Series of Paintings on Liberating Education by Claudia Cardona Acevedo

By Claudia Cardona Acevedo
Student in the Conflict Resolution Master’s program of UMass Boston


The project titled Liberating Education was a final assignment for the course Conflict Peace & Education given by Dr. Karen Ross. Throughout this course, we explored the role of education in peacebuilding and conflict transformation. While exploring the role of education we discussed different aspects of education such as policy, practice, substance, and pedagogy. As part of the course requirements, we had to complete a final project that allowed us to explore an aspect related to peace, education, and conflict. As a result, I came up with the concept of these paintings that address the aspect of access, quality, and substance in education. Through these paintings, I aim to show how these aspects have to work together to some degree to provide an education that liberates individuals and provides them with the necessary tools to look at the world in a critical way.

Series of Paintings on Liberating Education

Education can serve as a tool for liberation on many accounts, whether widening the possibilities of jobs one can pursue or resolving conflict and peacebuilding. Regardless of what aspect of your life education is liberating you from or opening the door to a multiplicity of opportunities, education is a journey. The series of paintings below demonstrates that journey and how specific conditions must be met so that education can be liberating. The paintings illustrate the need for access and quality of education and how simply showing up is not enough to be enlightened; we must also engage in the material and become active participants in our education journey. However, individually, these paintings demonstrate a specific set of conditions and how those conditions influence a student’s experience and life. In the following paintings, the different scenarios the students find themselves in demonstrate how education is approached by education systems and teachers. At the same time, the blue doors represent the implications of education in a student’s and the opportunities it provides depending on the quality of said education. As the scenarios progress and more involvement is portrayed, the door not only expands but also begins to open, which demonstrates the opportunity education offers when conditions are set up in a way that is beneficial to students.

Fig. 1. Education, a Missed Opportunity, 2021. Acrylic on canvas.

I have decided to name the first painting of this series “Education, a Missed Opportunity” because, in this particular scenario, the conditions are not conducive to an effective learning environment, hence the missed opportunity. The painting illustrates that although the students have access to education, the quality is poor. Not having a teacher present and not having an environment where students can engage with the material, collaborate with one another, or learn from each other, disables them from participating in the liberating endeavor that is education. In this scenario, the door is shut; in fact, the possibility of opening the doors to different opportunities is so far-fetched because of unfavorable learning conditions that the door is sealed off completely. However, the following paintings demonstrate what occurs when conditions become favorable.

Fig. 2. Education, a Promising Endeavor, 2021

Education, a Promising Endeavor” provides an alternate view on education and what can be accessed through education when students receive a quality education. In this painting, we see the presence of a teacher, which is meant to represent the development of a more thorough and engaging education. Although the painting does not demonstrate the variety of ways teachers can engage students and present the material, through group work or activities that involve critical thinking and analysis, the presence of the teacher and the slightly open doors provides spectators enough content to imagine and hypothesize about what methods the teacher uses to create an environment conducive to learning. Additionally, we see how the doors are now slightly open, and a sneak peek of what is behind the door. This sneak peek provides the spectator with a view of the possibilities education can bring if circumstances are favorable.

Fig. 3. Education, a Pathway to Liberation, 2021. Acrylic on canvas.

Finally, we have “Education, a Pathway to Liberation” as the closing piece of this series because it captures the whole concept of education liberating individuals and giving them the opportunity to engage with the world around them. This painting represents how years of access to quality education allows students to step towards the world of possibilities their education has provided. The image I show to illustrate the possibilities is a view of blooming flowers and mountains to represent the finale of different journeys that lead to beauty and freedom and the various conditions in which individuals can thrive and reach their full potential. For example, I painted the mountains to reference the saying “life is a climb, but the view is great,” which connects to the education journey and what lies at the end. Furthermore, the blooming flowers represent the conditions of education rather than the journey. It shows how some flowers are in full bloom while others are withering because the conditions fit some yet not for all. The bloomed and whitling flowers connect directly to how some students succeed through education while others do not. However, I believe that what makes students succeed is dependent on the circumstances and environment they are taught in; what works for some students might not work for others. This last painting is an attempt to encompass different aspects of education, pedagogy, curriculum, agenda-setting, etc., and demonstrate how great things can turn out for individuals when teachers arrange these aspects to deliver a substantive education to students.

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