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Art Students Occupy School in Buenos Aires

December 21, 2008

Here’s some news from a friend in Argentina:

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A month ago the students of Escuela Bellas Artes Manuel Belgrano in Buenos Aires, responding to plans by the city government to close down the school, took and occupied their building. The faculty decided to join the students and have continued classes though out the occupation.
The students, whose ages range from 16-26, run the occupation by popular assembly and have opened the school to the community–holding workshops on sculpture, painting, screen-printing and theater. In the upper wings of the school they take turns sleeping on makeshift bedrolls and the lithography studio has become a temporary kitchen. The police and school administration have not yet made an attempt to retake the building.
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The city’s plan includes shutting down a number of historical schools throughout Buenos Aires and replacing them with semi-privatized new schools. This comes as part of a larger movement under the new mayor Mauricio Macri to privatize and reduce the public sector within the capitol itself.
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In the last few days the students and faculty at Belgrano received notice from the education administration that they would have to take their final examinations and receive their graded critiques at three other schools. The faculty met and decided that they would not abide by this directive and will hold final examinations in Belgrano, as they normally would be. The students have decided to support this decision and will not have any final examinations outside of Belgrano, even though the administration is threatening not to honor the grades they will receive. In response the students threw a “party” in downtown Buenos Aires that blockaded a major street near the National Congress. They took all four lanes, one by one, moving displays of their art work to block traffic and hanging banners between light posts. A stage was set up and several bands played, there was also a public block printing station.

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