SPARTANBURG, S.C. – After spending her junior year studying abroad, senior Lydia Estes has returned to Wofford College as a seasoned traveler and scholar.

From the fall 2018 semester through the spring 2019 semester, Estes traveled to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay as the college’s 35th Presidential International Scholar, learning about the identity of female South American artists while discovering her own identity in the world.

Estes’ independent research project as a Presidential International Scholar was “The Role of Art in Women’s Rights Movements in Latin America.” She centered her research on conversations with numerous women artists throughout Latin America, focusing on the relationship between their identities as female, the stereotypes of women in Latin America and their artwork as feminist protests against those stereotypes. “It is a policy-based, art-focused investigation set in a collection of Spanish-speaking countries,” she says.

Her earlier international travels, including her first venture out of the country to Honduras during high school, helped direct Estes’ focus on female artists. The Honduras trip helped shape her values and academic interests, says Estes.

From first embarking on this study abroad experience to returning home to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, then back to campus in Spartanburg, Estes has learned much from how to conduct research to how to nail a first impression. “What’s remarkable is how receptive everyone I met was to my project and how many withstanding relationships I was lucky enough to form along the way,” she says.

Estes was not meant to be a researcher detached from the community in which she observed. Instead, she eagerly bonded with everyone she encountered during her year abroad. “This is my experience – months of relationship-building and networking with scholars, artists, women, men, cafe owners and teachers.” Through social media, she has kept in touch with the artists as well as her host families, and she intends to maintain those connections.

Estes is presenting her research through an art exhibition, “Siendo Mujer: A Short Study of the Female Experience in South America,” from Thursday, Oct. 17, through Friday, Dec. 20, in the Richardson Family Art Gallery in the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts. The phrase “siendo mujer” translates as “being a woman,” which encapsulates the theme of the exhibition and the experiences that inspired it.

She will give an artist’s talk at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, in the gallery as part of Family Weekend.

The exhibition will showcase Estes’ personal photographs as well as the artwork of some of the female artists she met during her travels in South America.

The exhibition is not the end of her education about the impact of art and South American women, Estes says. Even after her exhibition ends, she intends to continue her study on how people use art to advance social movements for the betterment of women’s lives across South American and beyond.