Panel Discussion: Social Development and the Arts in Latin America

Thursday, October 11, 2018, 3:30pm to 5:00pm


CGIS South, S250, 1730 Cambridge Street


Classical music training for underprivileged children and youth, through El Sistema, proves that excellence in art is a principle for social development in Latin America and beyond.


Our conversation develops this lesson from four perspectives:
Professor Tarun Khanna, of HBS and author of a Case Study on El Sistema
Professor Doris Sommer, of FAS and founder of Cultural Agents
Eduardo Méndez, Executive Director of El Sistema
Enrique Márquez, Director General of the Veracruz Institute of Culture, México


The arts play a measurable role in the development of children and youth. Our panel will consider art’s contributions to critical thinking, a sense of belonging, constructive competition and a meaningful life. We will also address the challenge of engaging decision makers to scale up the work that art does for society.

This event is organized in collaboration with DRCLAS

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Women in Art: Can Women Artists Inspire Social Change?

Please join the Harvard Business School Association of Boston, in partnership with the Massachusetts State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, on Tuesday, September 25, 2018 from 6:00 - 8:30pm. The evening begins with hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine during the welcome reception followed by a stimulating conversation highlighting the power of women and the arts as catalysts for change.

More info, click here

Speakers include:

  • Mary Schneider Enriquez, Houghton Associate Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museums and expert on Doris Salcedo (Curator of The Materiality of Mourning, at the Harvard Art Museums, 2016-2017)

  • Professor Doris Sommer, Director of Cultural Agents Initiative and Professor of Romance Languages and Literature and African American Studies at Harvard University.

  • Adriana Zavala, PhD, Associate Professor, Tufts University, Department of Art and Art History (Curator of Frida Kahlo's Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, 2015).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018, 6:00 – 8:30pm
6:00 - 6:45pm: Doors open for Registration and Welcome Reception in the Williams Room
6:45 - 7:00pm: Transition downstairs to Spangler Auditorium
7:00 - 8:30pm: Program, Q&A

Harvard Business School, Williams Room/Spangler Auditorium, 117 Western Ave, Boston, MA

TICKETS (includes hors d'oeuvres, beer, wine and program)
Chair's Club and President's Club Members: Complimentary
Executive Club Members and Member Guests: $45
Non-Members: $60


A(n)esthetics and the Analgesic Museum


Join us as Ian Koebner, PhD explores the role of museums as public health partners. Koebner will focus on Art Rx, an innovative collaboration between the Crocker Art Museum and the Integrative Pain Management Program at UC Davis, and draw from the fields of pain research and the philosophy of aesthetics.

Ian Koebner, PhD, is the Director of Integrative Pain Management and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at UC Davis. His latest research examines the potential of museum engagement to reduce pain and social disconnection among individuals with chronic pain.

~45-60 minute presentation will be followed by discussion. Event is free and open to the public. RSVP optional. Seating limited.

Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard Barker Center, Room 211 (2nd Floor), 12 Quincy St. Cambridge, MA 02130

Please contact Alen with questions about the event:



This event is part of the ongoing Cultural and Humanitarian Agents seminar series co-sponsored by the Cultural Agents Initiative and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, with support from Mahindra Humanities Center.

This seminar series features a range of contemporary mentors who recognize art and interpretation as fundamental to active citizenship. The series works within a long humanistic tradition dedicated to civic development, focusing on identifying artists, educators, and leaders who have developed creative practices that reflect on the role of art in building civil society and responding to its challenges.

In the spirit of a new Gen Ed course at Harvard College, “Rx: Arts for Global Health,” this series dives deeper into global and public health as academics, artists, and politicians present cases, display agency, and pose provocative questions about the role of the arts and aesthetics in breaking emerging patterns of illness and disease through creative, non-technical solutions.

Faculty Chairs: Doris Sommer and Vincenzo Bollettino


*Photo courtesy UC Davis Health




Pre-Texts for Baldwin



Register for the event at :


Pre-Texts invites you to participate in creative interpretations of James Baldwin's essay 'Nothing Personal' at the installation


Autumn (... Nothing Personal) by Teresita Fernández


in Tercentenary Theatre, Harvard Yard


on September 7th, 14, 21st, and 28th, 2018 from 3-5p


This series will prepare you to interpret complex texts through art making. Participate in all four sessions to earn a participation certificate.


This workshop series will be led by Prof. Doris Sommer


This workshop series is sponsored by Harvard University Committee on the Arts, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning


Pre-Texts in India



In June 2018, Pre-Texts facilitators Polly Lauer and Jahnvi Singh traveled to Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu in South India to begin a year-long Pre-Texts project with the CSI Girls Higher Secondary School (grades 6-12). A er receiving an invitation from CSI Bishop Appasamy College of Arts & Science (BACAS) and the Church of South India, which operates a network of schools for underprivileged children, the Pre-Texts team (Anshul Kumar, Lauer, Singh) secured a grant from Harvard University’s Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute’s Seed for Change grant program to work with a team of teachers in the school. Nestled in the Western Ghats, Coimbatore is famous for its textile legacy, with a deep tradition of handloom weaving that still continues in its rural outskirts. Students at the school come from both the city and farther away communities, the latter boarding at the school’s on-campus hostel. Some teachers, as well, travel daily from cities up to two hours away.

Download the Report in PDF

Pre-Texts in Ireland


For the 2018 summer session of Aceti’s Comparative Cultural Policy and Administration course, which later took students to Dublin and London, Pre-Texts chose Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish as raw material for training. Facilitated at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, the workshop once again offered opportunities to connect the museum’s exhibits to the target text as students developed confidence in speaking and writing while exercising their creative skills towards academic and professional goals. The first session began as always, with ice breakers, followed by the text read out loud as participants designed book covers. After book covers, everyone asked a 

question of the text, so that students had the chance to examine it both for basic language use and for high-order concepts. They later led a gallery “amoeba tour” of the Peabody's third floor: each student took a turn to adopt a line from Foucault for interpreting an object on display and then guided the others to reflect on the proposed connection. In another particularly effective student-designed activity, the novice facilitators selected keywords from the text and randomly assigned them to participants. The participants then had to write a poem of at least six lines from phrases in the text to develop references to the assigned word. After each poem was read out loud, the group had a round table discussion about how some words stimulated similar poems and what that indicated about themes of the text. It was especially useful for the Chinese students as a mature and meaningful way to build vocabulary. "What Did We Do?", a key Pre-Texts moment that concludes every activity, requires participants to share reflections on the particular process. It caught on quickly, with outspoken and insightful comments from the Chinese students who appreciated the responsibility to speak, which relieved a hesitation to use English publicly.


Download the Report in PDF


Open Internship Position at Cultural Agents

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Pre-Texts Workshop at Waltham Public Schools

  • WHEN: December 5 & 12 | 3:30 -5:30pm

  • WHERE: High School Library, Waltham Public Schools, MA

  • WHAT: The team of Pre-Texts facilitators will be finalizing the series of Pre-Texts training workshop for education leaders of Waltham Public Schools.

Cultural Agents Student Fair

  • WHEN: December 7 | 4:00 -6:00pm

  • WHERE: 1737 Cambrdige St, Cambridge, MA 02138. (CGIS) Knafel Cafe

  • WHAT: Students from the Cultural Agents Course: "Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding" at Harvard University will be presenting their final projects. The assignment required students to design a creative aesthetic intervention to address social issues pertinent to our times. The Cultural Agents Student Fair is open to everyone. We look forward to sparking dialogue about innovative forms of intervention and posible collaborations!

XVI Anual Reunion of IDB Group and Civic Society Dominican Republic


XVI Anual Reunion of IDB Group and Civic Society, 

Dominican Republic

On November 8th and 9th, Professor Doris Sommer was invited to the Dominican Republic to participate in the XVI Anual Reunion of the Inter-American Development Bank Group and Civic Society as a panelist in a session dedicated on the topic: The use of Innovation and its Impact in Sustainable Development. In addition to the panel, she led a forum on theAlternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital. In this this talk, Sommer shared Cultural Agents’ vision for promoting innovation, literacy, and citizenship. Among the topics discussed were: the idea of civic art as participative; the importance of pleasure in achieving change; admiration, not tolerance, as the basis of citizenship; artists as agents that break paradigms and create new solutions; the need to develop the faculty of judgment in order for democracy to thrive; Latin America and its creativity, traditions, and human capital as catalysts for innovation, sustainable growth, and development. 

To view the forum on “Alternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital”, please visit:

Language Acts and Worldmaking in Conversation with Cultural Agents, King's College London 

On November 18th and 19th, Prof. Doris Sommer presented her groundbreaking work in the areas of civil agency and public humanities at the King's College and the University of Westminster in London as part of The Language Acts and Worldmaking project, promoted by the Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) of the British Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC). After offering a talk on Cultural Agents, Prof. Sommer facilitated a workshop session on Pre-Texts, which opened opportunities for new collaborations by showing how the Pre-Texts methodology contributes to complement The Language Acts and Worldmaking project's (and OWRI's) goals in language learning. Lead by Professor Catherine Boyle (Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies at King's College) this project aims to regenerate and transform modern language research and learning by foregrounding language's power to shape how we live and make our worlds.

Open Internship Position at Cultural Agents

XVI Anual Reunion of BID Group and Civic Society


"Alternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital”

November 8, 2016

The Cultural Agents Initiative Director, Professor Doris Sommer, was been at Dominican Republic in the "XVI Annual Meeting IDB Group Civil Society” leading the Forum "Alternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital”

Visit the forum web site at:

We invite to check out the forum at:

"Music as a Catalyst for Change" Cultural Diplomacy Panel

Last Tuesday November 1st, Prof. Doris Sommer, Director of the Cultural Agents Initiative, participated in a panel on Cultural Diplomacy at Berklee College of Music in Boston. This event, organized and guided by mezzo soprano and cultural entrepreneur Carla Dirlikov, also included the participation of the following world-class experts and leaders in the arts: Courtenay Casey, Director of Artistic Planning at National Sawdust; Manuel Bagorro, Artistic Director of the Harare International Festival of the Arts; and David Rothkopf, CEO at the Foreign Policy Group.
As part of the weeklong series on Music as a Catalyst for Change, this insightful conversation explored the role that cultural entrepreneurship plays as an agent for social change today by asking important questions and reflecting on the unique innovative experiences of the panelists. This is how, after offering thought-provoking reflections on the concept of “culture” and its roles in the construction of a truly democratic society, Prof. Sommer explained the vision behind her work with the Cultural Agents Initiative and Pre-Texts. Following these ideas, the panelists also discussed the meaning of “cultural diplomacy” and “cultural IQ”, as well as other professional aspects such as programing socially-committed cultural contents and using the arts to promote human development. Towards the end of this event, all the experts also engaged with the audience members by answering inspiring questions and by offering useful examples on how to become both successful cultural entrepreneurs and engaged artists in today’s interconnected global world.  

- Federico Olivieri, 
Cultural Agents

8th Worldwide Meeting on Human Values


On October, the 8th Worldwide Meeting on Human Values took place in Monterrey, Mexico. This year, efforts focused on "Coping Social Crisis With the Value of Justice" with three anchor themes: Social Justice, Fair Economy and Restorative Justice.

Prof. Doris Sommer, director of Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University and founder of Pre-Texts methodology, together with Verónica Dávila, director of Pre-Texts Mexico, presented the talk “Pre-Texts model of Educational and Civic Transformation”. The incredible lecture highlights the interconnectedness of art, politics, civility, education, innovation and the importance of cultivating critical thinking in our learning spaces, while simultaneously exposing the Latin American influences that inspired the Pre-Texts methodology. 

To view the talk, please click on the Youtube link:

We hope you enjoy it! 



Cultural Agents: Why Art?  and Pre-Texts Workshop

  • WHEN: November 3 & 4 | (Lecture) 4:10pm, (Workshop)  8:00am - 4:00pm
  • WHERE: 27 Memorial Drive West, Bethelehem, PA 18015 
  • WHAT: Join Professor Doris Sommer for the lecture "Cultural Agents: Why Art?" at the University of Lehigh's Public Humanities Series, co-sponsored with the Southside Initiative and Literature and Social Justice. A Pre-Texts workshop will be held on the following day. 

XVI Anual Reunion of BID Group and Civic Society


  • WHEN: November, 8 & 9 | 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • WHERE: Sheraton  Hotel, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • WHAT: The Inter-American Development Bank’s mission is  to provide long-term financing for institutional, social, and economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean. It also realizes vanguard investigations and offers political consultation, training, and technical assistance to public and private clients around the region.

    Professor Doris Sommer will be participating as a panelist in a session dedicated for the topic “The use of innovation and its impact in sustainable development”. She will be speaking about the Pre-Texts methodology and its recent implementation in Nassau, Bahamas in collaboration if IDB for a group of art professors. Sommer will also share Cultural Agents Initiative’s vision for promoting innovation, literacy, and citizenship.

    Professor Doris Sommer will also lead the forum: "Alternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital” from 2:30 pm to 3:20pm. To check out a live transmission of the forum visit:

For the forum website, please visit:


Pre-Texts Workshop at Waltham Public Schools

  • WHEN: November, 14 | 3:30pm – 5:30pm
  • WHERE: High School Library, Waltham Public Schools, MA
  • WHAT: Professor Doris Sommer and her team of Pre-Texts facilitators will lead a training workshop for education leaders of Waltham Public Schools. 


Language Acts and Worldmaking in Conversation with Cultural Agents

  • WHEN:  November, 18 | 6:30 pm 
  • WHERE: Anatomy Lecture Theatre, King's College London, UK 
  • WHAT: Language Acts and Worldmaking is a flagship project funded by the AHRC Open World Research Initiative, which aims to regenerate and transform modern language research and learning by foregrounding language's power to shape how we live and make our worlds. To mark the launch of Language Acts and Worldmaking, Professor Doris Sommer will discuss her groundbreaking work with Cultural Agents Initiative, which promotes the divergent thinking of arts and humanities in the service of solutions to real life problems. Pre-Texts workshops will also be held at King’s College London and the University of Westminster.

For more details of the project and event schedule, please visit:

For the full overview of the whole month, see November's newsletter:

Pre-Texts at the Derek Bok Center, Harvard University


From September 21 – 23, multiple graduate students and professionals from different fields came together at Harvard's Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning to rediscover learning through play. The three-day workshop not only provided an introduction into the workings of the Pre-Texts methodology, but it also created a space for critical thinking about how and why we learn. Through a series of warm ups, creative dynamics, artistic responses, and process reflection, attendees were able to experience profound curiosity with a literary work and explore ways in which civic engagement can be fostered among students. Participants also had the chance to come up with their own ideas of how to interact with the text and the opportunity of facilitating their initiatives with the group.  Many of those who attended these activities were left inspired in how there are a myriad of innovative ways to bring literary works to life and create a respectful environment where everyone’s voice is valued. Pre-Texts reminded us that learning should be fun, and that the key for encouraging literacy is igniting our imagination!    

- Stephanie Soler
Intern at Cultural Agents Initiative, Harvard University

For more photographs and videos of this workshop, please visit:



Implementing UDL through Pre-Texts at Harvard Ed Portal

  • WHEN: October 3rd, 17th & 24th | 4:00-6:30pm
  • WHERE: Harvard Ed Portal, 224 Western Avenue, Allston
  • WHAT: A five-week professional development for 4th grade Boston Public Schoolteachers with Professor Doris Sommer, and then led by Trecia Reavis, Pre-Texts facilitator and weaver; Hilary Shea, Inclusion Specialist in the Boston Public Schools; and Paul Tritter, Boston Teachers Union, Director of Professional Learning.

    *Training enrollment has already closed.*

Civic Education is Aesthetics, Necessarily

  • WHEN: Monday, October 3rd |  8:00 am - 9:30 am
  • WHERE: University of Los Andes, Building TX, Room 601
  • WHAT: The initiative that professor Doris Sommer congregates is a web of academics, artists, educators and organizers that work for the arts, humanities and social sciences to be recognized as resources for social and educational development. In that way, the talk Civic Education is Aesthetics, Necessarily,presents a program of investigation based in the arts for the development of critical thinking and citizenship. 

Pre-Texts Workshop at University of Los Andes, Colombia

  • WHEN: Monday, October 3rd |  2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
  • WHERE: University of Los Andes, Building TX, Room 601 
  • WHAT: After the talk Civic Education is Aesthetics, Necessarily, professor Doris Sommer will lead a Pre-Texts workshop that will enrich attendees' work in the fields of education, the arts and humanities. 

“Tinker User Tracer Human” lecture series by the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology

For the full overview of the whole month, see October's newsletter:

Pre-Texts Short Documentary


In March 2016, Professor Doris Sommer,  human rights lawyer Marco Abarca, and artist Jay Critchley, collaborated with the Inter American Development Bank to host a Pre-Texts workshop in Nassau (Bahamas). This four-day intensive training, held within the beautiful wrap-around verandas of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, bloomed with creativity. Critchley recorded a glimpse of the unforgettable  experiences lived during Pre-Texts workshops in a short documentary.  

To view the film, clink on the Vimeo link and type in the code: 'pretexts'.  

We hope you enjoy it!