Cecilia Ponte

I have always admired the work of Camilo Egas. Not being particularly connected to The New School until I started working here about two years ago, it was a pleasant surprise to encounter Ecuadorian Festival while rushing through the revolving doors of 66 W. 12th Street heading to the first interview that would bring me to my current job. The colors grabbed me immediately, pulling me into the dance as a prefiguring—or so it seemed—of the months or years to come.

The Festival greets me every morning and each time, a new detail seems to emerge. The dancers, with white painted faces, seem solemn… or are they sad? Is the tall hat too heavy to carry all day? Is it painful? How and why were they chosen to play the center role? What strikes me the most is that every character in this celebration has a specific role to play and they seem to know exactly what they have to do. Everything and everyone is in movement, in flow. Each individual action leads up to a magnificent collective event.

There are a limited number of spaces where Festival could be displayed. It seems particularly suited to the lobby and main entrance of 66 W. 12th Street where it brings warmth and inclusion to the large number of students, faculty, staff, and guests who pass it daily— I often overhear a reference to it.

The New School is known as a progressive, socially engaged institution and this is evidenced in its mission statement. In many ways, Ecuadorian Festival, with its multi-faceted characters, moving together, perfectly fits this frame. And yet, when Festival greets me every morning, it also invites me to reflect on the gap between reputation and the day-to-day reality. Even though there are a lot of people doing great work towards making this University a more inclusive one (undoing racism and doing social justice), there is still a lot to do.

Do you find the sense of collectivity depicted in this mural reflective of your own work at the university?

Do you see yourself in any of these characters? How and why?

What would it take for us to come together with the same collective energy we see in the mural?

—Cecilia Ponte

Staff, The New School for Public Engagement