In-person registration is going on now.

Interested students should contact Lauren Elder ( right away to start the approval process for registration.

This three-week intensive immerses students in the nature and culture of Ecuador. The first country to adopt “rights for nature” in its national constitution, Ecuador now faces the challenge of honoring that pledge.

In an area where ecotourism is giving rise to new economic prospects and challenges for village life, the course explores the relationship of community art and design to the natural environment.

The host, Larissa Marangoni, is an internationally known sculptor who has been organizing artist residencies in the coastal communities since 2007 through Franja Arte-Comunidad, the cultural arm of Aprofe, a distinguished public health provider.

Art + Environment + Community

Instructor: Lauren Elder
July 22-August 11, 2014


Building upon Franja Arte-Comunidad’s development of an arts-based exchange of knowledge and skills with village residents, the goal is for students to design and implement one or more projects that can provide enduring benefit to the village.

Students should come away with a greatly enhanced appreciation of the real impact of creativity in transforming people’s daily lives –- and perhaps the lives of other creatures as well.

Interacting with local residents, students can create projects that reflect their particular interests; all disciplines are welcome, although it may be especially relevant for Architecture, Fashion Design, Furniture, Sculpture, and Film students. Fine artists and writers will also find ample opportunities to stretch their talents. (View some potential project topics below.)

The course begins in the massively renovated and economically vibrant city of Guayaquil, where students spend two days visiting local artists, museums, and galleries while preparing for the residency.

The city provides a burgeoning theater, film, and art scene, driven in part by the presence of several large universities.

On July 24 and 25, students also experience the city’s festival mode with a street procession, music, and fireworks to celebrate Simon Bolivar’s birthday and the founding of Guayaquil.

After Guayaquil, the class moves north and inland from the small fishing town of Manglaralto on the Pacific coast, where students transition to the relaxed atmosphere of rural life at La Factoria, an artist-run residency.

Students receive four days of intensive design training in the use of local natural materials such as caña guadua (timber bamboo), tagua (palm nut) and paja toquilla (the fine palm “straw” used for Panama hats).

Housing is dormitory style in architect-designed cabins. The intensive includes three daily meals made with the finest of local produce. Hiking and horse riding in nearby hills are an option, or biking 4km to a long, sandy beach.

From La Factoria, students take a bus trip to Machalilla National Park, where they spend two days (and one night at an eco-lodge): the first day on a boat tour to view humpback whales during their courtship period; the second day on a hiking/birding/snorkeling trip on Isla de La Plata (the “poor man’s Galapagos” and a good approximation of those famous islands).

Fortified with new skills and observations, the class moves south to Puerto El Morro for a 10-day immersion. Since it has not been a tourist destination, this small town has conserved extensive natural attractions: a mangrove swamp, abundant birdlife (such as the dramatic frigate birds), and bottle-nose dolphins. It is about 8km from the bigger, busier beach town of Las Playas, a popular weekend spot for Guayaquileños.

Home to over 1,600 avian species, including the visually stunning blue-footed booby and roseate spoonbill, Ecuador is a bird watcher's paradise. Activities in Puerto El Morro include visiting the “Island of the Birds” and dolphin watching.

Puerto El Morro and its neighbors are part of the “dry forest” eco-zone. The local Albarrada (water reserve) was a vital community resource that helped residents through periods of drought, provided needed water for crops, farm animals, washing, and in addition served as an important “social space,” and one in which youngsters were taught water conservation practices.

In 1984 the reserve was destroyed by a landowner, Colón Baquerizo Vela, who violently appropriated the land to create a shrimp farm, leading to a dark chapter in local history.

In Puerto El Morro, the class teams up with community members to create projects that build upon existing features of social and physical life.

For example, fashion designers may work with a local sewing cooperative to create and teach new designs. Furniture designers may develop new pieces for locals to build and sell to visitors. Architects might undertake the design of a new wharf for the Island of the Birds. Filmmakers can work with a burgeoning youth media group.

The course concludes with a celebration of the projects and a camping trip at the beach.

Note: Guayaquil is the main departure point for the Galapagos Islands, one of the world’s natural wonders; students may wish to plan their own trip extension either preceding or following the course.

Living conditions are clean and orderly, but quite basic. Please do not expect luxury accommodations.

About the Instructor

Lauren Elder has extensive experience conducting environmental, community-based projects outside of the United States.

Learn more about Lauren Elder »


Undergraduates: Completion of at least sophomore level by summer 2014 and instructor approval.
Graduates: Instructor approval

In addition all students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2013–14 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For undergraduates this course satisfies a Diversity Studies Studio or a Studio Elective.
For graduates this course satisfies a gradwide elective.

Program Fee

$4,500 + $50 registration fee

Included in program fee:
3 units, housing, meals, local transportation, guest artists, field trips, entrance fees, and travel/health insurance

Not inlcuded in program fee:
Airfare to and from Ecuador

Please make sure you read the related links in full:

In-person registration is going on now. Students may still register for summer study abroad as long as spaces are still available and accommodations have not yet been finalized.

All CCA summer study-abroad courses (including the New York Studio and Marfa Fieldwork Project) are coordinated by the Office of Special Programs.


Office of Special Programs
Oakland campus, Ralls 201

Nina Sadek
Dean of Special Programs

Carol Pitts
Operations Manager, Special Programs

Potential Projects

Related to the revival of the Alborrada (water reserve)

  • A nature trail/signage/mapping around the new water reserve or connecting it with the town, or both. What changes have occurred (flora and fauna) now that there is water onsite? Youth guides
  • A “water museum” -- installation or online “museum,” or both. Why is water so integral to the life of the town?
  • A social space -– shade structure and seating on the shore
  • Large-scale sculpture installations using local natural and recycled materials that raise awareness about environmental issues


  • Sound compositions. Sampling local music, song, nature sounds, daily activities.
  • Reviving or introducing new handicrafts (saleable items)
  • Animation workshops -- stop action -- dealing with local culture
  • Visually exploring ideas for alternative shrimp/seafood cultivation -- more sustainable and healthful practices (through a connection with