FUTURES/forward Mentorships: Featuring Andrea Vela Alarcón
FUTURES/forward Mentee, Andrea Vela Alarcón — cohort #4, November 2021 to May 2022 — mentored by Flick Harrison
As part of the triad model, Andrea was placed as an artist-in-residence at Sierra Club BC.
Community-engaged arts project co-created with Sierra Club BC: Re-storying our relations with the natural world.
ANDREA VELA ALARCÓN (she/her/ella) is a brown settler in Tkaronto. She is from the Abya Yala rainforest territory, currently known as the Peruvian Amazon. Andrea is a community educator rooting her practice in anti-colonial approaches and feminist care ethics to facilitate spaces of critical conversations on ecological survival. She has been working with communities for over ten years, using popular education and cultural production, particularly visual media and storytelling. Through her work, Andrea collaborates with communities in the crafting of stories that centre refusal and resistance to the extractive logic of extractive capitalism. Recognizing the often emotional and physical tax of environmental justice work, her creative encounters and workshops prioritize moments of joy, play, and care.
A practice for re-storying
The mentorship has allowed me to practice previous strategies that were a bit rusty and to engage with new types of generative soils. The past six months have contributed to strengthen and expand my creative and pedagogical foundations, which is now encouraging me to explore what other skills I need to create critical and reciprocal spaces/forms of gathering. my foundations feel renewed and with the energy to establish bridges with others.
My mentor, Flick Harrison, extended a supportive relationship to bounce ideas and strategies to deal with the administrative process of community-engaged projects. It was very useful to know I wasn’t by myself, that in case of need there was a person who would guide me through the challenges.
I collaborated with Sierra Club BC and was privileged to work with Kqwa’st’not Charlene George, Flossie Baker, Haya Aldoori, and Ascher Goodman. They all taught me much about collaboration and boundary making. Kqwa’st’not was a great influence for the workshop design and was as a second mentor during the process.
“Re-storying our relations with the natural world,” was a 5 session workshop where 14 selected participants engaged with writing and drawing exercises to: (1) reflect on the ways we have storied our belonging; and (2) re-imagine narratives that encourage reciprocal relationships with the natural world and those who inhabit it. The project drew from a feminist ethics of care that encouraged community making, generative conversation, and reciprocal exchanges. The participants’ work was gathered in a collective online publication.
I was really looking forward to challenging myself to nurture spaces for community, to practice an anti-racist ethics of care in every stage of the project. Though there is much to improve, I was able to set in motion protocols of transparency, accessibility, and accountability during different stages of the workshop. My practice has grown in confidence to deal with the tensions of doing community-engaged facilitation, to understand how to intervene when conflicting perspectives clash.
I have been able to develop, in collaboration, a series of workshops that are easy to adapt to multiple contexts and audiences. The past six months have given me a glimpse of the different strategies I can incorporate in my facilitation practice and the different scenarios in which I can carry out my work. Overall, this experience has been a great practice of individual and collective hope to keep engaging critically with environmental justice.
We wish to thank Sierra Club BC for this collaboration and hosting Andrea Vela Alarcón’s amazing artist-in-residency! FUTURES/forward gratefully acknowledges that Andrea’s mentorship thrived due in part to the generous support of the BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and Judith Marcuse Projects.