Málaga Hoy – Patricia Lannes featured on art and social inclusion

Malaga Hoy

Two Spanish newspapers, Málaga Hoy and La Opinión de Málaga, reported on the V Seminar of Art and Social Inclusion hosted by the Museo Picasso. At the seminar, Patricia Lannes, Director of CALTA21, was invited to present to an audience of 27 museum professionals from across Spain. The seminar focused on community engagement and the ideation and management of user-centered design initiatives, driven by the principles of social inclusion and relevancy. Workshops were conducted by Emanjane Avery, Director of Education of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Monica Hoff, Former Curator of the Mercosul Biennial, Brazil and Patricia Lannes, Director of CALTA21, U.S.A.  Presenters addressed questions including: Can the arts contribute to social inclusion and full cultural participation? What is the framework that drives programs of social inclusion in museums? What makes them successful? What are the biggest challenges?

For immigrants and refugees, their social inclusion is dependent on having a firm sense of the self.

After interviewing Patricia Lannes, Founder and Director of CALTA21, journalist Pablo Bujalance’s published an article, “La identidad en la lengua, desde el retrato,” that appeared in the Málaga Hoy newspaper on December 3, 2015. Translated into English by Patricia Lannes, he writes:
*To read the original version in Spanish, click here.

“Processes for social inclusion are often tied to paradoxes. It is important that any person trying to become part of a community can define their own identity independent of any type of social integration and geography. For immigrants and refugees, their social inclusion is dependent on having a firm sense of the self.  In Antiquity, Socrates said that in order to understand anything, you first need to understand yourself, and this means knowing how to tell your story. This idea, while often avoided, has a myriad of possibilities once it is applied to policy and social inclusion.

Patricia Lannes, native of Uruguay and Spanish and French speaker, has worked for decades with immigrants in the U.S., most frequently with those in New York. She has dedicated the past few years of her career to CALTA21, an innovative initiative that uses art and museums as catalysts for learning English. This social action initiative has been used by various museums in the U.S. and has already demonstrated positive results. Today, Lannes will conduct a workshop at the Museo Picasso, using her project as a springboard to address the V Seminar of Art and Social Inclusion, celebrated today and tomorrow in the museum’s auditorium.

“Generally, language programs are decontextualized, detached from reality,” says Lannes, adding “But in front of a work of art, you can talk about everything and anything.”

Starting with the idea that art, beyond contextual references, has no frontiers, Lannes asks: “In what language do you think when you are looking at a work of art?” What happens then is a liberating experience where the language barrier is overcome and the viewer can feel and think in his/her own terms. It is at this point that we provide the language learner with an opportunity to strengthen their language learning process. “Generally, language programs are decontextualized, detached from reality,” says Lannes, adding “But in front of a work of art, you can talk about everything and anything. Therefore, complexity comes into play, and decoding complex ideas using higher order thinking skills becomes more important than the language we are learning. Ideas become the focus and the language is the vehicle to express it. The identity that underlies language is the important part. When someone interprets a work of art, he talks about what is significant for him and creates his own discourse. From that moment on, the work of art belongs to the viewer. The motivation born from this experience is enormous and, if we can get people to express those ideas in a new language, we provide them with unique strategies.”

Museum literacy is a big component of CALTA21, but we are talking about a long term intervention.

CALTA21 is a project for students who already have some language proficiency and want to improve their language skills to make social inclusion a reality. The initiative is based on a collaborative model where museum educators partner with institutions that already work with adult immigrants learning English in the U.S. Together, they participate in a Professional Development Institute that provides them with tools to benefit students. The first stage, according to Patricia Lannes, happens in the classroom: “Students explore their identities through personal narratives with an emphasis on the verbal form. Works of art reinforce the discourse. We use portraits with the fundamental idea that the immigrant who arrives to the U.S. can tell his story in English through the image he holds of himself. We also use photography, since it is a dynamic and spontaneous medium, and can easily be adapted to the needs and desires of the students.”

The second phase happens at the museums. CALTA21 has been put into action in museums in New York City and in its suburbs, but it has sometimes become a delicate issue as some organizations are resistant to participating in this initiative. However, the results speak for themselves. Students improve their English language skills, and especially their oral communication ones. They are also excited to go back to the museum and provide their own curated tour to their friends, classmates, or families. They feel at home and they want their families to be part of this new home. Museum literacy is a big component of CALTA21, but we are talking about a long term intervention. CALTA21 professionals work in collaboration with the professors and museum educators to choose the works of art to use with students, “and language instructors learn how to teach in the classroom using art in a more spontaneous and creative way.” Teaching becomes an artistic creation.

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