The Arts and Resumption of Social Dignity

Nowadays it is a consensus to say that Education is the solution for the majority of the social problems we experience, likewise, criticism of public actions in Education. However the responsibility for the concrete actions in favor to Education and human dignity is from everybody. I always believed, due to my background, in how important Art is in the human being Education and the possibility of transformation through it. I could prove in practice, the Art power in the integral upbringing of the human being, of any social class, and also handicapped, mental disease or marginalized people for any reason. Arts besides being essential in Education, it exerts therapeutically function and inclusion, rescuing the human being dignity in all levels. In this testimony, I expose some experiences which confirm this thesis.
I was born in a family of artists, my father’s father was a jeweler and he drew the pieces himself, my mother’s father was an autodidact musician, my grandmother was an excellent drawer and poetess and my mother dedicated herself to a creative handicraft. Maybe, there comes my great passion for the Arts.
I spent my childhood studying piano and classical ballet encouraged by my parents. My mother until today keeps some of the poems she wrote and illustrated when she was very little.
My artistic Education started when I was at secondary school and studied full time at a Technical School of Communication Drawing, having the regular subjects and the specific ones. While I was there, I learned and immersed in the Art world, so that from the Art History world to the learning of techniques and materials almost nothing was new for me after that period. I started to paint and go to artists’ atelier, and since then Art and painting are part of my life.
I got into Faculdade de Belas Artes de São Paulo in Plastic Arts. Soon after I started the 1st year, I began to give drawing classes at a private school, and I got interested in teaching. For five years I was a teacher at state and municipal schools in the outskirts districts of São Paulo East area.
The experience I had at that time was enriching, not only in teaching, but to my experience as human being. I remember the students were so poor, they did not have shoes to go to school, so I bought them tennis shoes and flip flops. They were hungry when they arrived at school and waited anxiously for the snack time, so they could enjoy their meal. I was outraged with the acceptance posture of those children. Therefore, I used the Art classes not only with the works, which were a pleasure for them and made them feel capable of doing something in life, but also call their attention to the importance of praising themselves and not to accommodate with the things that were not good.

In performing the works, I started with familiar themes for them and as there were no resources for materials, I planned the proposals beforehand and the materials were collected by them and me. They collected colorful broken glasses to make stained glass, bottles that they ornamented with colorful candles, pieces of fabric which were transformed into panels in a collective work, so they could notice the importance of the collective, etc. What I knew was that I could never lose the goal of the Arts in developing creativity; making the class an opportunity to express feelings, without ever forgetting the social, the care and affection those children needed so much. During this period I started a work where I showed them several art works. They not only studied the painting elements, but also the styles and life of the artists, with the aim of enriching visual vocabulary and expand the tools, so they could develop creativity. This way, I made viable an artistic work that could also give access to culture.
For a period of time I taught in the evenings in schools, which had “special” classes, where they were gathered in class with a group of repeaters with serious behaving problems and learning difficulties. For me it was a challenge, which made me learn a lot not only for teaching, but as life experience. What I perceived within time is that those human beings only needed someone who cared and believed in them, and most of what they did was to call attention, claiming for a little of love. I gave them the opportunity to start speaking through art and from there a communication channel was unblocked and I had the privilege of being the mediator. The respectful relationship and bond we made is one of the best memories I take with me.
I have never stopped believing in the importance of Arts for the human being growing, because we are creative and we have the possibility of changes through it. The stagnated energies of aggressiveness which can take to violence, when facing a creative work, are canalized and dimensioned again.
When I was at the university, some friends and I formed a theater group of plays for children and on weekends we used to go to orphanages to perform the plays and we also took food and clothes we collected during the week. It was a rich and grateful experience that unfortunately lasted less than it should because of commitments and other inherent issues to a group of young people.
After graduating at Plastic Arts, I got into Pedagogy School at PUC, and after concluding it, I complemented my studies with a Psychology course, which I could not finish, but always with the intention of enriching my performance in teaching. I believe that to form people is one of the most serious tasks ever existed and to those who choose this profession is to be demanded vocation, love and a lot of study.
After these years, I started to teach at a high society private school in São Paulo, and contrary to my expectations, the students were in so great need as the ones in the periphery. The parents in the periphery were absent not only because of the necessity to work, but by lack of conscious of the importance of being near their children. As for the high class parents, they were always traveling in social events, and despite being aware of the need of their presence for the psychological equilibrium of their children, they tried to supply their absences with material things. It may seem weird, but the emotional needs of these children were the same as the periphery ones.
During this period I was the Arts Chief Department at that school, where I could live more magic than Art made me experience. So, I started to work and do research in Educational Art, work with art work reading not only in classrooms through books, as I had already done before, but also in Art museums, where we made periodical visits to exhibitions with students over 4 years old. It is of great importance the creative stimulus through images because this way the child is not going to stare at stereotyped images, which are the small houses and trees most adults repeat through all their lives, without saying how the developing of creativity and of a self expression is important in today’s world in all sectors, not only in the Arts world. During that period, I got a specialization in Art History as one more working and resource tool.
After some years in this school, I decided to resign, to dedicate myself to a Specialization in Education Art at ECA - USP with some of the best professionals in this area in the country. When I finished this course, I decided to open my own school, which was decisive for my current work.
I had students from several different private schools and after some time I started to notice that through a more individual assistance, I could understand my students fully, including the emotional. I led them proposals and worked determined artists that made them think about their own feelings and when they understood not only their capacities, but also working consciously with their difficulties in order to overcome them. I had very good feedback over the years, where hyperactive children, with attention deficit disorder, shy, etc, started as magic to change.
I got one more proof of the power of the Arts, the therapeutic Art.
In some weekends, my partner and I did workshops for street children. I remember one workshop we did with a NGO working with street children, when we had the privilege to watch and participate in the joy of intelligent and timely reviews of the children who did not have access to galleries and museums. But even though they had a refined and sensitive look to the exhibited works. The result of the works the children did, seeing and reading works of Art in an improvised gallery was amazing, proving that Art is made to everyone to have access and to benefit from it.
Unfortunately, I had to close my school, but I am sure I made a lot for many. Then, for many years, I gave classes of Contemporary Arts for groups. In these classes the students studied the life and work of an artist each week, because to understand the creation, we need to look at the creator. This group of study (the education relationship is also a change) made me feel the need to study Philosophy, what I did for two years. I studied a bit of this rich knowledge area.
After this new experience together with the conviction that Art is among so many other things curable. After some researches, I decided to specialize myself in Therapeutic Art. I started my specialization at Instituto Sedes Sapientiae. The course went beyond my expectations because I could link all academic knowledge and professional experience I developed up to now in favor of health.
After two years in the course, it was compulsory to accomplish some hours of assisted training in some institution where one rendered community service. I decided for AACD because I have already taken part in a seminar at this institution, where among other things the Art therapy power to rehabilitate handicapped was broached, and I was enchanted and curious to learn about this field that also had the social aspect I liked so much. One of my professors at Sedes was responsible for rehabilitation Art at AACD, and I always admired her and her work, what also contributed for my choice.
I had to study very hard because there was an entry exam with a specific neurology content that was not of my area of knowledge.
On the day of the exam I was a bit insecure because being very sensitive, I was afraid of not being strong enough to deal with determined issues I would face in the institution. Then, I decided to arrive early on the day of the exam, sit at the reception area to observe and feel those people who were there as a way to put myself in check. I was totally certain that I could be very helpful to those children and love was more than enough to overcome any difficulty I might face. Fortunately, I passed the exam and started my one year training, where I had to choose a theme inside the institution to do my research, study with the residents, take part in scientific meetings, prove my thesis to the people inside there and learn not only enough to write, but also to publish my scientific research.
I opted for doing my research with inpatients with Meningocele, because it is an unknown disease for many people, and because I took a fancy to a patient to whom I am eternally grateful for the change and opportunity of feeling how special these children are.
Menigoncele is a defect of the neural tube (DFTN), this is, a complex malformation of the neural tube, wherein there is a failure in the fusion of the posterior elements of some vertebrae, causing incomplete closure of the embryonic neural tube results in an incompletely formed spinal cord. The congenital defect occurs between the third and fifth weeks of intrauterine life and is not always diagnosed during pregnancy.
At birth, the child presents several deficiencies that can compromise several organs and systems. The medullar dysplasia causes a motor-sensitive paralysis, which can affect the legs, the bladder and the intestines. Associated malformations, such as hydrocephalus, may compromise even more the child´s functions. DFTN is a generic name to several diseases that present some distinct anatomic characteristics.
Meningocele is the most frequent form of disease in this group, corresponding to 85% of the cases. In the damage part it is possible to externally visualize a bag of variable size that is covered by a thin layer of skin of which interior are the meninges, the spinal cord and the nervous roots, all dysplasic and wrapped in cerebrospinal fluid. The bone defect is evidenced by the lack of spinous processes, slide blades and widening of the vertebral canal diameter. The skin may be accompanied by hemangiomas, areas of fibrosis and hairy tufts. The transition occurs more frequently in the thoracolumbar transition and it is rare in the cervical region.

The research was done to show how through drawings children can communicate their deepest feelings, which through words can elude us.
The possibility that children have to share their feelings and sensations through the verbal language is less than by the language of art, as these feelings are often uncertain and therefore difficult to be transformed into words. The expression through art accelerates these feelings, making them express themselves by images, colors and shapes, enabling access to the unconscious. Turning these feelings conscious, we can work them with the child. Fortunately, with this scientific research I could prove the power of communication through art. What I lived during those months, the relationship with these children and special parents, seeing a smile on the face of a child with pain, and feel that this child for a period of time was poised only in contact with his/her imaginary world. This for me was besides a proof of the art potential, a rich life experience.
At the end of this period at AACD, the only way to continue my volunteer work was to stay there, and until the present date, I work at the rehabilitation art clinic, where I assist patients with several pathologies, and at the hospital I work with children that are hospitalized in the pre and post surgery.
The surgery is a stress factor because it is one of the few occasions in which the patient has his security and well-being affected, as he is taken to the unknown. The Art Therapy for internal children is very important because we can help them to get over the trauma of this moment of pain and tension that hospitalization causes and which they normally have difficulties to express. Among these experiences and others I got convinced that Art is essential for the growing and recovering of the human dignity. Therefore, it should be adopted at schools, hospitals, prisons, shelters, public and private social entities as support factor in education, recovering, social insertion of all human beings, because the individual circumstances of each one does not diminish their dignity.

Gersony Silva was born in São Paulo.

Her Education includes:
Teaching Degree in Plastic Arts – Faculdade de Belas Artes in São Paulo
Pedagogy – PUC – SP
Art Specialization– Education – ECA USP, History of Art – MASP´s School, Specialization in Art Therapy – Sedes Sapientiae and Rehabilitation Art by
AACD – São Paulo.

She has lots of experience in Art Education in schools, Art Museums and social inclusion.
25 years experience as teacher of Arts in several schools, 10 years as Art Coordinator and teacher of History of Art and Contemporary Art.
As Rehabilitation Art she worked and researched scientifically the importance of Art in children rehabilitation in the pediatric infirmary of the Hospital da Associação de Assistência à Criança Deficiente, AACD.

Currently she works with Art Therapy for children and adolescents, rehabilitation Art for handicapped children and also acts as plastic artist taking part in several group and individual exhibitions in Brazil and abroad, working with painting, objects, installations, performance and research of new medias.

Gersony Silva