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Arts workshops for young people in Ciudad Juarez
$1,850 Raised
93% of $2k goal
34 contributors
3 Years running
I've been invited by Bachillerato Integral de Ciudad Juarez (BIJ) to offer arts workshops for teachers & students there. Please read below for more, and click on the photo to watch my video about this project! Thank you for your time. More ...
Bachillerato Integral de Ciudad Juárez (BIJ), and other youth organizations in Juarez, serve young people in a city that's severely affected by violence related to the drug trade and poverty. I've been invited by BIJ to offer arts workshops for teachers and kids in the region: arts as teaching tools, and arts as means for building communication and healthy communities.

The workshops will precede a production I'm working on with Theater Mitu, 'Juarez: A Documentary Mythology,' based on interviews we've conducted with people in Juarez and El Paso in January 2011 and January 2012. Our director, Ruben Polendo, is originally from Ciudad Juarez, a city straining under violence and instability resulting from socioeconomic fractures and the international drug trade. We, the company members of Mitu, gathered interviews with people on both sides of the border as we sought to understand what life is like in the region now and what it was like in the past. We stayed with Ruben’s parents in El Paso, and during the day we traveled across the border for interviews. The words we’ve heard have ranged from hard stories of kidnapping, violence, and fear... to beautiful memories of a Juarez long ago... to moving and inspiring stories of hope and perseverance. This summer, I will join Theater Mitu in New York to create and rehearse our production based on those interviews. We will premiere this new production in Ciudad Juarez in July 2013.

It has been a real honor and pleasure for me to be able to be involved in this project. As an actor and teaching artist, I take great interest in interview-based theatre. But this has been my first experience doing interviews in a situation in crisis. Our interviewees--ranging from Ruben’s family members, to journalists and politicians, to social workers, to complete strangers--have entrusted us with stories that are intimate, vulnerable, and important.

Along our way, we’ve met several educators and youth organizers who are eager for some engagement with Theater Mitu beyond seeing our upcoming production. One particular educator is Eduardo Salmeron, who is the director of Bachillerato Integral de Ciudad Juárez (BIJ), a downtown Juarez school he founded for underserved teenagers who may be struggling to stay in school or facing challenging situations in their neighborhood public schools.

I would like to go to Juarez for one week in May 2013 to facilitate arts engagement workshops for teachers and young people there, before our play rehearsals begin in New York. I plan to travel from Juneau to El Paso; lead these workshops; then travel on to New York to begin rehearsals with Mitu.

Eduardo told us during our visit last January that the best way that we might support his school and other youth organizations is not, in fact, through our financial donations. “The money goes away,” he said. “We want people; we want to make connections; our teachers want to learn new strategies.” Eduardo has offered to host my primary workshop at BIJ, which is currently planned as a 3-day series for teachers on using the arts in school to increase student engagement and to foster community-school exchange. The teachers will come from BIJ as well as from other Juarez schools. Beyond the 3-day BIJ teachers’ workshop, I also hope to offer sessions for young people at other organizations where we've interviewed adults who are supporting youths in need.

I hope to raise $2000 to make this arts engagement project happen. This funding will cover my living expenses in El Paso; the cost of gas for border crossings; a variety of workshop materials and resources (which will be left at the schools for participants to keep and use); and stipends for translators to work with me, as well as reimbursements for their gas and meals. (Yes: I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t speak Spanish!) The funding will also cover the increased cost of my airfare out of Juneau, adding this one-week stopover in El Paso before going to New York for rehearsals.

It’s my hope that, by going to Juarez before Mitu’s production, I can extend the reach of Mitu's work more deeply, into more young people’s lives, through this direct, interactive engagement. I will also invite the youths and the educators to attend Mitu's production, where we can share dialogue with them about the stories we tell in our performance.

I care very deeply about arts education, and I firmly believe in its power to make meaning in the lives of young people. I also frequently work in cross-cultural situations, and I’m grateful for that. I often find myself reflecting on the nature of the Privilege that I experience: I recognize that I have been given a life in which many doors are open to me and many opportunities come my way. This 'Juarez' project with Theater Mitu has been another such case. I keep thinking about the words of one of our interviewees, a Chicano man who lives in El Paso: “The most important thing about coming from a position of privilege is that you leverage that privilege to make something good happen, to make positive change.”

I feel that the most meaningful offering I have -- the best way I can leverage the privilege of being a part of Mitu's project -- is to accept Eduardo’s invitation and to offer some strategies for arts education to teachers and youths in Ciudad Juarez.

I hope you might be willing to help me make this goal happen. Thank you very much!
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