So. School’s done, what ever do I do to fill all of my glorious free time? Well, there’s this little thing called the ICRP (InterCultural Research Project, phew, what a name), which has been filling, um, some, of my time. The general concept of an ICRP is a project/internship/apprenticeship/volunteer work within the community that we are living in. Our program’s program is relatively flexible, and the first couple of months we were researching and testing out organizations to figure out how we would fill this five-week span in Jan/Feb, while also reading and discussing texts on development, volunteerism, and Ecuadorian society. Unsurprisingly I elected to do something within The Arts. I actually have two separate jobs, one at an organization called Arteducarte (Art to Educate Yourself) and the other is an apprenticeship with a well-known Ecuadorian painter.
Arteducarte is an organization that brings local artists into public schools to hold art workshops once a week. It is a non-profit, completely Ecuadorian funded program, although it was originally founded by the Guggenheim. Now, to the average American, this idea sounds cool, but not ground shaking. But what I’ve come to learn after working several months in the schools is that Ecuador really has very little infrastructure for art education. The school system is very structured and much of the schooling is based on repetition and memorization. Meaning, children don’t get art education. Also meaning that many kids don’t know and/or have forgotten how to be creative. Overall meaning that Arteducarte is slowly bringing a very important new thing to select Quiteño schools. The thing that I’ve find really fascinating about the program is the type of projects that the artists bring, usually more conceptual and open-ended than traditional classroom art projects. The artists usually have to work within a subject area given by the teacher, and I’ve seen solar-system hats, animal arm-puppets, clay monsters, and collaged counting books, among many other things, flow in and out of the classrooms. I’m a volunteer in the classes twice a week (read: crowd control, interesting foreign distraction, occasionally I’m actually useful), and I also work a couple of days per week in the office (read: cutting cardboard, filling glue containers, counting paper, painting things white, probably the most concrete contributions I’ve given). It has been a fun experience, especially talking to the very intelligent director of the program and reading the v.cool book they recently published. I’m not ever, ever, ever going to be an elementary school teacher.
The other part of my ICRP is a bit more, well, “open-ended.” I convinced our program leader to let me figure out some type of apprenticeship or internship within the Quito art scene, so that I could get a feel of what’s going on here and possibly form some contacts. I landed up with the painter Marcelo Aguirre (he was my painting prof. fall semester), who had just started a job of coordinating a shiny new gallery space in the basement of a graduate school. Which is neat, and actually a pretty big deal, because the Ecuadorian art market/scene dropped dead after dollarization, and this is a small symbol of progress for the art world here. For the first week and a half, I worked really really hard with a couple of other folks to mount a painting show in the space, including a quite complicated installation. It was fun, I learned a lot, I worked dutifully, and I got great feedback from my temporary co-workers. After the opening of the show and wrapping up all the details that pertained to it, my workload quickly dropped off, and left me scrambling to fill my time. I’ve been hopping from person to person, visiting studios, filling odd jobs, being a secretary. It’s been hard to not have a fixed way to fill my time, and jarring to be in the work force for a bit. The experience has certainly forced me to think about future job possibilities and what-people-do-with-their-lives. And, although I’ve kind of had fun being a little floating worker-drone, it reminded me that (as I found when I was working 40+ hrs/wk in NYC) being a student isn’t all that bad, and I’m not too upset that I have to slave away at my studies for another 1.33333333 years... life advice quite welcome at this point.