Strengthening Communities in Santiago, Dominican Republic, with Art

A detailed section of the mural


I was very excited to return to the Dominican Republic for Meridian’s MuralsEngage program, long after my first visit over 20 years ago, when I was a teacher and artist-in-residence at the beautiful campus of Altos de Chavón, one of the many satellites of the Parsons School of Design in New York.

I returned here to work with communities in Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo, as my second mural arts exchange with the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy. We wasted no time in getting started. On the first day I was able to see the site and through my collaborators here, was able to make new acquaintances, who showed me their impressive gallery, Triptico, built in an old school house. In the evening we went to see the studio of artist Ernesto Fernandes, who is featured in the current exhibition at Centro León.

Tstudents then arrived for the workshop at the amazing museum/education facility called Centro León, the local partner of this project. Students varied in age from 12 to 60 and were very enthusiastic to get started on the project. After a brief introduction to my work in still images and films, we commenced drawing, at first on copy paper before we formed random groups to work together on large mural drawings. We worked on the floor, and students were encouraged to somehow integrate their images and ideas into what could become one of the panels of the mural.

workshop2 20160301_163457 Workshop




Images came from our discussion of the positive and negative energies existing in the community, what students thought they wanted to preserve, and what they thought needed to be changed. We encouraged a focus on the issues surrounding women and girls, as this is Women’s History Month.

They came up with some remarkable drawings, added color, and then presented them to each other. That night I transformed them into drawings that could be copied onto the wall surrounding the school. The final piece will be long and low, along a wall outside of the Duarte Grammar School in a part of Santiago called Cien Fuegos, in the hills.

And then we started to paint, and the wall started to emerge, in color….




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Community members work on a section of the mural. Below the section is completed.




Passing school girls admire the finished mural

Here is a time-lapse video of our work on the wall:


And, lastly, here’s a link to a presentation I gave at Centro León sharing my experiences.

Stay tuned for my next blog about my second mural in Santo Domingo.