History of the School of Art and Open Studio in Perquin, El Salvador

By Breanna Thomas

In 2005, The School of Art was established in Perquín, El Salvador. A core group of community members felt a mandate to contribute to the reconstruction of a region that had been torn apart by 12 years of civil war in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Through the creation of art projects involving children, youth, adults, and the elderly, the teachers worked to alleviate the traumas of war. These diverse projects were always collaborative, and often involved the creation of large murals by the entire community.

Over the past decade, The School of Art has used “The Perquín Model” as it has expanded its reach into countries around the world, including Guatemala, Northern Ireland, Colombia, and many others. The School works in collaboration with human rights organizations, NGOs, universities, and local health units.

Led by artist Claudia Bernardi, the creation of “Walls of Hope” murals has facilitated community building and established bridges of diplomacy in societies suffering state terror, violations of human rights, and forced exile.

Walls of Hope

By Breanna Thomas

The mission of the School of Art in Perquín and Walls of Hope is to facilitate community-based projects that engage children, youth, and adults in the making of art that serves as a component of community-building.

These projects are created directly by participants on whom trauma, violence, and prejudice have been inflicted through political duress, state terror, wars and/or armed conflicts. The participants decide on the theme and narration of each piece with the intention of producing a visual testimony representing their recent history.

These collaborative art projects expand from creativity towards diplomacy and the demand for respect for human rights. The community art projects created via the Perquín Model focus on the challenges posed by intercommunal and societal conflicts in today’s world. The projects instill artistic skills and practical expertise in participants, in a new model of art education. The School of Art in Perquín envisions a new methodology for peace-building and transitional justice through the praxis of beauty and the tenacity of hope.

Previous Works

Compiled By Breanna Thomas

  • Antigua, Guatemala, February 2007. Mural project created by indigenous survivors of massacres of Ixcan, Ixil, Nebaj, Chimaltenango and Chajul.
  • Sacramento, California, US, October – December 2007. Mural project and video documentary created by African-American and Latino youth at inner-city Sacramento High School.
  • Guatemala City, January 2008. Mural project created by indigenous survivors of massacres in Ixcan and Quiche working collaboratively with human rights advocates members of ECAP (Equipo Comunitario de Acción Psicosocial)
  • Toronto, Canada, April -May 2008. Walls of Hope:  Installation: Sculptures, Paintings, Video, Dance, Theatre, Spoken Word created by recent refugee youth.
  • Huehuetenango, Guatemala, August 2008. Mural project created by indigenous women survivors of sexual violence during the armed conflict.
  • Cobán, Guatemala, February 2009. Paper sculpture project created by indigenous women survivors of sexual violence and sexual slavery during the armed conflict.
  • Rabinal, Guatemala, February 2009. Mural project created by indigenous survivors of torture and survivors of the massacres of Rabinal, Plan de Sánchez and Rio Negro.
  • Cocorná, Colombia, August, 2009. Mural project created with members of the Association of Victims of Violence and Forced Displacement of Cocorná, Antioquia.
  • Panzós, Guatemala, June-July 2010. Mural project created by the survivors of the massacre of Panzos, Alta Verapaz, thanks to a NALAC Transnational Cultural Remittance.
  • Belfast, Northern Ireland, September 2011. Collaborative, community-based mural project created by Catholic and Protestant children on the Ardoine Road, West Belfast, during the Ardoine riots.
  • Monthey, Switzerland, June 2012. Mural project created by 93 refugee, migrant and forced-exiled people from 25 different communities from Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe.
  • Osnabruck, Germany, September 2012. Mural project created by 15 migrant women from Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Mongolia, working in collaboration with 20 students of Social Work from the University of Osnabruck.
  • Staunton, Virginia, May 2013. Mural project created by African-American elders in collaboration with students and faculty from Mary Baldwin College.
  • Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, June 2013. Mural project created by 26 youth, ages 13 to 17, survivors of violence caused as result of the drug wars in Mexico.
  • Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, November 2013. Paper sculpture project with 28 youth affected by violence and drug wars in Mexico.
  • “The Beast”, USA, May 2014. Mural project created by undocumented, unaccompanied Central American minors, currently incarcerated in a juvenile center in the United States.
  • Ex ESMA, EX Clandestine Center of Detention and Extermination, Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 2014. Mural project created by families of the “disappeared” who were able to retrieve the human remains of their loved ones thanks to the exhumations and DNA testing performed by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team.
  • Museum of Memory, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 2014. Mural project created by relatives of victims of recent police brutality in Argentina.
  • Part II, November, 2014: Ex ESMA, EX Clandestine Center of Detention and Extermination, Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 2014. Mural project created by families of the “disappeared” who retrieved the human remains of their loved ones thanks to the AFAT.
  • Part III, November, 2014, EX ESMA. Mural project created by Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, H.I.J.O.S, Administrators and Directors of the ESMA Cultural and Human Rights Center.
  • “The Tree of Life”, USA, May 2015. Mural project created by unaccompanied undocumented incarcerated Central American minors, currently detained in a juvenile center in the United States.