As part of the UrbanArtVentures Erasmus+ Programme Othernessproject (Helsingør, DK) in collaboration with Jugend- & Kulturprojekt e.V. (Dresden, DE), Sandra Morenilla Nielsen has participated in an inspiring  project that brings together mural artists, youth workers, refugees. The following is her personal account on the experience.

All pictures are taken by Olga Yocheva. 

As a youth worker representing OTHERNESSPROJECT at the UrbanArtVentures vol. 2 project I had the honor of working with talented artists and local children at a Reform Institution of Minors and the 3rd and 9th Elementary Schools of Nea Ionia, Volos.

I arrived in Volos the same day as the programme started, jumping directly from the bus station to the Volos Museum, where all the participants got an introduction to the History of Volos and its migration history in particular. The Museum also hosted a temporary exhibition about Syria, its history and culture, as well as its relation to Greece in the past. Information about the current socioeconomic situation in Volos was also provided, which set the tone for the following walk through the city, where we explored its streets and some of the impressive murals created by the team of UrbanAct.

The following days we all started working at different locations and institutions after being divided into teams of youth workers and artists. I was at the 3rd and 9th Elementary Schools of Nea Ionia with the artists Apset, Nikola Mihajlovic, Bojan Lacmanovic and Wuper. While they were working on their murals I led two workshops for a group of children attending the school, assisted by youth worker Markus Hinger and project coordinator Myrto Elena Pertsinidi. On the first part of the workshop we played some warm up activities and energizers with the children. Afterwards we asked them to think about something that made them happy, which they explained in English and later illustrated on paper. Their drawings were used as sketches and inspiration for murals in the school yard that the children themselves would be coloring the following day. Next day Bojan Lacmanovic and Wuper drew the outlines on the walls and the children started coloring assisted by us. What we didn’t expect was that the word about the workshop had spread, so instead of working with 20 children there were suddenly about 50. And so chaos reigned. Children were painting all over the walls, making their own outlines and drawings. But there was something very interesting in their completely free creativity. I learned something about losing control and they had a wonderful time collaborating on the walls, looking up to the adult artists working on the other side.

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I also had the opportunity to assist a workshop at the Reform Institution of Male Minors, which was something quite different from the Elementary School. Five young boys stayed there, their exact age hard to determine, as it often is with children who have experienced things they never should have. Yet their youthful curiosity and admiration shined through when they for instance pulled up Marcus Hingers sleeves, exploring his tattoos. Afterwards they proudly showed us their sketchbook, which presented some of the motifs for the murals we would create with them. Markus Hinger led the workshop and drew the first outlines, which we would color in collaboration with the young boys. The results were an interesting mix of childish sketches and more elaborated artistic skills.

All in all, the UrbanArtVentures project was an interesting view into the social potential that lies in a project that involves both the artist and the public. From my own experience and from what I heard from the groups located elsewhere, people who had their everyday at the area of the murals took great interest in the work and concept. They shared their stories with the artists, enjoyed watching the progress of the murals and even brought them homemade food. Though not with a paint brush in their hands in all of the cases, the public were a part of the proces of artistic creation, which must give a certain sense of proud ownership and connection towards the locations.

UrbanArtVentures II took place in Volos, Greece, from the 12th-21 th of September 2017. The project is a collaboration between Jugend & Kulturprojekt e. V. (Germany), Urban Act (Greece) and thirty participants – street artists, youth workers and art educators from Denmark, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Serbia and Spain. The UrbanArtVentures II project aims to use street art as a method and learning tool in youth work in European and community projects and to engage young people with fewer opportunities to participate actively in the civil society and be decision makers. The main theme this year was the refugee crisis and the importance of promoting values such as solidarity, understanding, respect to “otherness” and peaceful co-existence.




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