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A Ridgewood Artist Is Selling Social Justice In A Box — Arts & Culture on Bushwick Daily

A Ridgewood Artist Is Selling Social Justice In A Box

Targeting kids north of kindergarten, Alva Calymayor puts together coloring books, playing cards and art boxes to teach children about social justice

Vanessa Hock

vanessa@vanessahock.com

“It’s built on frustration,” says Alva Calymayor, a Ridgewood-based performance artist tells Bushwick Daily. “A lot of classes say: ‘Let’s do landscapes that look exactly the same, putting the sun in the same corner.’” 

Calymayor, who became a mother in 2016, said she felt disappointed to find that most popular children’s art curriculums were standardized and used replica crafts. Her own multidisciplinary work is a response to her surroundings, so it felt natural to turn to storytelling, acting, and bookmaking to create a curriculum of her own and called it Art Experimentos.

The mission of Art Experimentos is to develop experiences for children that turn decision making into experimental art theories. Calymayor’s classes focus on projects that help to build fine motor skills and encourage creative exploration. One class utilized dance performances to represent the life cycle of a butterfly while another explored memory preservation in a time capsule creation workshop.

Studying from books can be unmemorable, Calymayor says, so she designed an ever-expanding deck of cards she calls Art Cards for Art Experimentos. Each card has a picture of artwork or art term, a photo of the artist, and the title of the work in Spanish and English. 

Calymayor, a Mexico City-native, says that as part of her work, she needs to be anchored to her community. During the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, Calymayor created coloring books to teach children about community and social justice because she says,“reading or knowing about it is not enough."

Calymayor, a Ridgewood-based performance artist (above) said that studying from books can be unmemorable, Calymayor says, so she designed an ever-expanding deck of cards (below)

Sales of one of the books, titled “Drawings for Justice and Peace,” goes toward the Brooklyn Bail Fund. As part of a fundraiser for Azikiwe Mohammed’s tuition-free school Black Painters Academy, she compiled a coloring book called “Drawings for Black Painters Academy”.

"I wanted children to know that they could be able to do something at their age to contribute in addition to attending a protest, but also knowing that a little action like drawing can help."

The pandemic halted the Art Experimentos workshops and Calymayor temporarily relocated to Ontario. Despite the distance, she still found a way to develop offline art experiences, mailing out customized art boxes she calls Art Experimentos Caja.

The art boxes, filled with materials and tools needed to follow a lesson plan, incorporate objects like pop-up cards inspired by the children’s folk singer Ella Jenkins and performances inspired by video and performance artist Joan Jonas. Calymayor is selling these for $120 a piece, including shipping, on her website

“Every time they go to school, right away they’re like ‘Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso’-all these names. The only females are maybe Georgia O'Keeffe and Frida Kahlo, but it’s only about how she looked, not really about her experience with life.”

When asked about future plans, Calymayor says that as artists ‘we have to figure it out’. She hopes to resume in-person workshops in Ridgewood and she is compiling another coloring book based on lessons from her classes, including drawings of female-inspired lessons.

“With the classes, it was also a healing process for the parents to do the classes with the kids because a lot of it involves mediation at the beginning of the class, and it’s very playful. It’s kind of like an art therapy.”


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