ULooking at Paulo Freire allows us to conceive education outside the classroom, beyond the configuration – which many of us know – of gray walls, high walls and guardrails. It is on this idea that the Instituto Choque Cultural's Creative School project is built. Headed by the educator Raquel Ribeiro and the couple Baixo Ribeiro and Mariana Martins, members of the Choque Cultural gallery, the initiative started in 2011 and, over these ten years, it has worked in more than 40 schools, reaching around 275 teachers and thousands of children and young people in São Paulo with actions that use urban art to rethink pedagogical activities.
“Our public school models in their physical structure still very much mirror a vision of education that Paulo Freire describes as 'banking education', which is structured as a 'production line' just like factories, with classes divided into age groups, classes in times of 50 minutes and sound signals that mark these times”, explains Raquel Ribeiro, project coordinator. However, today we already know that this is not the only option, it is possible to transform the school into a welcoming and inviting environment, a place where students and teachers feel encouraged to create and innovate. Based on this premise, the Creative School takes renowned artists from urban art to re-signify, through interventions, common areas of public schools in São Paulo.
“At Escola Criativa we understand that time, physical spaces and learning relationships at school are part of the same gear. By changing one, we impact the others”, says Raquel. Allied to artistic actions, the project also offers the school community conceptual training, which includes actions and tools that allow the transformations in school spaces to continue after the completion of the interventions. “We believe that by intervening in the physical space of the school with art, we offer support to the teacher so that he can change his practice and with that we also contribute to breaking this model of school organization that many educators and critics of education have already evaluated as outdated.”
In the opinion of the organizers, urban art comes as a very relevant path towards this goal. “It is a language that serves this conversation and integration between aesthetics and architecture, it talks to spaces.” For Raquel, by bringing art in a lively and integrated way to the daily life of the school community, it becomes possible to understand that art and creativity are not limited to a single discipline, but are part of other processes of decision, creation and resolution of problems in our life. “Developing creative thinking is among one of the main skills to be developed in contemporary education, because today we are training students for professions that have not yet been created and social realities that we cannot yet foresee”, she explains.
With the pandemic, a new question reiterated the importance of the project: after months of isolation, how to reintroduce children to the school space? The need to make the environment inviting and rethink educational practices in this pandemic and post-pandemic moment has become even more noticeable. This July, Escola Criativa is working at the Brigadeiro Faria Lima State School (EE) and will then begin its action at the Gabriel Prestes Municipal School of Early Childhood Education (EMEI) and Caetano de Campos EE, with interventions by Coletivo Cicloartivo and by the artists Gitahy, Jota, Presto and Tec.
In these cases, however, some dynamics proposed by the Choque Cultural Institute had to be changed. The organizers explain that before the pandemic, artistic interventions were carried out in large collective efforts, involving students, educators, parents and the entire school community; Currently, the paintings are made only with the artists and the records of this process are shared with the school community in a virtual cultural soiree. Meetings with teachers, to understand the needs of schools, also started to happen remotely.
The initiative is one of the action fronts of the Choque Cultural Institute, together with the Ponte projects – an initiative that promotes exchanges and development of local artistic scenes – and Networks – which acts as an interface between civil society, the private sector and the public power in name of a more democratic urbanism linked to culture.