Bringing Arts Education to Local Libraries: A Conversation with ProjectArt Resident Artist Laura Prada
Prada, a Miami-based teaching artist, talks about working with youth in diverse communities, and how her art curriculum empowers students to be the best version of themselves.
Laura Prada has been working with students and families as a teaching artist placed in libraries in Miami, FL, as one of ProjectArt’s resident artists. Chosen by a jury of regional curators, gallerists, and art world professionals, Prada provides culturally-responsive and tuition-free visual arts classes in local public libraries. The classes provide arts education to underserved communities whose youth do not have access to the resource in public schools. We spoke with Prada about her artistic practice, her work as a teaching artist, and advice for those looking to get into arts education.
New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA): Tell us about your practice and your experience being an artist-in-residence and teaching with ProjectArt?
Laura Prada: My artistic practice has evolved and revolves around the idea of identity and represents a conglomeration of a search for self awareness. During my residency with ProjectArt, I focused on the idea of being our highest selves; the best version of ourselves: our own “superheroes.” Through the creation of wearable capes, my students and I developed superhero characters that represented each one of them. With their superpowers, we think about how we could make the world a better place.
This idea started as a way to come back to myself after the pandemic changed everything in my life. I wanted to offer the best of myself to the people close to me and to the world. I felt that if we collectively worked on becoming the best we can be, the world could begin to heal as we heal internally and together.
This idea started as a way to come back to myself after the pandemic changed everything in my life. I wanted to offer the best of myself to the people close to me and to the world. I felt that if we collectively worked on becoming the best we can be, the world can begin to heal as we heal internally and together.-Laura Prada
Being an artist-in-residency for the second time with Project Art has allowed me to connect and understand fully what it means to be a part of a community. Both my final projects for the two years of residency helped me express artistically the values that I observed in the community of ProjectArt—through the mothers, the families, the students, and their own unique stories. I observed, learned, made connections, and offered insight and understanding to the students that are so eager to learn and share with me their time and lives.
NYFA: What was your process when it came to working and building relationships with the young people in your class? What did you learn from the community you collaborated with during the residency? How does your experience as an immigrant help you connect with the community?
LP: For me a relationship is built under core values of trust, vulnerability, and openness. Whether with my younger students, or parents, or any member of my family or community, these are the main values that lead any of these relationships. When it came to my students at the program, my first tool for creating an honest relationship was to listen. Part of my curriculum at the beginning was to create art where each student could talk about their life, express their emotions, tell me about who they are. That way, I could relate and connect to them, and at the same time, allow them to have a space where they can be open about who they are.
Part of my curriculum at the beginning was to create art where each student could talk about their life, express their emotions, tell me about who they are. That way, I could relate and connect to them, and at the same time, allow them to have a space where they can be open about who they are.-Laura Prada
This is the importance of art for me, to be able to say things that perhaps you cannot in other platforms or circumstances in life. My main purpose as an educator in the arts is to create this space for my students.
My background as a Cuban immigrant informs everything in my life, including my work as an educator. Being born and raised in a Communist country ingrained in me core values about what it means to be part of a community and to care for one another.
NYFA: What did your ProjectArt artist-in-residence experience mean for you in your practice as an artist? How does this experience influence how you practice your art?
LP: My goal as an artist is to connect, to give, and to feel that I am a part of something bigger than myself. Oftentimes I become too wrapped up in my own life, forgetting the real purpose of my art. The most important thing ProjectArt offers to me is a way to connect to my community and create art that talks about themes that are important to me. The experience of this residency brings me back to my community and helps me see a fuller picture of the context in which I create.
NYFA: What’s one piece of advice you’d pass onto someone hoping to get into arts education?
LP: A piece of advice to someone getting into arts education is to be vulnerable, to listen, and to be willing to be challenged by others. There’s always something to learn from every situation. When we allow that to happen, the whole experience becomes so much richer.
ProjectArt’s free visual arts classes, taught by local, emerging artists, will be open for registration starting on September 1 and the program will begin October 10. Classes run for 30 weeks for youth ages 4-18, follow the academic calendar year, and take place in nine cities in the U.S. Virtual programming is also available. To register, please visit projectart.org/enroll.
ProjectArt’s next call for artist-in-residence will be open in 2023 Spring. Please check their website then for more information.
About Laura Prada:
Laura Prada is an artist exploring ideas in sustainability and fashion, using photography as a medium of expression. Born and raised in Cuba, she began her career as an artist and a performer from early on. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Art with a minor in Movement Studies from College of the Atlantic. She’s created work both in performance and visual form, collaborated with other artists and showcased work in the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; Little Haiti Cultural Center; and performed at The LightBox in Wynwood, for Miami Medley Winter Intensive. In later years, her artistic expression has evolved into unifying and expressing both worlds, the visual and the somatic, which is her main source of inspiration as an educator in the arts.
In partnership with public libraries, ProjectArt empowers youth, artists, and their communities by offering tuition-free visual arts classes and artist residencies. ProjectArt strives for equity in arts education by providing students with an enriching and safe environment to create, learn, and thrive. Its highly accessible model establishes libraries as enriching community gathering spaces where children ages 4-18 engage in dynamic visual art classes taught by local, social impact resident artists.
ProjectArts was founded in 2011 in Harlem, NY, and has grown to become a nationwide arts education organization in nine different cities, including Miami, Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans. The model of working with local libraries has the inherent benefit of specialized and neighborhood specific community building which is at the core of ProjectArt’s mission.
–Ya Yun Teng, Program Officer, Immigrant Artist Resource Center (NYC)
This post is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #151. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events. Learn more about NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program.