approach if you really want to engage students in arts education in communities of color, especially marginalized communities of color.” -Luis Garcia

Garcia said the work demonstrated a desire to have students engage with the communities they served. This means learning from them and using this information to develop lessons and cultural activities that these communities can identify with by seeing themselves or their experiences reflected in them, for example.

“You want to grow your teaching approaches by developing and identifying ways to teach in the neighborhood,” he said. “Barrio’s art focuses on ways to engage, connect and be relevant to marginalized communities.”

Hector Rodriguez, an ethnic studies student who graduated in May, grew up in South Central Los Angeles, “so when we talk about our neighborhood or our neighborhood, that’s why neighborhood art m marked, and its focus on trying to bring out community through art.

Rodriguez was present for the tour of Washington Elementary, during which the young students toured the university’s invertebrate museum and watched a show at the planetarium. He plans to become a social worker, something inspired in part by his experience as a former foster child. He said working with local students and seeing their passion was his favorite part of the course. Although not an artist, Rodriguez said the experience taught him some unexpected lessons that will come in handy in his future career.

“I realized through the methods employed in art that art can truly connect with children and their families,” Rodriguez said. “It opens up channels for us to communicate with children.

“It opened my eyes to how arts education methods can be used everywhere.”

About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined Sac State’s communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.