President of the ArtCorps Board of Directors, Liz Gibbons, attended a recent ArtCorps workshop in Guatemala so she could experience creative leadership firsthand and better support the development and promotion of our Education and Training services.
For the past year, ArtCorps has been embarking on an exciting journey, one which carries the lessons of twelve years of using art to uncover new solutions to enduring community problems. These lessons have been distilled in a transformative training curriculum which develops the leadership capacity of organizations supporting citizen action for a better world. And this journey is taking us to new places, people and institutions committed to social change on a significant scale.
I felt very fortunate to be able to attend a three-day intensive training, held in Antigua, Guatemala in October 2013. In a flower-filled garden beneath the Pacaya volcano, I joined participants working for various Central American grassroots environmental conservation and human rights groups, supported in their work by the New England Biolabs Foundation. The compelling facilitators led us through a crescendo of exercises that aimed first to promote self knowledge and motivation, then to build community collaboration and finally to catalyze creative strategies for systemic change. The whole workshop was invigorating and captivating, and as far as I could tell, my fellow participants stayed “in the moment” just like I did throughout the three days. Some of the many highlights were:
- By creating our personal Tree of Life, we realized how much the values of our families and childhood guide our life’s work, while also reflecting on what dead leaves it was time to shed so as to make room for new growth.
- Teams were tasked with developing “useful and attractive” objects from a box of recycled materials, leading to a reflection on how much influence our leadership styles have on the creative process and product.
- We explored the sensitive topic of machismo through a theater exercise in which audience members replace the cast and change the outcome of the skit, resulting in poignant reflection and dialogue on our own roles in contributing to oppressive behaviors.
- A kinetic exercise, in which we connected ourselves mentally with two others in the 25-person group, revealed that failure of just one of two connections could collapse an entire community system!
These exercises, powerful individually, built upon one another in superbly designed sequence. By the end of the workshop, I was part of a creative community of empowered leaders ready and eager to bring new approaches to the preservation of Central America’s environment and culture.
Learn more about ArtCorps’ Education and Training program.