The human longing to experience a rightful sense of place is deep and powerful. Without a true experience of belonging, we can feel homeless; unable to connect; and unable to blossom into the full expression of our lives. This is a great loss, personally and to our community. This understanding is central to many of our Academy programs, providing a natural home to the El Otro Lado Project.
Aaron Stern Founder/Director Academy for the Love of Learning
Beginning in Fall of 2009, artist Chrissie Orr together with writer Michelle Otero and a diverse team of artists started the process of presenting the workshops to new immigrant communities at El Centro, the Native American students and families at the Native American Community Academy, and traditional Hispanic and as well as the general public at senior and community centers.
The intergenerational, cross-cultural participants* in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe actively create symbolic maps/cartograms, visual representations and audio recordings of their stories, their journeys, their landmarks, their boundaries and their sense of place and home.
The Santa Fe Project culminated with an outdoor public art installation of participants’ compositions in the summer of 2009, that was displayed at locations throughout the entire city — parks, City Hall, community centers and libraries.
El Otro Lado provides the opportunity for a community-wide activation of the perennial and profound inquiry into, “Who am I?” The project inspires community members to keep alive their flame of creativity in an exploration of self and personal journey, through the mediums of artwork and story-telling, and as such is part of the Academy for the Love of Learning’s larger intent to activate a culture of learning through which new forms of education, leadership and organizational practice emerge and thrive.
* In Santa Fe, members of various national, ethnic and cultural groups in Santa Fe participated in this project. Among them were North American, Caribbean, South American, European, Native American, Asian, and Middle Eastern individuals. As part of their particular expression in this journey, with El Otro Lado, some participants chose to keep their journals private due to the depth and sensitivity of their story. In Albuquerque, the El Otro Lado project is focusing on Native American, new immigrant and traditional Hispanic communities.
Public Art Installation in Santa Fe June—October 2009
The installation art documenting participants’ stories was displayed in eleven public places around Santa Fe in groups of 2 or 3. The images, printed on 4’ x 6’ weatherproof aluminum panels, were held upright and in place by an independently standing, and beautifully constructed, steel frame.
The installations came down from the city sites in October 2009. They are currently on display at the Santa Fe Community College, but will move to their permanent home at the Academy’s new educational center just outside Santa Fe in Seton Village.
In the winter of 2008 El Otro Lado workshops began at Tierra Encantada Charter School in Santa Fe. Workshops continued once a week and then became part of the school curriculum. Some of the students were involved for more than a year. Their images and stories were displayed in city buses and in the public art installation.
This summer intensive was designed to give youth an in depth experience in the arts. Workshops were held every Saturday during the summer of 2008. Students were encouraged to share their stories through a variety of media and were given instruction in Adobe Photoshop, audio recording, drawing painting and mosaic. Their work was displayed on the city buses, at the Santa Fe Art Institute, and in the public art installation.
Images and stories can be seen and heard on the City of Santa Fe buses and on the outside of the Santa Fe Art Institute building. The images were developed by a group of students who were part of the 2008 Summer Intensive.
The women and children’s group was formed in the spring of 2008 in response to the fact that women with young children have a hard time meeting new friends and connecting with the community. We have held workshops for the women and their children at Adelante, the South Side Library and at each other’s houses. The work for this group had been shown as part of the Outsider exhibition at the Santa Fe Art Institute is part of the public art installation.
“As an art historian and a member of Santa Fe's Art in Public Places advisory committee, I am very pleased to endorse the project, El Otro Lado. I look forward to its placement within our community, as I find that it addresses some of our misguided beliefs about who truly "belongs" here and who might not, including undocumented workers and newly arrived residents. Orr's work is thoughtful, inspiring, and aesthetically arresting: perfect for a public installation.”
~ Kathryn Davis, Art Historian
Al otro lado, Al otro lado de la separación está la unidad. Al otro lado del temor está la hermandad. Al otro lado del prejuicio está la libertad. Al otro lado del egoísmo y la avaricia está la abundancia del saberse dar. Si Dios ha creado ya todo cuanto Se puede necesitar, lo único que Nos toca es ir al otro lado Donde la igualdad trae justicia y paz. Las manos abiertas todo lo pueden lograr. Al otro lado estás tú, mi hermana, Mi hermano, porque tú y yo Formamos también la humanidad.
At the other side, At the other side of separation there is unity, At the other side of fear there is fraternity At the other side of prejudice there is freedom. At the other side of egotism there is the abundance of giving and sharing If God had created every thing that we need the only thing that we need to do is To bring justice and peace and equality. What we need is to have our hands open so that we can do and achieve any thing that we want to achieve. Because at the other side there is you, my sister, my brother, Because you and I together we form the humanity.
~ Sister Silvia Gómez
“Being part of this project created the opportunity for me to look at my physical, emotional and spiritual origins with a non critical eye. It inspired me to start working on a project to write my autobiography to share with my family and friends. And finally it reminded me that Fronteras or Borders are just a figment of our imagination. Our connection with Life and one another run way deeper than a simple border.”
~ Carlos Mora
“Blessings to you and I pray for the success of your project”
~ Sister Silvia Gómez
"Working on the El Otro Lado project has been a unique experience as well as a great opportunity for me. Though I have spent a large part of my life here in Santa Fe, it was only through this project that I fully realized how much of a melting pot this city has become. Through recording and editing people’s migration stories I have become highly aware of the people who live here and their journeys. Editing these recordings has been an intimate process. I found there are many similarities and themes that run through people’s journeys and migration’s yet each story is as unique as the individuals themselves. I think in Santa Fe we often think of the immigrant community as just being comprised of Mexican and Latin American’s. Yet through this project we have worked with individuals from almost every continent in the world. I hope that this project will open eyes to the richness of cultures and nationalities that surround us every day here in Santa Fe and how lucky we are to have that aspect in our community. I also hope it will make us all reflect on the significance and importance of our own journeys in life. These experiences should unite us instead of being divisive. Viva El Otro Lado!"
~ Pablo Ancona
Aqueduct of Morelia, city of my birth Where have you sent the sweat of my people, the confusion of my mind, the heart within which I lived the first years of my life? The years in which the soul grows it’s root of feeling.
Aqueduct my tears fall unto thee. You are only a bridge taking the feelings of your peoples. Yet there is blood, which binds your stones. Foreigners whose blood is also in me, peoples who once left their hearts, in another country. I fly now escaping my roots, to another place where I will see a new reflection. A girl without her Daddy, a girl with a new heart Seeing a new reason to mix what is in her blood. The great combination of culture, language, tradition. Learning the hearts of another generation. My aqueduct, my bridge, you carry the past, the future and the present.
Tears, smiles, memories of ashes. Aqueduct of Morelia. Aqueduct without borders what is not possible sent in you.
~ Lys Verduzco
“Chrissie Orr's collaborative project El Otro Lado is a model of socially engaged art, unique in Santa Fe. It deals with pressing issues and does so in a way that is accessible and non-invasive, provoking those whose lives are different to empathize and, hopefully, act.”
~ Lucy Lippard, Art Critic
“I made the journey to the other side twenty years ago with a resident alien card, three suitcases full of books, some clothes and a few strange mementos. I became a foreigner by choice. I still do not call this place home. It has been an experience that has cut away and reshaped my life in ways I would have never imagined. It is out of this experience and an inherent curiosity as to the stories of others that the essence of El Otro Lado has emerged.
The inspiration has come from the numerous participants who have courageously opened up their lives to me, by sharing their brutally honest stories. The initial vision has been shaped by this dynamic alliance; I had the vision, developed a story line and the voices began to flow.
El Otro Lado has been one for the most challenging, poignant and rewarding projects that I have ever worked on in my 30 years of working as an artist in communities. It has taken me on my own new journey, expanded my story, and has exposed me to the vibrant other side of Santa Fe.”