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The Underlying Stories of Street Art

September 9, 2019

Trent Durham GTA’s Dr. Anna Augusto Rodrigues illustrates voices behind the art

Dr. Anna Augusto Rodrigues, an instructor within the Child and Youth Studies program at Trent University Durham GTA sitting on a bench beside some street art.

The street art found on buildings or highway overpasses extends far beyond the notions of destruction of property. Like Dr. Anna Augusto Rodrigues, an instructor within the Child and Youth Studies program at Trent Durham GTA, street art is an experienced storyteller that can reveal a great deal more about the expressive creators behind it.

Dr. Rodrigues began her research in 2013 while working on her dissertation for York University. As she conducted field work in Toronto and Montreal, she interviewed artists, studied social media, examined hundreds of street art images and incorporated her own journal entries.

“Some of the research looked at how feminist or sociopolitical street art has the potential to create public spaces of learning, both online and in real life,” said Dr. Rodrigues. “It has the potential to facilitate learning about social justice issues.”

She offers that street art can serve as an informal education tool for those unable to obtain a traditional education.  It can also provide a voice.

“My findings indicated that street art seemed to create alternative spaces for learning and knowledge.  This type of learning, which I refer to as pop up pedagogy, might help those with low literacy to understand issues that affect them and the neighbourhoods they live in.”

Dr. Rodrigues’ interest in social justice has permeated throughout her career as an award-winning journalist, artist, educator and instructional designer.  She recently presented, “Street Art and Social Justice: When Walls Speak, Should We Listen?”, as part of Humanities 101, a not-for-credit, multi-disciplinary course offered to the community by Trent Durham.

 “The reaction was excellent,” states Dr. Rodrigues who also struggled with literacy as a youth. “I explained my interest in street art can be traced to my own challenges with reading and writing.  I found it helpful to make meaning when I couldn’t actually read words well enough to understand them.”

Within Trent’s Enrichment Course Program, she recently ran a workshop for grade seven and eight students.  Students analyzed samples of street art in class and made posters that spoke to social issues.

“One student mentioned that she liked looking at street art but never considered it something that she could learn from.