Consuelo Hidalgo is currently working as the Cultural Director at the Ecuador – United States Binational Center in Guayaquil, Ecuador. In 2012 founded “Arts Leap” which developed community-based partnerships, as a means of building the audience required to ensure high-quality arts learning for young people. Before that, she worked for 4 years as cultural promoter at the Guayaquil Symphony Orchestra, in charge of educational and audience development programs. She developed multiple cultural projects that pursued the integration of people with fewer resources in to the arts scene. In 2008, she participated in the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts International Cultural Exchange Program. In 2012 finished her Arts Management Summer International Fellowship at the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In March 2016 participated in the Executive Program in Fundraising for the Performing Arts, held at the “Accademia Teatro alla Scala” in Milan, Italy. Also awarded as one of the 12 global fellows in the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress held in New York City in January 2017.
On April 16, 2016, Ecuador suffered a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that changed lives forever. This was a time where we, as Ecuadorians, most profoundly felt the collateral damage produced by our status as a poor country, many people were killed, wounded or transferred to live in shelters. It came as no surprise that the artistic community reacted in a display of empathy and solidarity, knowing how it is to live with uncertainty every day. Like the shifting tectonic plates below the Earth’s crust, our hearts were searching for an opportunity to liberate all the anger and anxiety produced by this catastrophe. I worked with many actors who decided to offer free shows for the most affected areas as a way to facilitate expressions of fear and confusion. It was difficult to find undamaged venues that could be used because regulations prohibited large gatherings as a safeguard against aftershocks. Consequently, the spaces to perform had to be reinvented. Using open areas that surrounded refugee tents, we crafted 20-min plays for young children that helped them redirect feelings of despair into more optimistic attitudes. Following this program, we added in a second element for adults to participate in the cathartic exercise.
Communities demonstrated resilience in the year following the disaster and returned to normal patterns in to their lives. Yet our challenge remains to continue developing community-based partnerships as means of serving audiences through creative experiences and critical thinking. Art should open the spectrum of learning tools because it stimulates creativity and innovation.
Now I understand how fertile this devastation was in terms of developing new ways to connect with our audiences. Certainly a transformative experience that allowed me to expand my notion of fortitude by reassuring the importance of individual engagement.in times of chaos.
Art reminds us that it is impossible to permanently reside in our comfort zones; it makes us aware of what surrounds us, causing us to forget the narcissism of our contemporary world. Tragic events such as the April 2016 earthquake can serve as a catalyst for the artistic community to join together to provide an outlet for free expression—even in the face of despair. Through art, we better serve each other.