Even though we can consider Lithuania to be a modern European state, unfortunately, in the presence of current events, there is still much discrimination for religious and cultural minorities in Lithuania. Same goes for many other countries in Europe. When people feel safe and respected, it is natural that they can work effectively for the benefit of our country, creating not only an economical benefit, but often increasing the happiness of our nation. This difficult situation worries not only the politicians and journalists but the young generation as well. In an effort to decrease discrimination against minorities within European Union and encourage young people to take initiative in their own countries, an international project „Art over Problems“ took place in Lithuania at the end of September where youth from Turkey, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Poland and Lithuania gathered to discuss the social problems of Europe and searched for answers which would incorporate art as a tool.
The project took place in Kaišiadorys and Kaunas, Lithuania. All activities were geared towards promoting teambuilding and creativity, destroy stereotypes and tear down cultural barriers between foreigners. Participants took part in creating artistic initiatives, utilizing drawing, photography, filming, graphic design, acting, origami,, interactive discussions, and more. The participants have learned that every form of expression can be used to send a message of acceptance, goodness and peace to the general public. It is important to understand how each one of these forms of expression could be used to promote and execute such initiatives. One of the favorite activities of the participants was “Splash Art”, during which participants had the chance to mix their own paint and create colorful pieces of art by drizzling the paint onto canvass. The idea of this activity was to consider that creation of art can be seen as a form of therapy as well as opening new horizons for what is considered art.
During the project, the youth exchanged their own experiences related to social art, learned from one another and the project trainers, as well as had the chance to integrate their own knowledge and ideas into all activities of the project. Another activity that the participants really enjoyed was World Café during which participants discussed various social topics, especially relating to refugees, and discussed ways how using art these problems could be solved. For example, participants worked on projects on how to integrate refugees into our culture, help them find jobs and get along with the locals.
Every evening participants had a chance to introduce their culture, history and traditional cuisine, as well as the best social art projects in their countries. They not only showed videos and photos, but also made dances, songs, games and quizzes to get every participant of the project involved.
Another interesting activity was the folding of origami doves, which the participants later hung in Kaunas, Ąžuolyno Park. The key was that the origami had messages of peace and tolerance in Lithuanian and English languages, seeking to promote the message of tolerance to the visitors of the park. It was a simple, yet expressive and beautiful form of art as well as a step toward solving problems.
All in all, the participants of the project were amazed by Lithuania. The city culture as well as the beauty of countryside views left a lasting impression on them. They had a chance to interact not only with the Lithuanian participants of the project but the natives of Kaunas as well, which, according to the participants, were really tolerant and friiendly.
“Before arriving to Lithuania, I was thinking that the people here would be cold; however, I am surprised in a good way, They understand that I am from Turkey, from a different culture and that I am different, yet they accept me how I am. I really like socializing with Lithuanians and I think they are very friendly and tolerant.” – Reflected Tunahan, a participant from Turkey.
“I love Lithuania, it’s an incredibly beautiful country. The weather here is very cold, however the people are very warm. This is my third visit and I hope it isn’t my last one, I constantly miss this country”- Said Mert from Turkey.
The organizers describe the project as a success in all senses. Both the informal learning proccess, as well as the sharing of participant experiences among each other worked really well. As the knowledge assessment of the participants showed – the project displayed a 50% growth of knowledge on social art by the participants.
Even though the Youth Exchange “Art Over Problems” has officially come to an end, the pictures, videos and all the creative works done by the participants is still disseminated online. Now it is important to reach the public and let them know the opportunities behind social art. We have the confidence that the project participants and the art they’ve created will promote an interest of young people into the social art, and promote further similar projects in all of the European Union.