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The right to imagine: a conversation with the founder of Arte PRO


Arte PRO is a Mexico-based non-profit that approaches empowerment from a perspective that is both science-backed, artful, and provides tools for self-regulation and emotional intelligence. Arte PRO promotes self-knowledge and introspection, creating a space for personal dialogue and awareness that develop socio-emotional capacities of synthesis, consensus, resilience and self-esteem, enabling women and children to become powerful agents of change in their environment, and the narrators of their own stories.




 

Q: Tell me a bit about you A: I was born and raised in Mexico City, and ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been using my creative muscles— exploring and creating art. Art is what brought me to Europe, to Paris precisely, when I was only 16. After a few years in Paris I moved to Germany and started studying medicine, because I wanted art to remain my passion and not my work. I knew pretty quickly this was not for me, so I studied art in Berlin, where I lived for 7 years. Berlin was the door to myself, to finding self knowledge and exploration.

Q: Yes! We love Berlin. But tell me more about art and how you then got to Arte PRO. A: Art was always a refuge, the place where I could explore freely, and a catalyzer for soul and spirit. I think there are two truths about Art in Mexico. One is that people that are already in the arts know the power of art to transform, and the second is that it is people who already consume art and culture are mostly already creating it too. It’s very hard to create new audiences, and this was the first challenge that drove me to create Arte PRO. The second driver was a personal experience I had with an abusive business partner. It made me realize the situation of disempowerment of women in this country. So, I began to work at shelter homes, to begin from the grassroots. 10 years ago, when I started this, I was in my mid-late 20s. And I wanted to be very scientific about my approach. And that’s where the Science elements comes in! I gathered a team of scientists, mental health specialists, neuroscientists, and psychologists to understand the power of art in someone’s psyche, especially someone with trauma. Using art as social or mental intervention was not taken seriously at the time, so I wanted to make sure we had the science back us up too. Because I know of the transformative power of art.

Q: And how did you come to work mainly with children? A: Children are extremely vulnerable but also extremely receptive to transformation. I began to work with children born into prison or victims of abuse quite quickly after working with women. I saw that, by the nature of their surroundings or situation they were in, they lost access to this very basic right: that every child has to imagine. Children in prison are for me so important to work with, they are born into a situation that they did not choose, and because there is no budget for them, they mostly live the life of their mothers, who are inmates. They are called the invisible children, and every state has a different jurisdiction on how long they have to stay in prison after they are born. In some it’s up to twelve years, imagine! Q: What do the workshops look like? A: We invite artists who design and give workshops to the kids or the women. But before they give workshops, they work with mental health specialists. Essentially, what I did was put in a room artists and mental health specialists and we basically cracked the code of the connection between arts and mental health. In the programs the kids overtly see is that they're playing, they're creating, they're having fun, they're learning creative skills, and what they don't see, is that they're developing skills for their future, improving their mental health and acquiring tools to self regulate their emotions. And this is so important!

Q: Wow, yes definitely, we are big on holding both the emotional and mental through the creative. A: Yes, it's a beautiful thing for me personally too! Because I get to be the geek, when I speak to our team of specialists, and then I get to be the curator, the artsy part that I love so much too. We have collaborated with artists like Jorge Yazpik, Luisa Trigo, and Ana Castella, and universities all over the world and I now have had some people from UK that might want to use our program in their prisons. I’m so excited, and it’s our 10 years anniversary in February next year!

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