Posted on September 30, 2021 by Christopher Reichert


Two students in the department of interdisciplinary learning and teaching are hosting a professional development workshop entitled Decolonizing Methodologies Through Art. The workshop will be held twice: in person on Oct. 16 from 11am-3:30pm at UTSA’s Downtown Campus, and online on Oct. 22 from 1-4pm, and is open to current and pre-service educators from all disciplines.   

The workshop is the brainchild of Daniela Montufar Soria and Nora Rodriguez, both of whom are earning their MA in curriculum and instruction. For Rodriguez, a high school arts educator who earned her BA in philosophy from UTSA, the pandemic provided an opportunity to pursue her master’s degree.   

“I’m really happy with the decision that I made because I really enjoyed the program, the faculty, the peers,” Rodriguez said. “It’s really engaging, thriving, and it’s exactly what I was looking for.”  

Montufar Soria is an international student from Mexico who’s been living in the US for the past eight years. Though she earned her undergraduate degree elsewhere, she has strong connections to UTSA. One sister is a recent graduate, while another has just started at the school; her father is even currently in a Ph.D. program.  

“We’re like a family of Roadrunners,” she said.   

Montufar Soria says she has felt welcomed at UTSA and is grateful for the accessibility of her program, the funding opportunities provided by the school, and the faculty she’s worked with.  

“They’re so knowledgeable, so prepared, and it’s just been an amazing opportunity,” she said.   

One of those opportunities was to pursue her love of art and museum education, and this is how she met Rodriguez.   

“Nora being an arts educator and me having some experience with museums, we made a really good team and complimented each other’s knowledge and ideas, so that’s why our professor was like ‘you two need to meet,’” she recalls.  

But a workshop wasn’t their original goal.   

“It really was born out of a research project that we did,” Rodriguez said.   

Initially, the two were interested in learning how museums were not only coping with pandemic lockdowns, but also how they were acknowledging the many questions of social justice raised during 2020. But, Montufar Soria said, they were disappointed to find that not much was being done at all.   

“We were thinking ‘okay, now that we know where we’re standing, how can we create meaningful change?’” she said. “And that’s where the idea of the workshop started, as a means to reach out to these educators in sort of a cascade: we reach these educators, and they will reach their students.”  

Thus was born the idea for Decolonizing Methodologies Through Art. But, Rodriguez explained, the workshop is not just about education, but about changing the way we think.  

“It’s going to go to pedagogy, it’s going to go to curriculum, but it starts with perspectives, frameworks, and methodologies,” she said.   

Ultimately, the process of decolonization requires a shift in epistemological perspective.  

“How it all comes together is in renouncing this idea of European knowledge as the rule and how we understand art or any other concept, and really turning to embrace the validity and of these other cultures.” 

“For us,” Montufar Soria said, “how it all comes together is in renouncing this idea of European knowledge as the rule and how we understand art or any other concept, and really turning to embrace the validity and of these other cultures.”  

And while many may view art as too esoteric for this kind of work, these educators believe its solid entrenchment in the western worldview makes it invaluable.  

“It’s a really good tool to use with educators to show that the content can be bridged in different ways,” Rodriguez said. “’Look at this discipline, it’s a really clear example, you can step outside of that western canon very easily, maybe there’s other ways in which you could do that in ELAR, in social studies, in science and math.’”  

Montufar Soria believes that art is perfectly suited for use as a model of decolonization in other areas of study.  

“Art is THE – capital T-H-E – visual experience,” she said. “If you can see this dynamic through art, you can try to pass these frameworks into your own disciplines.”  

But while the event is tailored towards educators and preservice teachers, it is open to anyone, and its organizers encourage interested community members to attend.  

“Every single person who looks at an artwork can bring something to it; you don’t come to the museum as a blank slate,” Montufar Soria said. “If we can plant that little seed or help people start thinking about these things, that’s really a big, big opportunity.”  

And due to the dual nature of the workshop, community members and educators alike will have some flexibility in when and how they interact with the content.  

“We understood going into this that there would be two versions of this,” Rodriguez said. “We made the decision to separate them and hopefully reach a wider audience.”  

While both versions present the same material, participants will engage with that material in different ways. For example, both formats will feature segments of lecture and discussion covering how art can be used in the classroom as a decolonizing strategy, but in-person participants will have the opportunity to explore the content in a hands-on fashion. This won’t be possible in the online incarnation of the workshop, so the organizers have invited local artist and UTSA alum Sarah Castillo. Rodriguez says Castillo will help redefine who an artist is and can be, which she believes is a great start for art teachers.  

“She will add not just her voice but also the idea that as an artist, as an art teacher, you are looking to decolonize your perspective about the history of Western art,” she said.   

The in-person workshop will similarly spotlight local artists, which Rodriguez hopes might inspire art educators to reach out to the community.  

“There are different ways in which you can bring local artists and art from your community into your classroom,” she said.   

Also discussed in the in-person format will be what Rodriguez terms, “demystifying the museum,” or confronting the aura of intimidation that can surround museums, which she thinks this could be especially helpful to attendees with no or a limited background in art.   

As they near graduation, Rodriguez and Montufar Soria have no concrete plans for the future of the workshop, but they’re hopeful it could one day become an annual event.   

“Ideally,” Rodriguez said, “we’d love to do a series about this, related to art, to decolonizing methodologies, related to the different ways in which art educators can impact STEM fields and fields outside education.”  

For this year, they plan to collect feedback on both iterations of the workshop and incorporate that going forward. In addition to feedback, they will be inviting participants to fill out surveys before and after the event to help them further their research, but they stress this is completely optional.   

And further research and workshops will be needed, Montufar Soria says; the challenges they face are too great to overcome so easily.  

“We’re by no means saying our workshop is going to change people’s lives or get rid of all our problems with racism in this country – that’s not at all something that we’re claiming – however, we do believe that art offers a window to engage in these conversations,” she said.    

Those interested in contacting Rodriguez and Montufar Soria or in registering for the Decolonizing Methodologies Through Art Workshop can do so  here  

— Christopher Reichert