The Class Goes to the Museum

by Ana Pérez Gironés

Teaching Spanish K-12: Second Language Pedagogy (SPAN 204/EDST 204/GBST 318) is a service-learning CLAC course in which students learn about basic concepts of language learning and teaching while engaging in supporting Spanish classes at Lawrence School, one of the Middletown public elementary schools. During the first half of the semester, Wesleyan students were in charge of teaching weekly classes while the regular Spanish teacher, Adrianna Arocho, was on maternity leave. After her return in March, Wesleyan students’ role evolved to providing support to Maestra (teacher) Arocho. Besides interacting with the young Spanish learners during class time, Wes students are also tasked with developing teaching materials that Maestra Arocho can use in the future.

It is with this task in mind that our class went to the New Britain Museum of American Art on April 12. The Museum is currently showing an exhibition by Latinx Nevada-based artist Justin Favela. Favela, of Guatemalan and Mexican descent, works with meaningful and seemingly humble cultural materials to produce art of high cultural representational value. In Favela’s words: “I am interested in exploring the notions of authenticity, place, and identity, using familiar materials to make large-scale installations, sculptures, and paintings. As a queer person of color working in the United States, I believe that expressing joy, making art accessible, and taking up space can be a political act.” (

Justin Favela, “CONERICOT”, 2024.

And a joy it was indeed to look at Favela’s pieces under the wonderful guidance of Francis Estrada, Senior Manager of Community Engagement. Favela’s exhibit is entitled Do You See What I See?, in which the artist dialogues with several pieces of the Museum’s permanent collection with his own takes on the same subjects. A colorful mural made of piñata paper titled “CONERICOT” (a possible transcription of how Spanish speakers pronounce Connecticut) covers the entire entrance hall in the Museum and is inspired by several little pieces from U.S. artists depicting Latin American sights. A still-life of peaches gives a more perishable impression made with piñata paper. Sol Lewitt’s paintings of geometrical forms become a curio table with a collection of hand-made paper tortillas in various forms and degrees of roasting. As we were guided to look at both the art of Favela and that of his inspirations, we started to think of how to bring art into the Lawrence Spanish classrooms.

Art has the power to inspire, awake, motivate, and make us think critically. Our pedagogical task is to bring the enjoyment of art to the Spanish language classes for the Lawrence kids, and get their creativity flowing. We were motivated by Favela’s wonderful exhibit and now we approach our challenge with joy.
Justin Favela’s exhibit Do You See What I See?  Will be showing at the New Britain Museum of American Art until December 1, 2024