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April 17, 2014

Artist, activist-in-residence uses art to enlighten society

NORMAN — La Puerta del Mileno, the Millennium Door, attempts to beckon travelers into the city walls of Ciudad Juarez, but the steel beams are abruptly interrupted as they reach for the sky by the eye of a child who sees the underlying message: the people of Ciudad Juarez are trapped in a city with a history of violence; the door does not go both ways.

This message is but one of the insightful images depicted by children of Ciudad Juarez about their community on a 32-foot canvas that was created with the help of Walls of Hope School of Art and Open Studio in Perquin.

Walls of Hope School of Art and Open Studio in Perquin, El Salvador, is an international art and human rights project created to educate and build diplomacy and community development.

Director Claudia Bernardi described her creation of and work with Walls of Hope School of Art and Open Studio in Perquin at a University of Oklahoma Latin Americanist Luncheon on Wednesday.

Four Salvadoran artists and teachers work with Bernardi at the school: America Argentina Vaquerano, Claudia Verenice Flores Escolero, Rosa del Carmen Argueta and Samuel Amilcar Varela.

Walls of Hope has expanded its art and community-based activities beyond El Salvador. One of the most relevant aspects of the School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin is the creation of art projects and developing the Perquin Model, which has traveled to Canada, the United States, Guatemala, Colombia, Ireland and Switzerland.

The Perquin Model is based on the idea that art can be replicated in areas of conflict and can exist in areas where conflict is happening, as opposed to projects in places that begin when conflict appears to be resolved, Bernardi said.

The school is embedded in the dynamics of local politics, even 20 years after war, and it relies on the community to fulfill financial needs and supplies.

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