Teresa Torres De Eça was born in a small village in the mountains in central Portugal. Her parents were primary school teachers, and Teresa was the youngest of two other brothers, a sister and a brother. Among her most intense memories are the carefree games she played with her cousins, a clan of seven children, exploring the forest, playing with the clay earth, drawing in the mud with wooden sticks. Nature was their playground, and Teresa has never forgotten the sense of belonging to the forest--the feeling of the rain on the golden autumn light; the gray and cold winter winds in the mountains; the infinite colors of spring; the smell of summer when everything seems petrified by the scorching sun. It was the women of her family who taught her their sense of belonging to mother earth.
While her mother, a strong and austere woman, pushed her vigorously to always be better, her father encouraged her towards her inclination for visual art. Teresa confesses that she was not a good student. At the age of eleven, at school in Porto, her rebellious and strong character was already emerging.
Teresa’s early interest in books was key to her "survival" during that time. She read a lot, everything that can be read -- from the great pillars of Western literature, such as Dostoievsky, Tolstoi and Victor Hugo, to a small book on how to draw comics.
In 1974, when Teresa was thirteen, the revolution was underway. It was a period full of turmoil. The dictatorship was collapsing, and an uncertain democracy was taking its first steps. "Suddenly, a new world opened up. I remember the people in the streets and the wonderful feeling that hovered everywhere. The cafeterias were the meeting places where young people discussed Marxism and the changes taking place, while in the squares great demonstrations took place. As in all phases of transition, the country was not sure, which is why my family decided to move to Paris. Being a teenager in Paris in the years of the revolution was not so easy, it was all so ... new!” Teresa recalls in a vibrant voice.
Initially, she lived in the banlieues of Paris, on the city’s outskirts. Later, Teresa and her family moved into the city’s Marais quarter, in the heart of Paris. It was during that time that Teresa attended the theater, stoking her passion for reading. This was also when she discovered Nabokov, Zola, Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin.
By day, Teresa attended science classes at the Lycée Sévigné, and in the evening, she took art lessons at Place de la République. Young and curious, Teresa frequented the new Beaubourg art center. In the wake of the upheaval of 1968, Paris was a vibrant fulcrum of socio-cultural events, exhibitions and concerts, with a cosmopolitan and sparkling population.
"We, the girls of Lycée Sévigné, were discovering names like André Breton, Friedrich Nietzsche and Lautréamont, and we read continuously. The fervor of the time aroused and incited to culture.” With these words, Teresa perfectly describes the atmosphere and the cultural vibrations of the Paris of those years. "My first art teacher was a surrealist painter, Bernard Montagnana. He believed in me and encouraged and supported me. I slowly prepared my portfolio, but I failed the entrance exam at the École Paul Boulle, and almost passed that of École Duperré, with the help of Mr. Garand, my drawing professor. I got the maximum mark in painting and a very low mark in the drawing exam. At the end of high school, I was faced with two options: enrolling in a scientific faculty, or persisting in the arts," Teresa says.
Attracted to the world of colors since childhood, Teresa had intended to enter the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris when she was eighteen. When her mother decided to return to Portugal, however, Teresa enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in Porto. There, she met great teachers who helped her find her personal expression, especially in the Aesthetics class, thanks to Professor Herbert Read. "I think I did well in choosing the artistic path. I wasn't skilled in techniques, but I had a personal style and an intriguing, expressive power. Soon after, I was called to exhibit in various exhibitions and worked for a famous gallery in Lisbon. But I never felt comfortable in the artistic circuit of museums and galleries. I couldn't stand the elitism and emptiness of the discourses that circulated in that environment. Art for me is not a business, it is a way of life, a way of breathing." Words so dense, so full, so true!
Teresa’s intellectual curiosity led her to discover ceramics. Her father, always present, followed her inclinations and bought a kiln for her. For about four years in a small town in the north of Portugal, Teresa delighted in producing art objects for a craft shop in Porto. At the same time, she began her career as an art teacher in secondary schools and discovered the "job" of school education. Having an impression as a painter, she felt the urgency to further deepen her studies to understand the real value of art as a tool for education in knowledge. So she enrolled in a master's degree in art education.
Teresa, always very active, soon discovered digital arts, which she explored with other artists, experimenting with new methods to promote collaborative experiences. The teaching allowed her to "see beyond"--she became increasingly convinced of the value of multidisciplinarity in art through shared learning. Being an artist today means using different tools at the same time and, for Teresa, this has always been clear. Yet something in her soul felt impatient. Teresa did not understand or, perhaps, did not accept the way in which the arts were evaluated. So she decided to follow a doctorate at The University of Surrey Roehampton in London, on the development of art.
At the start of the new millennium were years full of excitement and enthusiasm. There was great hope for the role of the arts in education. Teresa’s supervisors, John Steers from the educational area, and Cyril Weir, from the evaluation area, encouraged her to "read between the lines," to be open to plurality, to look for questions rather than answers. "I studied a lot about artistic education, creativity and the real value of art. That was my starting point for being a researcher," she recalls. Today, Teresa's vision has shifted towards art as an active tool in the fields of education, artistic and environmental education, art as a means of cohesion and social inclusion through alternative research methods.
Her London years taught her to be systematic and to deepen her research using her artistic and communicative skills. As a secondary school teacher, being a researcher, she improved her relationships with students. As an artist, being a researcher helped her to see art as an instrument of individual and collective action. "While I was completing the Doctoral Master, Professor John Steers told me about InSEA, the International Society for Education through Art. I went to my first InSEA congress in Poznań, Poland. It was 1998, and there I met people like me, with the same disquiet, with my same dreams, with the same belief. It was wonderful!"
Since then, Teresa De Eça has actively participated in the congresses that are annually organized by InSEA. She immensely likes the comparison and listening, the presentations of professors coming from all continents. Making new acquaintances, conversing with fellow art educators in a constructive interaction. An extraordinary multitude of stories, cultures, traditions -- that is absolute wealth.
"I guess someone noticed my strong networking skills. I was thus invited to be a member of the European Regional Council. After having been a world councilor, I was twice elected vice-president of the International Society for Education through Art."
For Teresa, it was a real surprise to be elected to all these great roles, since she was not a university teacher and hailed from a peripheral country. Teresa has never sought prestige or status, which has never interested her. What sets Teresa apart is her ability to listen to and connect people, to plan, coordinate and network. She possesses an amazing passionate charge. We need to believe in and rediscover poetic languages -- the visual arts, dance, music, literature, architecture, design, etc., -- and to recognize their ability to anticipate the times and capture the essence and profound nature of things. The languages of art can weave together the rational, the imaginary, and the emotional, facilitating a richer and more complete learning. There is a poetic presence in every language or discipline, even in those that seem most distant from artistic experiences, such as mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering.
Art represents a primary need for humankind, as well as the basis of development, learning and life itself.
Artistic creation strengthens the personality of the individual by opening, at the same time, the way to learn any kind of notion and ability, including those contemplated by a more rational and formal education.
More complex science and more advanced technology would not make progress without creative skill. There is the creed and mission of Teresa Torres De Eça, a brilliant and countercultural woman who transformed her art into a tool for improving the quality of life of human beings.
I visited many places as an InSEA executive officer. The world sometimes seems so vast. In truth, it is very small, every place has similar characteristics. But of course I know that it is in the diversity and uniqueness of small places, it is in the richness of diversity that human culture makes sense. I like maps, cartographic images, because in every little point we can imagine wonderful landscapes, smiles, songs, colors and the pulsating lives of people. I think the meaning of our lives is expressed in the paths we have followed, in the meetings we have had, in the crossroads between the spaces we have visited, in the relationships we have built and destroyed. Today, more than ever, I need beauty that resides in the simple things of life, the essence.