Chapter 15

Riding through the Borderlands: Sustainable Art, Education, and Social Justice

By Marissa McClure

ABSTRACT: In this chapter, the author shares the story of an ongoing collaboration between undergraduate and graduate art and visual culture education students at the University of Arizona and Bicycle Inter-Community Action/Art and Salvage (BICAS), an organization dedicated to social reconstruction, sustainable design, and integrated, community-based art and education. This chapter offers an example of how students develop a border consciousness in working as collaborators with a sustainable community-based organization that caters to a diverse clientele. It complements research that considers the potentials of university/community collaboration at the pre-service level, negotiated curriculum involving sustainable materials, and investigations of issues of community, human, and civil rights through engagement with art and visual culture education.

Since I teach a class on Cultures of Latin America, I would be interested in hearing about any pre-”tests” and post-”tests” about what the students initially thought about the key elements of the experience: combining art with activism, what they got out of the experience and what they gave back, and about “border consciouness.” There is some interesting comments in the essay about the students struggling, for example, with the concept of “at-risk” — how this label becomes embedded in the process of “helping” a “victim” as it were. Language is a strange thing — useful and undermining at the same time.

Also, what kinds of initial warm up activities might be helpful. For educators, how we open doors to the subject and for the students to begin knowing each other is important for tone setting early on in the class.

This article opens the door to many other questions about what art is for and how that might be implemented in different locations – border or otherwise.

Joe Nalven 1.8.11 / 10am

Join the discussion: