After School Program to Cultivate “Intercultural Ambassadors” Through Art


El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera, a nonprofit arts organization based in Buffalo that targets underserved artists and communities, has launched a new iteration of its successful after school program, Educating Beyond the Borders of School. The program combines hands-on art instruction with activities that develop participating students’ interpersonal skills, and aims to promote understanding and appreciation of other people and cultures.

It is funded by a $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

“We live in an increasingly diverse society, but recent events seem to suggest that intolerance is on the rise. A lot of this comes from a lack of multicultural awareness. While we can’t reach everyone, we hope to cultivate a group of ‘intercultural ambassadors’ that can spread the message of empathy, inclusion, and dialogue,” said El Museo Executive Director, Dr. Craig Centrie.

The program, which previously ran at Riverside High School in 2013–14, takes place this school year at the International Preparatory School on Buffalo’s West Side. Thirty high school students from diverse backgrounds will meet each week for photography and creative writing classes led by teaching artists.

Drawing from philosopher and educator John Dewey’s ideas about experiential education, the classes engage students through direct experimentation with photographic and writing techniques. Focus is given to students’ active participation and honing of their personal styles. At the same time, they are encouraged to interact with and learn from each other, especially those from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds.

“The focus of Educating Beyond the Borders of School is to equip these young people not just with valuable creative skills but also a set of cultural competencies. I think art is a powerful tool and I hope they can use it to express themselves and even effect change,” added Dr. Centrie.

Throughout the coming year, students will build on their skills toward final creative projects, culminating in a public exhibition at El Museo’s gallery space next year. As a bonus, they will also be gifted the digital cameras used during the program after its conclusion.