Guest post: “Putting Art to Work to Make a Difference” by Belle Alvarez (Artist Teacher)

Editor’s Note: From time to time we will feature guest posts from our Artist Teaching staff. We hope to bring you content that is helpful in understanding who the artists are who work directly with our children and youth. In today’s entry we celebrate with Belle as she shares about an exciting new opportunity with the Painted Bride Art Center. Belle has been an Artist Teacher with us for a few years teaching in Summer Camps and Studio classes. We encourage you to follow along with her during this amazing opportunity on her website or her Facebook page.

Artist teacher Belle Alvarez leading campers in a movement exercise

When I’m not teaching movement at Summer Theatre Camp or Imagination Camp, I love to use dance and movement in projects that bring together art, civic engagement, and activism. This spring, I applied to and was selected for a residency with the Painted Bride Art Center called BrideNext, which is “a citywide collaboration with people in their 20s and 30s who want to put art to work making a difference in Philadelphia.” My project will be looking at the experience of immigration, becoming American, exploring themes around sanctuary and family, and creating space for immigrants from different cultures to share their stories and celebrate what makes each culture unique.

Here are 3 ways that some of Yes! And… Collaborative Arts’ values appear in the process:

Collaboration

For this project, I am supported by an advisory board of individuals who are artists, community organizers, youth workers, city workers, and entrepreneurs. Their insight and connections will play an important role in connecting with the wider Philadelphia community. A gentleman who works for the city’s office of immigration affairs offered to introduce me to organizations who work with immigrants. I will also be seeking collaboration in dramaturgy, sound design, and composition to add texture and depth to my vision for the performance.

Developing a Story

On November 17 and 18, BrideNext will have two evening length performances of the artists’ work. Like a good session at camp, there is a lot to explore in this “story.” I will spend a lot of time looking at the different nuances of the immigrant experience, how it has shaped the history and culture of our city, and what we as a society can do to create a world that welcomes and honors people who come from cultures that are different that ours.

Mentorship

At Yes! And… Summer Theatre Camps, campers get to work alongside professional artists as they develop their collaborative and artistic skills. As an artist with BrideNext, I am being mentored by artist-activists who have a wealth of knowledge for me to learn from. I am learning from my project advisor about a big artistic and civic project she did 20 years ago in New York City, long before I became a professional artist. I am reading articles and chapters on the history and legacy of artist-activists, and reflecting on where my role is in the movement in 2017.

I hope to see you at the Painted Bride this fall after camp! In the meantime, look out for updates on my website and Facebook page.
-Belle

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