Murals: Vitória, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dave Loewestein in Água Branca community from Parede Viva on Vimeo.

Dave Loewenstein, an artist, author, and printmaker from Lawrence, Kansas, arrived in Brazil on March 13 and helped create murals with local artists and students in three different cities through April 8. This is the eighth exchange in the Community Engagement through the Mural Arts program, funded by the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy.

Meridian's Cultural Programs Coordinator, Athena Hsieh, joined Dave in Vitória to help with logistics and document the program, but she has also had a chance to get her hands dirty. During a break between painting, she paused to reflect, "These projects are not just about the art, but the connections that the students make with the American artist, with one another, and with their communities."

The Escola Municipal Maria Leonor Pereira da Silva selected 20 students - a mix of 4th, 5th, 7th, and 9th graders - to participate in the program and develop mentoring relationships with one another. Building rapport between diverse parts of the student body holds a particular significance for the school of over 400 students, as many individuals travel to school from low-income neighborhoods where drug gangs are active. The inspiration for the mural, however, was not the violence that plagues the community, but rather a quote that decorates the school's library: "To work together is victory."

Dave, with the assistance of local urban artist Karen Valentim, built off the students' experiences through group discussions on individual and community identity, color theory, and story-telling. Through this process, the students empowered one another to share their dreams and goals. At the unveiling, the students were joined by parents, school administrators, U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro's Cultural Affairs staff, and the Secretary of Culture of Vitória, for a culminating celebration of the students' unique dedication and ability to overcome difficulties.

Before leaving for the next stop of the program, Rio de Janeiro, Dave described his experience with the students: "This is something that I will always remember from this place. Working together, in and of itself, regardless of what you make, is a victory."

Project summary

Murals: Vitória, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | April 2016
Regions: 2
Countries: 3, 1
Impact Areas: 2
Program Areas: 1
Partners: 4, 3