By “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center (Arianna Viale & Chiara Stefanizzi)
Art is universally recognized as a form for expressing emotions, feelings, fears, thoughts. But why is art so powerful? What role can it play in fostering social inclusion?
Although you have probably heard the term inclusion many times, it is first important to understand what inclusion is!
When we talk about social inclusion, we refer to the right to be valued and respected within society. This is particularly important for those children who have less opportunities and experience more barriers and obstacles. When people are included, they feel connected and appreciated and learn that each person has unique talents.
This is an extraordinary ideal concept but, unfortunately, the reality is sometimes more complex. That is why inclusion is not always so easy to achieve!
In this sense, art is an important instrument able to break inequality chains. Creative activities can offer an alternative way for dialoguing with others by creating inclusive and cooperative spaces. Art strengthens self-esteem, empathy, and self-reflection. Through artistic educational practices, it is possible to build communities where people can feel represented and accepted: in short, they can construct a sense of belonging. This can explain why art is a privileged tool for supporting the inclusion of under-represented and disadvantaged children.
We asked Ms Evi Neocleous, a Youth and Education Specialist at “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center, some curiosities about the role of art in fostering social inclusion.
How can art facilitate social inclusion? What kind of social changes can art create in the community? What potential benefits can art have in social inclusion?
“The arts are a form of personal expression that goes beyond words, communicating ideas at an intuitive level through sensory experiences. Art makes space for creativity and transforms communities. Art educates and creates empathy and understanding, which leads to change. Creative people are coming together sharing their thoughts, feelings, needs, transforming and renewing cultures and communities. Art has the capacity to build a more inclusive world as its giving voice to the voiceless through unconventional ways. Different people from different cultural backgrounds can be included since they are given the opportunity to express themselves through different type of art and communicate important issues of the society in a safe space where they can get inspired and have open discussions on their individual challenges. Stereotypes are changing by including people from different social classes. The freedom of people sharing thoughts and concerns or even taking a lead in solving social issues without taking into consideration their economic, cultural, etc. background give a sense of equality, belonging and empowering the most vulnerable members of society. This engages communities in an interactive exchange. Artistic expressions such as street performance, storytelling, photography, etc. could be focused on the community and not only provide pleasure but also create grounds for dialogue.”
What do you think are the essential elements that need to be present in art activities to foster social inclusion?
“Artistic activities need to be inclusive and create a shared experience. Essential elements that need to be present in artistic activities are the following: a sense of identity and belonging, transparency, healthy relationship, a safe space for unlocking and expressing emotions, build friendships and unite communities.”
Which artistic practice do you consider innovative in fostering social inclusion?
“In my experience, I consider theatre as an innovation in fostering social inclusion. Theatre can enhance integration and social inclusion, mediate personal and interpersonal conflicts, and support the culture of each individual through theatre activities or a theatre performance.
People could use different kind of elements to be engaged in theatre activities as sounds, body movement, verbal, or non-verbal ways. It allows the access to all despite cultural background, or any other factors considered restrictive in other contexts and gives the opportunity to share with the society any situation that concerns them overcoming several barriers – such as the language, in which every individual has an active role to play.
Theatre could be a place for people to share and listen to life stories related to politics, activism, entrepreneurship, or multiculturalism, embrace diversity, equality, social justice, freedoms and human rights.”
Evi’s responses confirm that the dialogue encouraged by art can be an opportunity to share the challenges and issues faced by everyone, removing barriers to full and equal participation for every child. In other words, through art it is possible to deconstruct standards of normality by creating new inclusive environments.