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Exhibition revisits the creative and civic-minded projects conceived by artist Elvira Leite in Porto
Pedagogy of the Streets: Porto 1977 showcases photographs taken by Leite that document various phases of her 1977 collaboration with the children of Porto’s Pena Ventosa community.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Mishkin Gallery presents Pedagogy of the Streets: Porto 1977, an historic exhibition that revisits the creative and civic-minded projects conceived and implemented by artist Elvira Leite in Porto, Portugal in 1977. The exhibition in on view from March 13 – May 9, 2019 and has been curated by Lúcia Almeida Matos and Susana Lourenço Marques (Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Porto).

Pedagogy of the Streets: Porto 1977 showcases photographs taken by Leite that document various phases of her 1977 collaboration with the children of Porto’s Pena Ventosa community. The images reveal children’s attitudes towards public space and the development of experimental teaching methodologies that resonated throughout Leite’s life. Before “social practice” became a popular term in art circles, Leite was developing a form of artistic engagement that emmeshed social discourse, civic engagement and aesthetic play all together.

This exhibition also includes archival materials from Portugal’s Serviço de Apoio Ambulatório Local (SAAL, or Service for Local Mobile Support). In the early 1970’s, Portugal faced a dramatic housing shortage. One of the first measures implemented by the new government was establishing an alternative housing policy, the SAAL, which promoted collective processes of design, construction, and management. Although short-lived, the SAAL program emphasized the socialization of housing, shunning individual endeavors and encouraging collectivity. Many artists, including Leite, were inspired by the hope of creating better living conditions while maintaining strong ties to their community.

For a brief but explosively creative year after the dissolution of SAAL, the streets of Porto—long regarded as an unsanitary working-class neighborhood in the city center—became a place for art, participation, and discourse for and by children. Part of this unique moment, Leite’s project encouraged the children of Pena Ventosa to participate in their communities by integrating their personal interests with their surroundings. The results were a new sense of pride, agency, and affirmation through art.

Maria Elvira Vieira Pereira Leite, born 1936, graduated from Escola Superior de Belas Artes do Porto (ESBAP) in 1964. Albeit her early artistic success, she went back to school to graduate with a teaching degree and continued her career as a high school teacher. From 1976 on, she dedicated herself to activities of cultural diffusion; she acted as consultant for UNESCO teaching art in Portuguese-speaking countries; was invited by the Portuguese government to plan and coordinate art programs for Portuguese women emigrants in other European countries; was a fellow of the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and created arts educational materials; acted as consultant of the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, of the Regional Traditional Arts Centre and of the Educational Service of the Fundação de Serralves.

Pedagogy of the Streets: Porto 1977 is based on the exhibition Quem te ensinou? — ninguém curated by Lúcia Almeida Matos and Susana Lourenço Marques and presented at Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto in 2016. The exhibition is supported by the University of Porto, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and by Baruch College and the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences.

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