is an internationally known artist who works in the fields of art, human rights and social justice. In her work over the past two decades, she has used creative works in collaboration with communities that have suffered from violence and human rights violations.
In 1976, when the military dictatorship took power in Argentina, Claudia was still a student at the university of art in Buenos Aires. "Those were very dark years -- very tragic, painful, and violent. The ones who survived learned to look at life, history, and art quite differently." Later, in 1992, Bernardi accompanied the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team
in the investigation of a 1981 massacre at El Mozote, El Salvador
. The team found remains of 143 people, 136 of whom were children under the age of 12; in addition, ballistic evidence proved that at least 27 shooters had been operating at the same time. That experience, among others, marked a profound shift in Claudia's journey. In particular, she began exploring how art be used as an instrument of peace. "Art is more effective than politics," she realized.
Claudia is the founder and director of the Walls of Hope
in El Salvador where children, youth, adults and the elderly create response in to their needs, hopes and desires. That model of education and community building through art, now as the "Perquin Model
", has now been successfully implanted in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, Northern Ireland and Argentina. Her work has been showcase in many places ranging from The International World Peace Center in Hiroshima, The Centre for Building Peace in Northern Ireland, The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today, Claudia is a Professor of Community Arts at California College of the Arts.
From Argentian to El Salvador to United States, Claudia's art and teaching practices emerge from a firm commitment to peace and an unwavering belief in the goodness of people. Join us for a call to learn about Claudia's remarkable tale.
Five Questions with Claudia Bernardi
What Makes You Come Alive?
I am a visual artist who works in the fields of art, human rights, education and social justice. In my work over the past two decades I have combined installation, sculpture, painting, printmaking, and most recently, I have focused my art praxis in community and collaborative art projects working with/ and in collaboration with communities that have suffered state terror, violence and who are victims of human rights violations.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
The exhumation at El Mozote, Morazn, El Salvador in 1992, where we found 119 individuals and 24 concentrations of fragments of bones for the mass atrocities. In a space of 35 square meters, 119 amputated lives were contained in silence for eleven years. It was disturbing to see the empty space, and yet this empty space of skeletons, even without names, were giving me a sense of community. It inspired me to use art, and everything else at my disposal, for peace.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
Taking testimony to a woman who had lost everything and everyone in her family ( sons, daughters, mother, uncles and aunts, brothers, etc, as result of a massacre in Morazn, I could not stop myself from bursting into tears listening to such a catastrophic rendering of events. I was crying and the woman was not. When she saw me so upset, she stopped giving testimony, hugged me and said: Do not cry anymore, we must try to honor life because we still have it.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
A building for our school in Perquin, El Salvador
One-line Message for the World?