Art lab

In collaboration with Art Forum of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University, Cultural Agents invites artists to explore relational work at the edge of contemporary creativity and social intervention. Painters, poets, filmmakers, bookmakers, architects and photographers find a forum to present experimental work and to engage with theoretical reflection. During the same visit, they also convene workshops both at Harvard and in outreach settings in the Boston. Workshops are Cultural Agents signature activity; they multiply the skills of artists featured here by facilitating resourceful creativity among participants and their future students and associates.

Related Material: 
Art Forum at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies
Art Forum Year-End Summary 07-08

New York Times Article on Emancipatory Photography
Artigas Poster

Featured Artists:
Augusto Boal
Eduardo Rapimán
Jorge Marió Múnera
Jaime Avila
Mayra Santos Febres
Larry Harlow
Chiara Banfi
Gustavo Artigas
Pedro Reyes
Nereo López
Javier Barilaro
Milagros Saldarriaga
Carlos Amorales
Gustavo Buntinx


Indigenous cultures throughout the Americas and the rest of the world develop radio programming to maintain home languages, gain access to health, education and employment information, greet friends and relatives, and re-create traditional culture under circumstances of modern pressures and opportunities. Our conferences and internships develop technical capacity and awareness of these contributions. Plans to include bilingual adaptations of the Paper Picker Press will consolidate the gains of minority language radio.

Contact Information: 
Nicole Legnani
Culturas en el Aire Intern


In collaboration with Art Forum of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University, Cultural Agents invites artists to explore relational work at the edge of contemporary creativity and social intervention. Painters, poets, filmmakers, bookmakers, architects and photographers find a forum to present experimental work and to engage with theoretical reflection. During the same visit, they also convene workshops both at Harvard and in outreach settings in the Boston. Workshops are Cultural Agents signature activity; they multiply the skills of artists featured here by facilitating resourceful creativity among participants and their future students and associates.


Cultural Agents is part of the training team of Culture for Change (CfC). Doris Sommer uses the methods of the the Paper Picker Press to train Out-of-School-time (OST) practitioners such as youth workers, artists, and staff with specialized training in order to design residencies in different art disciplines. The project was built upon the idea that for youth, the arts promote engagement, offering educational opportunities that in turn set the stage for social change and development of youth voice/self-expression and networking.

To learn more about Culture for Change, please visit:

Related Materials
Maverick Landing Training 2009 - Photo Gallery


The Exponential Arts Workshops multiply the benefits of socially productive creative practices by inspiring their replication in underserved communities. Built on a "train the trainers" model, these workshops offer students, educators, and community leaders the opportunity to learn from exemplary artist-activists who have developed effective methods of conflict resolution, education, and personal development through art. Their ultimate goal is to disseminate these practices through participants who can implement the newly acquired knowledge and methodologies in effective long-term, local projects.

Workshops with distinguished artists and educators are the most important activity for Cultural Agents. This series invited special guests to share techniques and lessons with Harvard based participants, and also in a Boston-area venue with community participants. Exponential arts is our most consistent format for bridging the university with the community through shared lessons in the arts.

Exponential Arts Series

Recycle Paper and Prose: Workshop and Lecture Series with Elosia Cartonera and Sarita Cartonera project founders Javier Barilaro and Milagros Saldarriaga.

March, 2007

Javier and Milagros gave a joint lecture to discuss their work with the Cartoneras project in Buenes, Aires, Argentina and Lima, Peru (respectively). The lecture was followed by two interactive workshops, on cardboard bookmaking and the use of creative pedagogical exercises in literary interpretation. The Cartoneras project is the inspiration for Cultural Agent's own publishing house, the Paper Picker Press. The Cartoneras project is the inspiration for Cultural Agent's own publishing house, the Paper Picker Press. We are very excited that the Paper Picker Press will carry out the objectives of the Exponential Arts program during the 2007/2008 academic year.

Breaking the Shell: Arts Literacy Workshop with ArtsLiteracy Project director Kurt Wootton (Brown University).

April, 2007

Kurt led participants in a series of interprative exercises intended to explore the theory and practice behind the ArtsLiteracy "performance cycle". Participants studied examples of this cycle in action in transcultural environments (e.g. extensive project in Brazil where students filled their town square with stories and poetry) and created unique performance cycles of their own using dance, poetry and drama. Kurt is now working in Brazil as director of Habla: Center for Culture and Language.

Techniques of Portraiture: Documentary Photography Workshop with Colombian photographer Nereo Lopez.

November, 2006

Colombian photographer Nereo Lopez held a seminar and critique with Harvard University students to discuss the techniques of "portraiture" in documentary photography. After a stunning display of his own work, Nereo invited students to showcase their own photography and solicit his critique.


Collaborations of fashion designers with indigenous and with inner-city artisans produce wearable art that can command high prices and can help to sustain poor communities. Engaging local styles and skills also preserves and enhances traditional arts while encouraging artisans to explore new possibilities through personal creativity. Fashion as a communicative system, a vehicle for development, and subject for photographic art will complement our program's focus on the partnership between new vogues and traditional aesthetic values.

Stitching Communities: Lecture and Workshop by Carla Fernandez, founder of Flora, a Fashion Design Initiative in Collaboration with Indigenous Artisans.

November 28th and 29th, 2007

Fashion designer Carla Fernandez gave a lecture describing her work with Flora. After years of researching traditional Mexican garments, Carla Fernandez noticed their unique and exclusive use of square and rectangle patterning. Where this departure from Western tailoring might mean that indigenous artisans (who depend on their creations for their livelihood) are stuck with seemingly imperfect and unsellable garments, Carla saw a unique opportunity for artistic and community development. Flora is a fashion label that works as a mobile workshop and fashion laboratory, collaborating with indigenous communities and women co-ops to make full use of traditional handmade textiles, patterning and sewing techniques to create contemporary designs of geometric beauty and world-market appeal. In the process, Flora aids to preserve ancient textile practices; promotes the artistic and economic development of indigenous artisans and their communities; fosters fair trade and environmentally responsible practices in the fashion industry; and educates the public at large about the past and future of Mexican textile arts and fashion design. Carla's talk was followed by a two-hour workshop. During the first hour, participants learned to use paper, scissors and tape to make paper models based on the square and rectangle patterning of indigenous artisans. During the second hour, participants "sewed" their designs using fabric and staples or pins. The conclusion was a cat walk with participants wearing/carrying their designs.

Related Materials
"Raíz Diseño Symposium"
"Alice Flaherty's Discusses Medical Fashion"


Touristic Ambassadors: Agents for Change in an Age of Globalization

November, 2007

Renowned French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss opens his classic work, Tristes Tropiques, "I hate traveling and explorers. Yet here I am proposing to tell the story of my expeditions" [1955,1].

What is the significance of the traveler's story, be it told through pictures, postcards, or multi-media PowerPoint presentations? Are today's tourists mere pawns in a multi-billion dollar global industry, or do participants in trends such as eco-, ethnic, and heritage tourism exhibit a growing sense of ethical responsibility to the places they visit?

Today, tourism remains a "moral and social phenomenon" worthy of the contemporary scholar's inquiry. With a focus on popular re-iterations of tourism in Japan and China, our program seeks to identify and articulate this growing global industry's potential as an agent for positive social, economic, and environmental change. Tourism's complex implications in the lives of the visitor and the visited encourage us to move beyond simply decrying the ills of globalization in search of more meaningful journeys.

Please join the Cultural Agents Initiative, Professor Nelson Graburn, and our distinguished panel of experts in beginning the first of many conversations on tourism and the humaninites.

Sponsored by The Cultural Agents Initiative, The Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Asia Center, The Humanities Center, and The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Related Materials:
Seminar Report 
Touristic Ambassadors Postcard


Pre-Emptive Acts are training sessions in the techniques of "forum theater" developed by Augusto Boal. Rather than discuss a play after the fact, in a forum, this approach of Theater of the Oppressed gets members of the audience to step up to the stage, replace a character in crisis and improvise with a variation that can derail a tragedy. Participants learn to count on their creativity and to admire others' inspirations. Among our participants have been the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, with Schools of Government, businesses and youth groups. Pre-Emptive Acts now forms part of diversity training at Harvard College.

Our Pre-emptive Acts Program is also making great strides as a coordinated component of our Paper Picker Press literacy project. As such, we've integrated Forum Theater's approach and capitalized on its ability to reach a wide variety of participants. On the heels of diverse successes at both Brazilian-American adult community centers and underperforming Boston elementary schools, we expect that our Pre-emptive Acts Program will continue to grow as part of our Paper Picker Press repertoire.

In addition, we've continued to implement Pre-emptive Acts Workshops in a number of new and surprising situations. On May 2, 2008, we hosted Alice Mello, who led a graduate student workshop on the merits of Forum Theater in the Virtual World (Online Forum Theater). Alice showed her audience how to create and share drama to resolve conflicts through a computer-based learning experience aimed at helping youth learn to cope with oppressive personal and social situations. Her process is the collaborative process of creating a digital play, and includes dramatic exercises involving group bonding, social awareness, and improvisational skills.

On April 17, 2008, as part of the ironic Caucasian Cautionary Month, Cultural Agents hosted a Forum Theater Dialogue at Wellesley College. While Wellesley women have long since possessed the strength to declare, "I'm offended", the meeting helped clarify one method for respectfully engaging in risky yet meaningful dialogue with each other.

Related Materials
Description of the Forum Theater Dialogue and Caucasian Cautionary Month at Wellesley College
Augusto Boal
Interactive Theatre Resolves Conflict from Boston to Tanzania
"Theatre of the Oppressed: Hector Aristizabal Tells a Story of Torture and Transformation"
Felton Earls and Maya Carslon Tanzania Project - Reflections - Malaria


University professors write reviews of manuscripts under consideration for publication. As remuneration, they often receive allotments of books from the academic publishers. Now they can choose to bank those allotments as investments in book-poor colleges and universities. University Books Abroad receives applications for these allotments of books from needy institutions world-wide: libraries, schools, or cultural centers that justify their need of books from the particular publishers available. The winning applicants receive the indicated catalogue and exercise agency by selecting books in the dollar amount granted for the review.

University Books Abroad is now in partnership with The Sabre Foundation, which has over twenty years experience coordinating book donation programs worldwide. Please visit for more information.

If you are a professor or professional writer and would like to donate the allotment of books you received as remuneration for a publication review, please contact us at Thank you so much for your support in this important humanitarian program.

Cultural Agents is now in negotiation with a major South American airline to discuss a strategic corporate-giving partnership in support of University Books Abroad. Please check back for details. And look for a "Donate Here" web-form soon to automatically upload your allotment.


An Interactive Community - to make a submission to our workspace, please email:

Please note that all essays and presentations are sole property and copyright of the author and may not be re-published or reproduced without the author's written consent. Please contact the author directly, if possible, or us at to request consent for duplication or other use.

AJA - Image and the Process of Healing in Refugee Youth 
Alam - The Majority World Looks Back 
Duarte - Photography and Indigenous Communities 
Frank - Through the Lens 
Guran - The Concerned Eye- Visual Inclusion and Citizenship 
Hubbard - Shooting Back 
Hyde - Portraits and Collaborations 
Jirmanus - Communication for Societal Transformation 
ph15 - Participative Practice

Essays in Spanish
Martin - Educational Possibilites of Art in Social Interaction 
Pastor - The Factories of Social Photography and Photographic File TAFOS/PUCP 
Rosenthal - Proyecto Colombia se Mira

Essay Abstract
Chikaoka - Programma "Olhos d'Agua" Summary (Abstract) 
Greeley - The Visual Economy of the Photograph in Post-Revolution Rural Mexico (Abstract) 
Luttrell - Children Re-Framing Childhood (Abstract)

Frank MIT - Through the Lens

Announcement: Institute For Photographic Empowerment
A Joint Project | Venice Arts | USC Annenberg
Greetings From The Institute
News and Updates from I.P.E.

Dear friends and colleagues,

I hope this update finds you well. I want to share the exciting things happening at the Institutute For Photographic Empowerment and invite you to experience all that "IPE" has to offer.

How, you might ask? As our interactive site is fast becoming the "go-to" destination for academics, students practitioners (photographers, filmmakers, NGOs) and supporters of participant produced work, we welcome you to submit your links, feature project submissions and ideas, and academic research papers. Post your jobs, internships, events, and exhibits. Ask questions through the Forum, blog with your peers, or encourage your students to use the site to interact. And because the site is updated daily you can expect your content to be online and in our RSS feed within a day of submission.

We look forward to your involvement as our programs and initatives unfold and expand.

Talk to you soon!

Pablo Toledo | IPE Program Manager

Announcement: IPE Online: Tools for Practioners, Academics and Students
The Institute For Photographic Empowerment has been updated with new and interesting content and tools, including: an online forums on everything from policy and ethics to the impact of digital media and the Internet on story creation and dissemination; feature innovative projects that marry image making with advocacy; and educational resources for academics, such as books, articles, and papers.

Announcement: Fotokids seeking Director of Photography at our project in Las Mangas Honduras - please visit the job post @ - Director of Nature Photography & Environmental education

Announcement: Venice Arts - View the blog maintained by students in Jim Hubbard's USC course titled Visual Communication and Social Change. The blog offers valuable insights to the world of participatory photographer from the often unsung student's perspective:

Announcement: The inaugural First Exposures benefit event saw 400 people give their support during a silent auction, which generated enough proceeds to send six very excited teenagers (and two adults) to Ghana this summer for a photography project. In the wake of this success, images from the silent auction are still available for purchase at, or simply visit to donate online.

Update: View the latest article published on Shahidul Alam's blog at:

Related Materials

Otra mirada. Buenos Aires fotografiada por los chicos que viven en sus calles. 
SF Camerawork: Mentoring - First Exposures

The Visible Rights ToolKit
New York Times Article on Emancipatory Photography


Courses in Cultural Agents identify and reflect on the arts as social resources. Stubborn problems can sometimes yield to artful interventions, even when conventional means fail. Art's signature activity is to interrupt deadening habit and to innovate despite constraints and limitations. Therefore, investigation and critique are first stages of Cultural Agents research; but effective responses through performative, literary, and interpretive arts are the focus. Among the philosophical anchors for Cultural Agents courses are Friedrich Schiller and Antonio Gramsci. Many of our courses feature activities based learning with mentors throughout the Boston area and beyond.


Catalog Number: 0460
Doris Sommer, Francesco Erspamer
Fall 2010, M 3-5PM; Boylston Hall 105

From the "Fifteen Minutes" Magazine of the Harvard Crimson: Like the coupling of ancient and modern, Professors Doris Sommer and Francesco Erspamer prove that the relationship between art and business can seem counter-intuitive, yet is beautifully symbiotic. Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 13: Cultural Agents guides students to design an "Art Intervention" centered around a social dilemma. In the past, students have designed interventions around everything from perceived residual racism in the classroom to establishing creative writing programs in local homeless shelters. Sommer takes inspiration from figures like Mayor Antanas Mockus, who replaced traffic cops in Bogota with mimes. "In a city where people were afraid to look at each other," Sommer says, "he created mirth." Each week, guest speakers guide students to incorporate art and humanism into professions like law, business, and medicine. In the past, Sommer's classes have told her that the course "changed their lives" and the way they understood their career path. "We are all artists," Sommer says, "we can't help it; we're human beings. We make it up as we go along. And if we take that seriously, we're more passionately engaged in our professional lives."

Course Website 
Show guest speaker bios


Second Language Acquisition: Theory and Practice
Lecture: M 3-5PM; Sever 203 Section: Th 5-6 pm; Lamont Library 203

In Spring 2009, Cultural Agents hosted a training workshop on Pre-Texts to be implemented as part of the curriculum for the Linguistics 200, Second Language Acquisition: Theory and Practice. This course provides an introduction to current theories about how second languages are acquired, particularly in contrast to first languages, and seeks to develop from that an understanding of the limits and possibilities of teaching second language in the classroom.

Pre-Texts Training Workshop for Linguistics 200 - Photo Gallery


Harvard Extension School

Youth Arts for Social Change is a course for K-12 teachers, piloted by Cultural Agents and now included by the Harvard Extension School. Local artists (musician, actor, muralist, photographer, poet) train teachers during day-long workshops to incorporate creative practices in their classrooms and after-school programs. Teachers locate their own creative talents and gain confidence in their students’ ability to develop concentration and stamina by learning academic material through creative arts.



Harvard Gazette Article: Using arts to better the art of teaching

Supporting Documents and Work from Previous Years
Final Project PamphletRequired and Suggested Readings for YASC 2006Faculty Bios for YASC 2006Arts as Epistemology: Enabling Children to Know What They KnowArt and AccountabilityNotes for Week 1 of YASC 2006Notes on the political economy of black music


ROMANCE STUDIES 202. Ethics and Aesthetics
(Graduate Seminar in General Education)
Catalog Number: 2167
Francesco Erspamer and Doris Sommer

Readings alternate between theory and literature/other arts to explore mutual relationships between the social conditions for art-making and art’s effects. How do creative practices play into ethics? Does philosophy depend on counter-factual [fictional] imaginings? The seminar will design and develop a General Education course on these themes for undergraduates. Note: Expected to be given in 2010–11. Conducted in English.

Course Website


SPANISH 65. Bilingual Arts
Catalog Number: 9315
Doris Sommer

For heritage speakers and advanced language students, Latino literature, in the forms of poetry, narrative, theater, and film, will be the focus of an in-depth review of grammar and style in Spanish, as well as the uses of Spanish alongside English language arts. A range of artists from Latin American origins will be featured, including those with ties to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America. Note: Expected to be given in 2010–11. Conducted in Spanish. This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the Core area requirement for Literature and Arts A. Prerequisite: 700 on the SAT II test or on the Harvard Placement Test, Spanish 40 or permission of course head.

Course Website


SPANISH 186. Tobacco and Sugar
Doris Sommer
Harvard Magazine


Catalog Number: 3129
Doris Sommer

Through novels that helped to consolidate nation-states in Latin America, explores modernity as personal and public lessons in laissez-faire. Sequels in film, telenovelas, performances show tenacity of genre. Links between creativity and citizenship. Theorists include Anderson, Foucault, Arendt, Lukacs, Flaubert. Note: Expected to be given in 2010–11. Conducted in Spanish.

Course Website

Related Courses
Harvard College
Graduate School of Design
Graduate School of Education
Kennedy School of Government
Harvard Law School