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MasterPeace: Use of Art as a Pro-Social Bonding Agent Among Youth and Marginalized Populations

a paper presented at the

Fifth International Congress of Educating Cities


Jerusalem, Israel


March 17th, 1999


Xavier Cortada, Artist and Artistic Director of MasterPeace (a collaborative effort of Miami-Dade Art in Public Places, Regis House, and the Division of Life Skills of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.), Miami, FL (USA)



MasterPeace is a school-based, student-centered art project initially implemented in eight Miami-Dade County Public Schools during the 1998-99 school year. Working under the direction of their art teachers and the artist, students created murals that conveyed pro-social messages to their school populations.

These murals would serve as vehicles for students to learn and convey positive messages to the rest of the student body and to the community. They would help students make the right life-choices and would address important life-skills. Through collaborative art projects, we believe that we can help youth learn to value diversity, resolve conflicts, strengthen their self-esteem, respect others, and create pro-social bonds with their schools and communities. They are also vehicles through which students engage in pro-social bonding and take ownership in their schools and community.

Aside from MasterPeace, the artist has worked with diverse community groups across four continents in the creation of pro-social art projects. These projects are driven by the participants from the start. They work with the artist on a collaborative art piece that captures their individual and collective resolve. The theme, composition and other decisions about the piece are made through a consensus process, facilitated by the artist

This art form has two important features: The process and the product. The process is the coming together of students to develop a vision and work collectively to achieve a common goal, their art. The merit of this educational process is that everyone is valued for their contribution (diversity is rewarded) and success is based on the ability of the participants to support one another in reaching their goal. This process also leaves a product--the mural-- that serves as a conspicuous reminder that challenges can be met by working together.

More information is available through the Internet at