Dana and Cătălina are our trainers for the visual arts workshop in project “New Minorities in Bucharest.” With brushes, pencils and even wire, they give shape to the idea of cultural diversities in the minds of our high schoolers who attend this workshop. After the first weekend, they answered a few of our questions about their interactions with the children, as well as their expectations from the workshops.

What is the aim of the workshop?

Cătălina: The aim of the workshop is that at the end of the activities, the participants are aware and start to accept, where applicable, cultural differences between the citizens of Bucharest and, by means of the workshop experience, become more tolerant with others.

Dana: This workshop, divided in four stages, aims to produce works of art that shed light on the diversity of the eight cultures studied within the project, and the way in which they influence Bucharest’s cultural and social life.

What does cultural diversity mean to you?

Cătălina: Cultural diversity can be translated, after all, by the diversity of people’s personalities, the personality of each person being built on the background of their genetic data and other traits acquired during their lifetime. But people’s genetic data is closely tied with the cultural background of their parents, with the cultural traditions in which they grew. The structural physical characteristics of a person are related to the physical environment (climate, relief, living and housing needs) of their predecessors, this environment also influencing their cultural openness/orientation, meaning native abilities, talents, inclination to certain customs, tastes etc. The characteristics acquired in life refer to education, which means culture, preferably accompanied by ethics. The acquired culture can be different from the one that shaped the genetic background and home education, and thus interesting mixes are created (for instance Borges, whose culture is a mixture of South-American and British). Anyway, the cultural products of the world and their producers are constantly changing.

Dana: I live and I work in a Bucharest that’s full of life, in continuous movement, full of color, shape, flavor, sound, that embraces cultural diversity step by step, the cultural diversity of those cultures that came here out of love or need and that shaped it according to their customs and traditions.

Describe in a few lines what a visual arts workshop looks like, including the techniques used.

Cătălina: A visual arts workshop is comprised of trainers and trainees, art theory, art history, documentation based on very many images but also stories, explanations, practical demonstrations, tutorials, discussions, etymology and first of all a lot of practice, 60-90% (and that is why it is a workshop and not merely a class). In practice, we focus on teaching artistic techniques (according to the type of workshop, the techniques can be 2D, 3D or both) and on stimulating the creativity of our students, aiming to obtain actual results, but also taking into account preliminary sketches that are many times extremely expressive or have an essential conceptual value, being considered works of art in themselves. The techniques include: for the 2D representation – watercolor painting, acrylic painting, photo collage, pencil drawing, color drawing etc. For 3D representations – papier-mache, 3D wire drawing, clay modelling, sculpture etc.

Dana: The workshop is comprised of four sessions that I teach together with my colleague Cătălina – I actually teach only two of them. The first one proposes the following topic: The creation of a decorative pattern by mixing representative elements of at least two studied cultures. After a brief history of decorative art in general with particular cases among the studied cultures, the students will perform sketches for a decorative pattern, and then they will select one sketch that they will paint or draw (optional). This image will be scanned and printed on a white t-shirt. The second workshop proposes the following theme: The creation of a pop-art installation that illustrates food and cutlery from the eight studied cultures, in one common meal. After a brief history of the diversity of the food within the eight studied cultures, but also a talk on the elements of representation in contemporary visual arts such as the 3D object, the pop-art installation, ready-made, clay modelling, collage or papier-mache, the students will create the foods using all these techniques.

What made you get involved in this project?

Cătălina: Several things:  I have experience in formal and non-formal education, I love working with high schoolers, the project “New Minorities of Bucharest” is very well built and the team is very serious, the level of the project is academic. I believe the research is meaningful, which is in fact seen from the very description of the project, which includes results of the research conducted so far, and I also think the workshop and its results will have an actual influence, the influence desired by the intention specified in the objectives of the workshop (as instrument of research).

Dana: I’ve gotten involved in this project as per the recommendation of my friend and colleague Cătălina, who told me about this project which seemed special and very interesting, a true opportunity to discover things about the cultures of other peoples; also, this project is also a personal rediscovery as well as a challenge.

Is it easy to learn about cultural diversity through visual arts?

Cătălina: I think it’s one of the best ways to learn about cultural diversity, because it talks about representation and it is representation, and the way information is transmitted is direct, meaning that it is not over-codified by text. Anyway, culture is represented mostly by visual arts, in one way or another, and is visual in any cultural context.

Dana: My answer is a categorical yes, because visual arts are extremely versatile, they have a generous area of plastic expression, and so I believe our goals and objectives have been reached, even as early as the first week-end.

What feedback did you receive from the kids after the first weekend of workshops?

Cătălina: The kids love working, they are happy, come up with ideas, get involved in talks, understand everything and if they don’t, they ask further questions; they started having initiative and researching things on their own. They generally like all topics; of course, they have technical preferences, meaning some works are priority. They all do well in all technical areas. The first day they were quite tired because there was a lot of information and many questionnaires.

Dana: I’ve noticed from the beginning of the workshop that some of the participating students were quite familiar with elements of cultural diversity, but willing to develop those notions or simply discover elements of cultural diversity (and this was the reason why they wished to participate at the workshop).

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