Every year, Sose and I consider how to develop interventions that engage otherwise unnoticed spaces and deliver a clear message addressing issues identified by the community. Our first steps when we work around a theme are to talk to people about the specifics of the issue in context to their lives. This year with nutrition, so we were interested in making art that spoke specifically to the gaps of nutrition in Belen. Once we learned that the bulk of malnutrition exists amongst children ages 3 months – 5 years old, we then asked ourselves, “How can we make 3 simple stencils that captivate our audience (the people of Belen) and empower them with the information necessary to better meet the nutritional needs their young children?”
Already we know that people in Belen want the very best for their kids, and so our goal was to make art that helped people see nutrition in early childhood as a first step to thriving toward future success. Our objectives were to encourage breastfeeding for up to 1 year, and to make links between nutrition and the development of imagination, curiosity and then the ability to learn. When you make large stencils, you work from photographs, so every year part of our process involves walking through Belen, explaining our theme/objectives & inviting people to be photographed. It was funny to be walking around looking for a chubby baby and nursing mom. When we explained our project, the mom was super proud to pose nursing her baby.
From the photos we created three stencils featuring a nursing mom, a child playing and a group of girls headed to school. Together with bright colors, playful messages and imagery of vegetables, fruit, & fish, we were able to use the stencils in a dozen places throughout Belen spreading information and beautifying public space.
One of our favorite parts of painting interventions is that it provides a chance for the community to dream up what a problem solved might look like. We get to propose questions like, “What would it be like if everyone in Belen had the food they needed?” As we address the issue of Respect, it’ll be interesting to hear the input from the community about the kinds of respect they want to focus on cultivating. We as artists get to work with the community to visualize community goals. Our process is a balance between community conversations and engagement, tedious stencil making, and then the adventure of painting in many different places in Belen.
People who might be great additions to our team include: street artists with an interest in social practice, detail oriented OCD types, folks with a willingness to get dirty & carry materials for miles on behalf of community art, & Spanish speakers who love collecting community narratives…and a sense of humor is required!
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