Fusing Art and Awareness - UCSD student interview with Cuatro Corridos collaborators

 Cuatro Corridos is a new opera collaboration that aims to raise awareness about human trafficking. UCSD undergraduate Nicolette Valicenti connects with two people instrumental in the development of the project: Lauren Vitiello of Asylum and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Karen Guancione, an artist, activist, and Cuatro Corridos production concept leader. Here she asks their impressions on the process of fusing art with consciousness raising. 


THE POWER OF PEOPLE by Nicolette Valicenti

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Vitiello and Karen Guancione, longtime friends of Cuatro Corridos project leader and soprano, Susan Narucki. These two women have been instrumental in supporting Ms. Narucki’s work to shed light on the issue of human trafficking.

Lauren is an Asylum Officer for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) for the Department of Homeland Security. She’s had experience interviewing hundreds of people seeking refuge in the U.S. Speaking to trafficked women over the years, Lauren has described the situation as unimaginable to the average citizen.

photo by Jim Carmody

photo by Jim Carmody

“Women who come to America are not only completely unaware of the American culture, but also are suddenly experiencing brutal human trafficking where they suffer physical and sexual abuse. They have no resources to take care of themselves and lack the awareness to know that there are people who would care for them, and must accept the conditions they are enduring."

Stunned by the gruesome stories of some trafficked women, I asked Lauren how important it is to make people aware of human trafficking in the U.S. She responded, "People everywhere need to know about this issue. It is happening in the cities, in suburbia, in the interior of the country and we are all responsible."

After speaking with Vitiello, I realized how Cuatro Corridos also signifies the importance of education.  It spreads the message that we all need to be aware of the harsh realities surrounding us. Our conversation opened up my eyes, the eyes of an undergraduate college freshman, to my ignorance to such injustices. I discovered that we must ask questions and keep learning from all people around us in order to be proactive and not reactive. We must expose the injustice we discover, and never cease to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

Karen Guancione is an artist and an activist who has been involved in many projects and installations promoting human rights. She has put together pieces supporting activists, environmental protection, the alleviation of human suffering, and many others. 

In addition, Guancione has spent time in Mexico creating a community art piece. In Mexico, Karen’s art honored the women’s domestic work. She drew domestic objects such as needles, thread, and brooms onto cloths. The cloths ranged from clothes to flags, and fabrics from members of the community. This art was displayed in the local cultural center. All types of people gathered in this small room and expressed community and unity over this art.

She explains, "The best thing was the connections I made with people. The indigenous women adored the art. They felt it and were able to see themselves and their community in the piece. Art is a way to move and affect people, increase awareness, and do something with your skills."

Guancione has been working on the creative development and collaboration of the opera and sees its value as an activist art form. 

“I am thrilled to work on this project. What I find most striking about this issue is how invisible it is. Human trafficking happens right under our noses. Cuatro Corridos is representational of a big story, affecting people everywhere. We cannot control what a person does after they are affected by an art piece, but we can encourage them to act on their emotions."

Cuatro Corridos intersects art and society to spread awareness of human trafficking.  By caring about an issue and sharing your knowledge of it, you can create a change for the betterment of human kind. The human mind is powerful and limitless. Narucki, Vitiello, and Guancione exemplify and support the genius of creativity and how through knowledge and compassion one can utilize their own skills to empower a group of people and bring goodness to a suffering community.


Nicolette Valicenti, a UCSD undergraduate freshman who's passion for music led her to Narucki, where she has found herself intrigued with music's ability to enable change.