the importance of art education to form a better society

Soledad Ortiz de Zevallos is a circus artist and trapeze artist trained in Peru and Belgium who also teaches art courses to elementary school children in a school at Lima. In this exclusive interview for 3Love, we talk about the main learnings that she obtained in her training and her artistic career, about the importance of art education in the context of school, the skills that art allows children to develop and the need to cultivate art in times of crisis and a pandemic.


You have been trained as a circus artist at the La Tarumba circus in Peru and also at the Circus Arts College in Belgium. Tell us how you transformed that passion into a profession.


It happened almost naturally. When I was 3 or 4 years old, I already mentioned the circus in my games and told my parents that I wanted to be a circus artist. When I was almost 7 years old, they put me into the La Tarumba workshops and I kept falling in love with the circus, until at age 15 La Tarumba had a pilot project for a Professional School and they invited me to be part of the first class. It helped me a lot, every day of the week I went to train and I continued with the idea of ​​making that my profession, I finished school, I applied to that school in Brussels and I stayed there studying.


What caught your attention about the different courses that you were able to take at the Brussels school and that trained you in an integral way as an artist?


It is a plural and comprehensive training and that is what I wanted to do, to get into a school that would give me the possibility to think not only of the profession of the circus artist as someone who does incredible tricks, but also a creator, someone who thinks about his art, someone who is all the time investigating and at the same time thinking about his role as an artist. It is a school that has many hours of technique, but we also had classes in circus history, art history, theater and dance that open your mind to the fact that the circus precisely gives you the possibility of lending yourself to other arts.


In your work as a trapeze artist, you have been on tour in different countries in Europe and also in Peru. What feedback did you use to get from the kids who watched your shows?


I did a lot of street shows in Europe. In Peru I did tent shows with La Tarumba and lately more personal circus projects in theaters and closed spaces. They are very different spaces. I have done shows specifically for children and you feel like a rock star, because the children’s audience is uninhibited, they have no need to look good with the one next to them; then they live, feel, express themselves, they are honest. Children have that cute look that is very rich.


You are currently a teacher at the Aleph school in Peru. How is the experience of teaching art to children?


Since I was 15 years old, I have been a teacher as well as an artist and for me, that is something that I conceive as part of the artist’s profession, I think in Latin America, due to the more complicated conditions of being artists, those who act, teach. Teaching others also teaches you in your role as an artist and in your individual learning role. When I arrived at the Aleph school, I came from that previous experience and I started dictating circus classes. Little by little I was entering more into the logic of the school, which gives any artistic course or class the possibility to get beyond technique or in this case to teach only circus, suddenly I heard what was being done in tutoring and I said: “At the circus you can think about the concept of balance.” It is the first time that I have taught children from a perspective much more of an artist and it is much more enriching because I am telling the children: “What we are doing is an artistic creation.”


You also teach courses that are related to an approach in Art History.


At Aleph School we have something called Deepening, which are theoretical research projects and, in general, they correspond to a course, in my case it is Art History and the title I chose is Arts in Pandemic. The students are boys and girls who are between 10 and 11 years old. It has been a challenge because it is an age when they are still children, but they already have the ability and the possibility to be very refined with their way of looking at the world. I think the goal is to make them sensitive to art. I deeply believe as an artist that as long as there are more artists or people who like art, who consume art, who explore all things artistic, we would be a better society. I believe that art transforms, helps us to be better human beings, to see and observe ourselves in a different way; art goes directly to emotions. So my goal is for these children to be curious. I think that the artistic is closely linked to being curious about what surrounds you, what the reality around you is like, seeing different things, expanding your panorama.


What are the main benefits of arts education in the training of children at school?


A school that includes art in its curriculum gives the child the possibility to train his curiosity, to spend all the time looking, listening, trying things that later just serve to pay more attention to other classes. Something that the school where I work does is that the different classes can connect to each other. If, for example, in physics class you are looking at the weight, the shapes or the balance of certain objects, why not take them to the circus space and really try it, with your body? I believe that art in education allows you to do and understand by doing. It is very important to listen to the teacher, but it is also important to try your body and your voice, it is important to use more senses. I believe that art is being attentive to all your senses.


What personal skills and abilities does art allow children to develop?


For example, teamwork, knowing how to listen to others, knowing how to solve things in a group is something that is very important in the circus and in art in general. I’m going to give you a metaphor from the world of the circus. In acrobatics we have two fundamental roles: the one who carries someone and the one who is carried. And I love to think that this is life learning. And the children play to carry each other, to make the other trust you and then to change roles: not always to be up, to be able to be down and to be able to support someone. Those are lessons that humble you, that make you see that you have to solve things from different roles. Then individually you also develop confidence in yourself, to overcome your fears. You do not know the amount of learning for life that transversally occurs in a circus class, it teaches you discipline and perseverance.


How do you think art contributes to uniting humanity in a pandemic context where people have been at home and public performances have been interrupted?


Because one channels many frustrations and feelings of fear and uncertainty. When we have all been locked up at home, we have consumed much more art, suddenly we have rediscovered a good list of music or a good book, etc. Art for me is necessary for the human being, so it is always good in times of crisis. And that is precisely why I believe that we must fight for art to be considered an essential profession. Art improves the planet. I feel that the good thing in all this is that we are going to revalue the public space in the artistic aspect. When you see something with people you don’t know around you, you have a bond that is created in that moment. That is the magic of the performing arts, connecting hundreds of people who are together in that same space, clapping and feeling a vibration. In your house, alone on your computer, obviously you don’t have that. And when the pandemic ends, it is important that, with all the protocols, we go back to that because now we are very alone and we are afraid of the others, so we need to feel that we are a community again. In that sense, I think art unites.


By: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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