Students Witness Peace in Progress in El Salvador

March 4, 2009

“An artist is, above all, an optimist.” Not a typical beginning for a course syllabus, and the class it goes on to describe is not typical, either. For starters, it takes place in El Salvador and is led by dynamic Mary Baldwin Artist-in- Residence Claudia Bernardi. As one of Mary Baldwin University’s Spring Break offerings – ocurring March 2 through 6 – the course Witnessing the Peace Process promises to be a journey measured in more than just miles.

“Analogies can be drawn between the creative process, the building of community, and the proposal and implementation of a peace process,” wrote Bernardi, who is one of Mary Baldwin’s artists in residence.

Their timeframe in El Salvador is short — just about seven days — but readings and weekly meetings guided by Bernardi’s syllabus prepared students and accompanying faculty members since the beginning of the semester. The group is slated to spend two days in San Salvador, where it will meet lawyers and human rights practitioners involved in the peace process in that country, and visit the Museum of Words and Images to view documentaries, photographs, and testimonies of the country’s 12-year civil war.

The remainder of the trip will be spent in Perquin, where Bernardi established Walls of Hope Open School and Studio to help heal the wounds of one of the civil war’s brutal massacres at El Mozote.

Senior Robyn Stegman is blogging the experience for the online publication Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Follow along with her at