Colombia Arts Incubator: Inclusive Peace
Upon arrival to Colombia for the pre-exchange planning trip back in October 2016, i immediately sensed i was in a very special place - though at that time, i could not verbalize why. Colombia would be my last exchange as Director of American Arts Incubator (AAI). In that moment, i decided i would stay on the ground throughout the 28-day exchange and co-facilitate with the chosen artist. This would allow us to update our knowledge of what occurs on the ground so that we could identify misalignments and adapt the program design accordingly, prior to my departure from ZERO1.
Fast-forward nine months, and i am closer to understanding the magnetic polarities of this beautiful country. Conflict is not new to Colombians. According to the International Center for Transitional Justice, "Colombians have endured more than 40 years of conflict as a result of civil war and the evolving organized criminal activity surrounding the drug market. Murders, forced displacement, torture, rape, “disappearances,” kidnapping and extortion are part of the social fabric." Arriving to Medellín to implement an arts exchange program about inclusive peace was naive, to say the least.
As is the process for American Arts Incubator in each country, the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá declared the social challenge to be addressed. They requested that we focus the program on the idea that peace can be for everyone, not only for those with power. This means that Nathan Ober and i would be facilitating community dialogues around these notions of inclusion and peace, while attempting to guide participants in learning and applying digital art mediums to develop public projects. Yep, two white privileged Americans completely ignorant to past and present realities of the 25 humans staring back at us. I soon realized that almost every person in the room knew only of a Colombia in conflict; most had witnessed a friend or family member killed in the violence. What this does to someone's mode of operation, belief systems, and ways of being, i only can guess.