The Journey to Global Community Arts Making
JULY 20, 2017
By Parul Pandya
Dana Prieto is an Argentine born and raised community-engaged artist who approaches her work with curiosity, critical thinking and passion. Now based out of Canada’s leading arts city, Toronto, and with several successful global projects under her belt, we learn about what inspires her artistic expressions and processes.
Dana has completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts from OCAD University. However her entrepreneurial spirit emerged back in Buenos Aires, where she studied education and ceramic arts. “There are tons of reasons why I have chosen to stay in Toronto to develop my educational and artistic career, but above any rationalism, I actually came here because of love.” It was 5 years ago she met her Iranian-Canadian husband who is based in Toronto.
"Whenever I am conceiving a project that will engage others in its development, I need to thoroughly develop and have a clear view of my goals before presenting them to the community."
While she re-routed to Toronto for personal fulfillment, Dana made several commitments to herself: finishing her studies, professionalizing her arts practice and learning and working with a variety of communities across Toronto.“In my experience, whenever I am conceiving a project that will engage others in its development, I need to thoroughly develop and have a clear view of my goals before presenting them to the community.” She explains that by firstly acknowledging who the community is made up of and understanding their needs, she is better able to connect the context of what she is offering to them, and motivate them to partake in the artistic experience.
Dana has participated in several award-winning collaborative projects within diverse communities in Toronto, Halifax, Buenos Aires, Rawson, Quito and Belize. When asked about how she measures the success of a project she reveals the insight, “successes don’t say much about the project’s repercussion in the involved communities. So a project can be perfectly successful from the point of view of the artist, but it can be perfectly disappointing for the people involved in it.”
Using an equity-based approach in her artmaking requires patience, she reveals, and sometimes a project's success can brew very slowly and in unexpected ways. After she is able to step back from her projects, process them, discuss them, critique them and actualize them with others, she is able to truly gauge the impact of the project with a particular community. “I am receptive and flexible towards my work and I am always eager to discuss a project with anyone involved in it. I take the audiences and communities’ critical responses very seriously and they have frequently sparked important changes in my practice.”
When describing the key elements that she incorporates to her participatory-based art experiences, Dana says that she finds fascination in ordinary materials like dirty rags and candy wrappers. For her these everyday materials “unfold alternative perspectives on intimate and collective histories,” and “often times disrupting their efficacy by transforming their physical or symbolic contexts” is what drives her in her work. She describes that her installation work creates a sense of strangeness that arouses both oddity and familiarity within the artistc experience.
“As a recent immigrant, everything I see, think or do is somehow processed through my roots, either as beliefs, relationships, traditions, rituals and ways of being.”
“I am most interested in art that seeks ways to build dialogical or reciprocal encounters with different communities, involving them/us in a potential dialogue with the work, its context, subjects and ideas, or even with the artist or art itself.”
Exploring female identity, cultural roots and migration are central themes in her work. She explains that what attracts to these explorations are accessing and discussing critical responses to personal and socio-political issues around belonging, gender and power. “As a recent immigrant, everything I see, think or do is somehow processed through my roots, either as beliefs, relationships, traditions, rituals and ways of being.”
“I am constantly spurred by the powerful, beautiful and vital energy, work, struggle and life choices of most womyn, in particular immigrant, refugee, Indigenous women and women of colour.”
Currently Dana is working on a solo show for Cambridge, Ontario’s Idea Exchange Preston Gallery which will be exhibited in September - October of 2017 and developing a new series of work that will involve immigrant and newcomer artists from the area.
When she is asked for one piece of key advice for success for emerging community artists she replies that it’s critical to stay rooted in the initial ideas, motivations and feelings that provoked you to pursue that path. “Always keep in mind that success can come in astoundingly diverse shapes, colours and even time periods.”
Learn more about Dana Prieto and her work by visiting: http://www.danaprieto.com