Karla Arteaga Cortes, Spring 2018
Major: Art, Secondary Education
Mentor: Dr. Sanjam Ahluwalia, history
Art in the quest for social justice
Art can transform teaching. Through her research and practice, Karla Arteaga Cortes believes that visual art creates a more connected classroom—between teacher and students, and between students and lesson, especially on sensitive topics and in intercultural settings. “Students want something visual, kinesthetic,” the NAU senior art education major said. “They need that. It’s human. The three things that make us very different from animals are language, culture, and art.”
Cortes’ research focuses on creating free spaces in the classroom for counterhegemonic actions. It is a reimagining of power dynamics—a recognition that whatever the subject being taught, social justice must be part of the discussion. As a teaching assistant, and a student-teacher and English as Second Language specialist in public schools during her NAU career, Cortes’ research has led to an activist’s viewpoint. She will carry that with her after graduation to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she will co-teach art alongside an engineer and an architect, adding art to turn a STEM class into STEAM.
“I’m so humbled I was picked and am grateful for that opportunity,” she said. “When you’re doing research, it’s a lot of talk. For me, it was the coals to light the fire in what I want to do and to act. Research gave me the confidence in knowing that I am a human being who can think and learn.