Over the next few weeks, SVA will be highlighting some of the many outstanding projects from the 2021 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Today’s featured thesis project is MFA Fine Arts student Carolina Paz’s Escola Aqui (from Portuguese, meaning “School Here”), an education-and-art space created to be nomadic and replicable, with collaborative and critical learning experiences at its core. A Brazilian artist and educator currently living in New York, Paz is also the director and founder of Uncool Artist, an independent school that's oriented to collaborative processes and offers 100% online educational programs.
Tell us about your project. What inspired the idea?
My art project is a school. A utopic school, maybe, that can be established anywhere by anyone. My journey as an educator inspires me. Escola Aqui is an itinerant collaborative learning space I created in 2019, right after starting at the SVA MFA Fine Arts program. It hosts text-based workshops dedicated to collaborative study and discussion on subjects proposed by its facilitator and considered culturally relevant to its guests, thus providing the exchange between cultural and individual identities.
In-person or online, Escola Aqui learning experiences must be accessible and happening anywhere, regardless of academic environments. The context where it is activated is fundamental, and the use of the expression” “aqui” (here) is a way to emphasize this situational and fluid notion. Facilitators can be anyone who wants to apply and adapt the Escola Aqui model. The starting point of each session is the invitation to participants to attend the gathering.
The idea was inspired in my practice as an educator and also by educators like Brazil's Paulo Freire, author bell hooks, and artists like Pablo Helguera, Tania Bruguera, Joseph Beuys works, among others.
What most surprised you once you started working on the project?
To see its potency as a political gesture. It’s gratifying to see how empowering it is for its participants (myself included). Mainly it was nice to bring Brazilian women living in New York to weekly workshop sessions in my studio (before COVID). Together we kind took over the 8th floor with the sound of our voices, laughs and paçocas [Brazilian peanut candy].
What was the highlight of living and studying in New York City?
As a New York new resident, studying was a way to get faster and deeper into the city’s and this country’s bloodstream. During my time at SVA, the highlight, the most recent at least, was to participate in the “White Cube” class with Mark Tribe. After the pandemic was more than extraordinary to visit museums, independent spaces, and galleries—even with all the rules to keep everyone safe, it was amazing to be close to some of my classmates, touring in this fantastic city.
What is something you learned at SVA that you’ll always take with you?
Many things and hyper-important ones. The most precious are the people I meet. I learned so much about different cultures; I made new friends, I discovered a lot about the U.S. art and academic context and its operation. Can I take everything I learned here with me, please?
Was there a teacher or course that was essential for you?
Miguel Luciano’s Socially Engaged Art seminar opened up my repertoire to connect to my practice. James Siena’s and David Row’s crit classes were so special. I have their comments on my works on my studio’s wall so I can remember some keywords. Also, William Powhida’s studio visits gave me so many incredible ideas that left me with things to do for a long time after graduating.
What was your favorite piece of advice that a teacher or student shared with you?
It was a question: “How to frame your project as a question?”
What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?
Enjoy and respect all the people around you. Everyone is special.
For this year’s SVA Alumni Scholarship Awards, 59 students were chosen from a pool of hundreds of applicants. They were granted scholarships worth more than $40,000 for projects as varied as design products, animation, painting, and photography. For more information about the Alumni Scholarship Awards and to see a complete list of last year’s recipients, click here. To Support the Talent this year, you can donate online at sva.edu/give.