What can offer the practice of creative and/or artistic activities to people who, for various reasons, experience difficulties to find their place in society? With this question in mind we left our country to meet initiatives that are developing such activities with “vulnerable” publics, in Belgium and three regions of the world (Eastern Europe and the Balkans, South East Asia and South America) as part of a project called Handi’stARTS.
In Belgium, we work for a nonprofit organization called “Compagnons Bâtisseurs”, a youth organization that promotes active citizenship through social and cultural activities and strives to make its activities accessible to everyone. For more than a year, we matured the idea of this independent project, by focusing on what was done in our country and preparing a first series of meetings abroad (August 2010-August 2011).
Given the fact that the concept of social inclusion remains an aspiration and not a reality, we have been collecting practical experiences encountered in different parts of the world to raise awareness of the social importance of the pursuit of artistic activities, both at the level of the individual, the group or, on a larger scale, of the community.
Handi’stARTS is not focused on a form of art or creativity or a type of public, but its aim is rather to learn from the diversity of the projects in an intercultural perspective (art forms, techniques, target audiences, objectives). Indeed, the field work requires to learn and be aware of the history of each country and region if it has significantly influenced the current situation, and to soak up the socio-cultural context.
In a second step, the idea is to link these initiatives to identify the specificities or points of convergence between the projects (objectives, beneficiaries, methods, strengths, challenges, etc.), and to participate in an exchange of opinions and practices. The development of activities of artistic expression is not the universal solution to all problems of society, but we can see that they far exceed the pure leisure. Whatever their purpose (occupational, therapeutic and / or professional), it is undeniable that these activities have an impact at different levels.
Through various forms of testimony (a blog, newspaper articles, an exhibition, educational workshops, etc.), the overarching objective of Handi’stARTS is awareness raising. Term sometimes trivialized, it is the first step toward action, perhaps one that takes the most time. First, change the mentalities to fight stereotypes, but also gradually change practices to fight social exclusion.