art of the week : Christ Faltis

Posted on September 7, 2010

In this painting, I present an image of an adolescent, who with a book on his desk has his head down. The wall behind him depicts one of many obstacles he faces in a high school where access to English is limited, where access to academic content is denied, and where he and his classmates are essentially closed off from participating fully in school life. The letter on the border fence says in Spanish: Me llamo Jorge. Hablo español pero todo está en inglés y por eso no puedo participar y no entiendo lo que trato de leer. [My name is Jorge. I speak Spanish but everything here is in English and because of that I can’t participate and I don’t understand what I try to read.] With this image, I was able bring in several issues that contribute to hyper-segregation (separate buildings, no use of Spanish for teaching or learning, separate curriculum, leveling (tracking) by English proficiency, etc.) and simultaneously suggest, as have many in the scholarly literature (e.g., Gándara & Contreras, 2010; Valenzuela, 1999), that the consequences of these policies are that many students like Jorge in this painting leave school before graduating.  

The art community has been in the front lines, responding vehemently against new Arizona policies that ban ethnic studies in schools and seek to fire ESL teachers who speak accented English. Facebook websites such as Poets Responding to SB 1070 and Artists against SB 1070 provide a refreshing voice of solidarity and protest against restrictive policies that many academics and artists view as directed particularly at Mexican immigrant families regardless of their immigration status. On these websites are posted artwork and poetry that speak deeply to the human side of what happens in a political system where laws that are blatantly anti-Mexican can be enacted. I encourage readers to visit these websites and add their artistic voices and expression to the flourishing grand counter-narrative that declares ¡basta ya! [enough already!] to the policies currently being enacted in Arizona, and which may spread to your state or region as well.  

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