AgitArte: What is your creative background, both in education and through other means of developing your artistic practice(s)?
Dey: Before Architecture School, I studied Humanities in the University of Puerto Rico. By that time, a major in Fine Arts through a humanistic lens meant that we were exposed to different disciplines and media such as language, literature, philosophy, history, graphic design, sculpture, painting, etc. Later, that led me to explore the University of Artes Plásticas in Old San Juan as “estudiante libre.”
Soon after that I decided to go back to school, this time embracing architecture as the discipline that changed my worldview particularly in regards to art in a social context. Architecture as a social practice, as community endeavor, as a cultural object, as a way of interpreting body and space, sound and dimension was my first love. While in graduate school, I team-taught in undergraduate settings with two mentors, mostly in architectural theory and community design studios.
In January 2012, I joined the Puerto Rican Diaspora searching for work opportunities as the political and economical situation back home remained uncertain. The experience as an educator/facilitator of processes opened new doors for me and I ended up in K-8th grade classrooms in Boston. I have experienced the power of the creative process as a teaching artist. As a facilitator, I focus on various disciplines: Spanish through the Arts, theater/puppet-making, woodworking, etc. Issues of race, identity, language, and community are fundamental to my work.
AgitArte: What do you feel you’ve gained as an artist through your work with AgitArte? And in this same light, what do you feel have been your greatest contributions to AgitArte?
Dey: I’ve had the opportunity to simultaneously learn and lead as a co-designer and facilitator of art builds and cultural workshops designed to be intersectionality and intergenerationally inclusive of the communities that AgitArte is called into. I’ve brought my architectural background focusing in design as problem solving, visioning and understanding of the tridimensional to every opportunity we have to engage in the new. I also think that resilience is a trait that I carry throughout my blood. But improvisation is a skill that definitely street performance has sharpened.
As a resident artist with AgitArte, I directed and curated the art of the book, When We Fight, We Win!, co-authored with Greg Jobin-Leeds. My intention was to both introduce the readership to visionary artists who are accountable to their community and to acknowledge the labor that goes into culture-making. I centered artists of color, particularly those representing the most marginalized communities, who are at the front lines of these movements and often go unnoticed. I specifically selected the artists committed to lifting up these counter-narratives in their communities in ways that proved transformative. In the creation of the book, my contribution was insight and rigorous research, and I gained in relationships and a broader perspective of movement building through culture.
The book tour was definitely a highlight in the process of building and strengthening relationships for collaborative work we are now building with other organizations, like Southerners on New Ground (SONG) and artists. Our relationship with SONG has given life to new projects and collaborations, such as the Issue of The Change Agent featuring When We Fight, We Win! and the development of Cantastorias for SONG’s community organizing work.
Throughout my more than eight years with AgitArte | Papel Machete, I’ve been able to grow as a cultural worker and performer. Cultural work is a beautiful dance with the uncomfortable. Our work not only supports campaign organizing work and actions, but imagines new narratives and language in which we can see ourselves as creators of our futures. But it also digs the dirt for truth…In the process we raise the main political issues, contradictions and limitations of our society. Critique is essential to develop a collective consciousness to counter hegemonic discourses. We thrive on love, as we recognize this work is for the long haul, we nurture the relationships we forge through our cultural organizing work.