America to Americas exhibit
January 02, 2019

Join in Discussion “From America to Americas”

Photographers, curator to discuss their art exhibit at PA that explores relations between the US and South America.
by Jenny Barker

The Tang Institute will kick off 2019 with a Lunch & Discussion in the Gelb Gallery (please note this special location) on Wednesday, January 9, from 1 to 2 p.m., on the art exhibit, From America to Americas. The discussion will be led by Milena Costa de Souza and Pedro Vieira, the photographers who created the works of art, and Stephanie Sparling Williams, assistant curator at the Addison Gallery of American Art and visiting scholar in art history at Phillips Academy Andover. They will discuss the creative process, share strategies and resources for teaching with the exhibition images, highlight the cross-departmental collaboration that led to the acquisition of the work for use by faculty for semesters to come, and engage the audience in an interactive conversation. RSVP to [email protected].

Exploring the Exhibit

Inspired by their time traveling and working in the United States, Costa de Souza and Vieira have created several projects that explore relations between the United States and South American countries and their personal relationships to identity.

"As Brazilians living in New England we were read as Latinx, and this intrigued us since it was not an identity that we identified with up to that point," they wrote.

Drawn from the series From America to Americas, the photographs assembled in Andover's collection in the Gelb Gallery are the result of a 2005 road trip the artists took from Massachusetts to their home in Curitiba, Brazil. During the course of six months, the duo visited 13 countries, documenting the landscape, culture, people, and political struggles of the various national environments they traversed. Costa de Souza and Vieira said they started asking questions about how places and experiences shape identities and how other people perceive each other during cultural interactions. They also asked questions about Latin America: Was it a culture, a place, a concept?

"These questions are what inspired us—after a year in the US—to take a road trip across the Americas. In the years that followed that first trip we kept going back to different Latin American countries, adding images to From America to Americas, but also creating more specific projects. America and Latin America are central ideas, poetics that inform our creative process."

Interdisciplinary Learning through Art

Since its opening in November, the exhibition has served as a space for several of Andover’s Spanish, English, history, and art classes to meet, providing students and faculty with a range of teaching and learning experiences—both self-guided and with the artists themselves.

“The exhibit has allowed students to further explore the themes of American identity and borders, both physical and abstract," said Jennifer Quijas, an English teaching fellow at PA. "At the start of winter term in English 200, we read and discussed poetry with a focus on the following questions: What does it mean to be American? How does physical location affect identity? How do geographical borders or a duality in the self affect identity? The exhibit provided another medium to help students think deeply about these questions and inspired an assignment in which students were asked to take a photograph on Andover’s campus that they felt explored these themes and/or questions and present it to the class.”

Last fall Phillips Academy Art Department also hosted on campus the Independent Schools Art Instructors Association’s (ISAIA) annual conference, and From America to Americas served as a critical centerpiece to the day’s program. During one of the events held on December 1, independent school educators and administrators from across the region came together in the Gelb Gallery to consider the exhibit’s content and the opportunities it has provided for collaborative teaching models, particularly for art departments as they consider innovative ways to support interdisciplinary work.

Sparling Williams said that a highlight of the conference was the opportunity to engage with art colleagues from different schools. She cited, in particular, a conversation with a local art museum director who was inspired to think about this project at Andover as a model for how faculty members from across his own campus might gather around an exhibition theme or set of art objects. Currently Sparling Williams is working on developing a teaching resource that will be previewed during the January 9 Tang Institute Lunch & Discussion. This resource will be made available online (following the event) for teachers at Andover and other schools interested in leading interdisciplinary discussions inspired by the exhibition’s imagery.

“I was interested in bringing this exhibition to Andover for two reasons,” said Sparling Williams, who curated and acquired the photographs for Phillips Academy and has plans to support teachers in using the work long term through the production of interdisciplinary teaching aids. “First, I wanted to respond to the current border crisis in our country and provide a platform—the art objects—that faculty across disciplines might use as they engage with students in these urgent themes and debates. Second, and responding to input from several colleagues, I wanted to expand the available imagery on campus addressing Latinx identity and culture.”

Come Visit

The exhibit is free and open to the public during Academy business hours and on view until January 23. From America to Americas is supported by a number of partners at Phillips Academy, including the Art Department, BRACE Center for Gender Studies, Tang Institute, Dean of Studies Office, the Assistant Head of School for Equity and Inclusion, and Addison Gallery of American Art.

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