: Articles

Paper: Culture, the arts and well-being

While we are all confined and trying to cope under extreme circumstances the global population being more isolated than at any other time, it is also a time for reflection on our societies; on how we relate to our environments and economies. It is a challenging time that questions our sectors of activity and how we can contribute to societal development in new contexts; what lessons can we take from the challenges and what will emerge? In times of crisis, there is a tendency to look for means of resilience from the technological, scientific and economic sectors. The role of arts and culture, however, has become a source of inquiry. Culture is a connective tissue and the collective crisis we are facing proves the fundamental role that culture plays in building resilient, fair and healthy societies.

 

Today we see on social media increasing trending hashtags such as #CultureTogether, #cultureathome and #culturekeepsmesane revealing that of all the necessities we now feel so keenly aware of, the arts and their contribution to our wellbeing is evident and, in some ways, central to coronavirus confinement for those of us locked in at home. For some of course, there are more pressing needs. But momentary joys, even in dire circumstances, often come through the arts and collective expression. We find comfort in images of people singing and playing music on their balconies, virtual gallery and museum tours, free concerts and live sessions of our favourite musicians, etc. We also witness an increased availability and access to digital culture and artistic contents in this challenging time. Art can set you free, but not only.

 

IYMF has worked in the field of culture, the arts and resilience while implementing its activities in the field of intercultural dialogue and social inclusion through the arts. The value of arts engagement on a number of aspects is underpinning all its projects and should become a central part in the development of its strategy. The META project (Minorities Education Through the Arts) that IYMF coordinated also focused on the development of a framework and research dealing with arts and resilience (https://www.meta-project.eu/images/Competences-framework.pdf). As defined by Merriam-Webster, resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from stress. In today’s world turmoil, being able to withstand the related shocks and stresses for both individuals and societies is more important than ever. The arts can help build resilience.

 

Moreover, over the past two decades, there has been a major increase in research into the effects of arts on well-being and health. The World Health Organization has published a report on the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well being (2019) gathering 3000 studies that identified a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, the promotion of health and management of illness across the lifespan. The increasing number of research comes along with developments in practice and policy activities in different countries around Europe. For example, in the United Kingdom joint publications between Arts Council England and the National Health Service have been produced since 2007, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has included health within the new Culture White Paper; and All-Party Parliamentary Group report Creative Health has made a series of political recommendations to the UK Government and other bodies. In Finland, the Government adopted a policy programme for health promotion in 2007 that focused on enhancing the contribution of art and culture to health and well-being. In Ireland, Arts Council Ireland and the Health Service Executive have been collaborating since the late 1990s, producing policy and strategy documents on the potential collaboration between the arts and health sectors. In Norway, the Government has instituted a public health law and a cultural law, with both emphasizing the importance of arts in health promotion and care. In Sweden, the Swedish Parliament has started a Society for Culture and Health and a Cultural Politics Commission, etc.

 

Nevertheless, those developments have been focusing on individual countries and aiming to change and influence policy at national levels. Today more than ever, we need a stronger Europe, long-lasting and long-term developments, more exchange of good practice, cross-country programmes and European interdisciplinary structures and mechanisms.

 

Policy recommendations

 

  • Share knowledge and good practices and promote collaboration and dissemination of arts interventions in their context to promote health and inform policy
  • Acknowledge the growing evidence base for the role of the arts in improving health and well-being
  • Support research in the arts and health
  • Ensure that cultural diverse forms of arts are availbale and accessible to a range of different groups across the life-course
  • Encourage cultural organizations to make wellbeing an integral part of their strategy
  • Promote the value of arts engagement
  • Develop interventions that encourage arts engagement to support healthy lifestyles
  • Strengthen structures and provide cross-funding initiatives in the area of participatory arts, health and well-being

Women singing for peace

Today is the International Women’s Day and we would like to pay tribute to those women, whoever and wherever they are, who stand against the terror and fight for their rights.

The International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation has a long tradition of organizing concerts and stage productions delivering strong messages. Utopia or not, we still believe that music remains an extraordinary and essential vector for harmony and tolerance between populations and people. We leverage our strenghts to bring together musicians and artists from very different cultures, backgrounds and horizons. That’s when unexpected and magical outcomes often appear.

The productions of concerts allow for an extraordinary experience of the arts but stir reflection about one’s own perspective and wider meanings. 

Hence the concert “Voices for Peace” at the Cirque Royal in Brussels in 1997 featuring seven women from areas of the world in which poverty or oppression were facts of life. Seven women who sang for peace and gave a beautiful lesson of humanity and dignity, accompanied by the traditional instruments of their culture.

The International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation invited seven singers from all over the world to come and sing peace at the Cirque Royal. The choice of performers and their originis was no coincidence since the omnipresent message of this evening was to pay tribute to these women, whoever they are, who oppose terror.

It might seem a little utopian – voices as beautiful as they are were never able to silence weapons – but when the moving Algerian Houria Aïchi began to sing the sound of the flute and bendir, you did not have to be an expert in international politics to feel the pain of an entire peaple.

The bubbling gypsy Esperanza Fernandez, the Tibetan Mantras of Yang Du Tso, the Israeli-Yemeni singer and crusader for cultural harmony Noa, the spokesperson for millions of Amerindians Luzmila Carpio, the legendary Iranian singer Marzieh, and Miriam Makeba, a symbol of the struggle against the apartheid irradiated the Cirque Royal.

For the final, the seven singers all united under Yehudi Menhin’s direction and delivered a powerful message for peace.

They are the first voices that we listen to, we, the newborn children. We have heard them before, when our live was under preparation, and maybe the reason we are trying so hard to meet them is because we want to hear them better

Yehudi Menuhin

Art brings people of all kinds together by MUS-E Hungary

Community building in Budapest

Since the MUS-E program was launched in 1994 by Yehudi Menuhin, the targeted groups of the transcultural social-artistic programme were defined according to the “CAT model”, as Children, Artists and Teachers, those individuals that actually take part and benefit directly from the artistic workshops. As time went by, and different national and international projects were born and implemented, we had to realise that the primary agent of socialization, namely the family cannot be excluded from our approach, if we do want to create long-lasting results in the improvement of well-being, and equal opportunities for vulnerable children.

The idea of thinking in the scope of communities is not revolutionary in social work, but to implement it with the help of the MUS-E programme is new and faces many challenges. First of all, we have to realise that parents many times show a lack of interest in the school-life of their children, and it is very hard to attract them and convince them to participate. We had to think and act together with school directors, teachers and artists, gaining inspirations from the best practices of other relevant programs, about what activities could gain their attention and willingness to participate. When we started to work in a school in the socialist type neighbourhood of Budapest in 2018, and our office also moved there, for the first time in our operation we could start dreaming about an own community place, where in the future we can organise family events, workshops and also summer camps for children. We spent one year to build closer, tight and trustful relation with the school, and this autumn we already organised our international meeting of WAC project in a way, that international participants left their creative footprint in the shape of a community painting for the children, that we further developed with parents and children in an open-afternoon joyful session in November. For our biggest surprise, all the targeted 25 kids could enjoy the presence of their parents and siblings. Our aim, for which we want to build a fundraising campaign in 2020, is to co-create the space itself – that is in ruins now – with families, including hand-painted walls using the community paintings, a workshop-room and a renovated child-friendly open-air courtyard. We want create opportunities where families can gain new ideas and real experiences about how to spend time together in a meaningful, free and creative way, and to increase the opportunity that a real and helping community can be formed also in our age and in city-settlements.

The real value of international dimension by MUS-E Hungary

We all Count and Arte por la Convivencia – International Meetings in Budapest

Following the very successful and inspiring international meeting of the We All Count project on 30th September and 1st October, MUS-E Hungary welcomed another international team in Budapest coming from six countries, in the framework of the Arte por la Convivencia- Art for living together project.

Why are these meetings so important? What is the real value behind? If we take at first the international scope, it is essential that those professionals: teachers, artists, school directors and representatives of municipalities, who work with great devotion for the same cause in different parts, in different communities of Europe can get-, think-, and share time together. For MUS-E Hungary it’s been a great opportunity to consider what elements we really want to show, what we really want to highlight about our working environment and approaches during these two days. We aimed to give a very deep and profound insight into the everyday life of one of our primary schools, located amongst the socialist-type-block-of-flats neighbourhood in Budapest. Beyond that, we wanted to demonstrate that a socially sensitive artistic program can only function sustainably in an institution, that believes in the necessity to bring non-formal, unique and diverse pedagogical approaches into the public educational system that truly needs reconsideration in its design of curricula and methodology. We also wanted to give opportunities for those teachers and pedagogical experts that contribute to the well-being and development of students and teachers with their special knowledge and experience. Such elements were the holistic approach of pedagogy, Delacato movement therapy, the proper integration of Autistic kids, and of course the MUS-E programme. Apart from all these, we created moments where the whole community could spend creative and joyful time together, therefore we organized an open workshop, where students, teachers, and the international team could create together wonderful natural Mandalas in the courtyard. At last but not least, for the children welcoming non-Hungarian speaking „strangers” is always a very exciting experience, that makes them vivid, open-minded and curious, an experience they may remember through the rest of their lives.

We would like to express our gratefulness for all those people who contributed with their knowledge, passion and heart to the implementation of the program.

In recognition of the cultural wealth of the Roma People through the years

Our heartfelt congratulations on the occasion of the International Roma People’s Day on 8 April, which commemorates the First World Gypsy Congress (London, 8 April 1971), at which the flag and the anthem of the Roma were created.

« I speak to you as a born Jew, in my heart forever a Gypsy since we fiddlers are members of the nomadic tribe, like the Gypsies who have never experienced justice on earth. I would go as far as maintaining that our planet is not worthy to house humanity until the Gypsies are able to move about the earth in total freedom, with the freedom of the birds in the air and the fish in the waters – provided air and water will continue to be elements of life »

Yehudi Menuhin

Yehudi Menuhin was a prominent supporter of the cause of the Roma. He admired the cultural richness of a people that have endured the vicissitudes of life through the ages without ever altering their identity. He constantly defended his support, emphasising the virtuosity of their music and the flexibility of their way of life and thought. Menuhin participated in March of the Century programme by Jean-Marie Cavada, entitled “I met the Gypsies” together with Emir Kusturica and Taraf de Haidouk. He was also the guest of honour at the International Gypsy Congress in Barcelona in 1997, which brought together Roma delegations from all over Europe. He dreamed of establishing an “Assembly of Cultures” where the voice of every cultural minority present in Europe would be heard, including that of the Roma.

 

This is why, since its creation in 1991, the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation (IYMF) has continued to involve the Roma in its various programmes, as well as by working together with the President of the Union of the Spanish Romani, first Gypsy MEP and close friend of Yehudi Menuhin.

The IYMF’s concerts often include Romani artists along with musicians from different cultural backgrounds. They participate in an intercultural dialogue that is created by the magic of music. Such was the case with the memorable concert “From the Sitar to the Guitar” performed by Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar at the Brussels Royal Circus Theatre in 1995, which illustrated the journey of the Roma from India to Andalusia. This was also the case for the IYMF’s other concerts, among others, “The Voices of Peace” with the Andalusian Gypsy Esperanza Fernandez alongside Noa and Miriam Makeba, “Menuhin’s Dream” with the Gypsy singer Juan Peña, ” Traveling Voices “with Esma Redzepova, the Queen of the Roma from Macedonia, and more recently the 2012 Flagey concert “Voices to Share”, which brought together women from diverse backgrounds inspired by Gypsy music and showing their support of the Romani people’s cause, such as Vaya con Dios, Maurane and Iva Bittova.

The various European projects led by the IYMF since its creation have always had a Roma dimension: be it the “Enfants d’ici, Contes d’ailleurs” project, which led to the publication of a collection of tales from the Roma, Armenian, Kurd and Berber peoples in several languages, or the “Iyouwe Share the World” flagship project of the 2008European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, which enabled us to initiate collaboration with the Roma Education Fund in Budapest.

The IYMF also initiated two programmes: “Sharing all Voices” (2008-2010) and “Voices for Tomorrow” (2011-2013) which took us to various parts of Europe, particularly Eastern Slovakia, to meet the Roma, with whom our Artist Ambassadors could share the values dear to Yehudi Menuhin: respect for cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue, creativity and transmission. It was due to our trip to Slovakia that allowed us to participate in the European conference on the role of culture in the integration of Roma that took place in Brussels in April 2012 at the initiative of the European Commission. On that occasion, we invited on stage children from the Roma settlements around Kosiče with whom we had worked in collaboration with the Romani singer Ida Kelarova.

 

One of the IYMF’s tasks in each of the above initiatives has been to draw attention to the situation of the Roma people who are still living in unprecedented precarious conditions. In doing so, we also highlight the rich traditions of the people, who represent a true European minority and still have a lot to teach us.

 

Along the same lines, we implemented the European project “Art4ROM”, whose objective was to propose an artistic action in the schools and in the Roma settlements of several European countries, in Hungary, Slovakia and Italy, relayed by partners with complementary skills, including Roma associations such as Unión Romaní in Spain or ERIO at the European level, who were responsible for bringing their expertise, insight and perceptions to the project, in collaboration with MUS-E Napoli for their artistic expertise with children of all cultures.

 

This successful project was followed by “Music4ROM”, which aimed to deepen the musical heritage of the Roma and their influence on classical music throughout the centuries. Bringing together some partners of Art4ROM and adding the expertise of new partners such as Sons Croisés in France or Activ Art in Romania, the project ran from 2013 to 2015 in several European countries. The highlight of this project was the organization of a Master Class in Paris at the Cité Universitaire under the leadership of Maestro Jorge Chaminé. Young Romani and non-Romani musicians gathered under the guidance of Romani and non-Romani experts to discover the musical richness of the fascinating and passionate Roma culture that inspired many composers such as Manuel de Falla, Brahms, Ravel and Bartok. This was brilliantly illustrated during the “Music4ROM” concert performance in Brussels, where classical and Roma musicians shared their talents with enthusiasm and brio in front of an enthusiastic public.

 

Author: Mrs. Marianne Poncelet, Executive Vice-President of the International Yehudi Menuhin on 7 April 2018

E-ARTinED

Teaching creatively is essential to make learning a process that all students can enjoy and benefit from. The arts are undoubtedly an exceptional tool for a teacher because an artistic activity stimulates emotional intelligence. By offering countless opportunities for sensory learning that engage emotions – essential to long-term memory – the arts make it easier to understand content in school subjects. Thus we can teach mathematics through music, history through the visual arts, science through dance, geography through theater,…

This was the credo of the ARTinEd project, created in 2011, which gained the support of teachers and European authorities in charge of education. The project activities were tested by many enthusiastic teachers who were waiting for new proposals in the same spirit.

E-ARTinEd extends this vision and expands its resources, exploring three new topics: “Social inclusion through the arts”, “Exploring nature through the arts” and “New technologies related to art” “. Through E-ARTinEd a community of practice has been created and an online course has been set up, so that teachers experience, through the arts, inspiring tools for their work.

This approach has been tested in several pilot residences in schools and in natural settings, including artists and teachers as well as project partners. The didactic resources of the project have been enriched with new good practices based on art. Online courses have been made available to teachers.

It is now a matter of publicizing this approach to the general public, and to this end, a major conference will be held in Edsbyn, Sweden, from 16 to 17 August 2018, for the benefit of teachers, school administrators and cultural actors. It will consist of presentations, practical workshops, seminars and a variety of artistic proposals. It will provide a meeting place where teachers and cultural actors can find the inspiration and motivation to integrate the arts into education and pedagogy

Both ARTinED and E-ARTinED have been co-financed by the Sweedish Erasmus+ Agency.

Author: Marianne Poncelet, IYMF Executive Vice President (based on information provided by the project as well as by the organizers of the Final Conference)

META – Minority groups Education Through Art

“It is the reaction of children – their joy in learning to dance, to sing, to live together, which guides us. This should also guide the whole world”

Yehudi Menuhin

 

Yehudi Menuhin believed that by exercising our senses through the arts and paying attention to the diversity of European cultures, we would become capable of generating genuine respect for others and desire for peace, accomplishing individual and collective achievements of all who bear the burden of responsibility for this world of suffering. Menuhin was thoroughly convinced that children should all receive a creative education which encourages rather than suppresses a child’s gifts, thereby nurturing an enlightened generation of individuals who would reject and eradicate all forms of violence. The reasoning was that the arts would enable the development of young people’s personalities towards greater open-mindedness, respect and the desire for peace.

Twenty years after Menuhin’s death, in a Europe plagued by fear and distress, one of the many societal challenges to be met is the social inclusion of migrants through education.

In recent years, European schools and researchers have finally started focusing on arts in education as an innovative learning method, particularly for children from disadvantaged or immigrant backgrounds or for those having learning difficulties.

Many projects have been designed to promote innovative educational methods in Europe that integrate all forms of creative arts in primary schools. Some have been empirically based, while others have taken a more scientific approach, based on analysis and evaluation from the perspective of various disciplines: social sciences, pedagogy, psychology, anthropology, cultural studies or intercultural dialogue. This last is the case of the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation’s MUS-E® programme, which has been operational for more than 25 years in primary schools in several European countries. The programme, managed by national MUS-E® associations, offers artistic workshops for children aged between six and twelve to awaken their sense of creativity, empathy and resilience, enabling them to explore and exploit their potential and becoming genuine creators of change.

The META – “Minority groups Education Through Art” European project builds on the longaccumulated experience of the MUS-E® network, as well as on the innovative achievements of the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation’s other projects, such as ART4ROM and MUSIC4ROM, and E-ARTinED. META’s core premise is that the arts can improve certain key competences in children, including motivation, concentration, self-confidence, teamwork, critical thinking, cognitive and verbal skills, among others. In other words, the practice of the arts in school is closely linked to a pupil’s social and emotional development and academic achievements, as well as to greater civic engagement and understanding of equal opportunity, not only in the classroom but also in society as a whole.

The META project proposes a clear methodology and tools using different art forms that aims to reduce the learning disparities of pre-school and primary school children from minority groups (including the Roma). The project is also developing a new, collaborative learning and teaching methodology for European teachers, which would be conducive to enhance social cohesion and further nurture European citizenship.

The piloting experiments conducted as part of the META project in four MUS-E® countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain,) illustrate that the use of music, song, dance and the visual arts in the classroom stimulates a more creative and enjoyable educational experience for children and, above all, facilitates their integration in school, which otherwise could be a major challenge.

A multicultural Europe whose goal is social inclusion cannot afford to allow so many children with disadvantaged backgrounds to leave school prematurely. If Europe is to advocate societal change, we cannot sit back and accept the continued overwhelming preponderance of children of migrant or minority backgrounds who are school dropouts or poor academic performers, simply due to the fact that specific educational needs are not currently being addressed by conventional education policies.

Moreover, the risk of dropping out of school or of being left behind academically does not only affect children of migrant or minority backgrounds. Innovative educational approaches using the arts as a lever for creative and transformational expression can be effective for children of all backgrounds and contribute to inspiring teachers and parental involvement.

These approaches therefore broaden the virtuous circle that allows all individuals to tap into their own backgrounds and participate in co-creating the future.

Author: Marianne Poncelet, IYMF Executive Vice President (based on Yehudi Menuhin’s quotations and on the presentation of the META project)

MultiLib artistic workshops in Namur with Marlène Dorcena (20 and 23 February 2018)

The country of Haiti and the Creole language are at the heart of Marlène Dorcéna’s concerts and musical workshops. She speaks and sings with bittersweet conviction about Haiti under the sun, the misery and the social realities. She claims African ancestry – her ancestors having been uprooted from their land and transported as slaves “to the Americas”. Marlène has been welcomed and appreciated in the Belgian art scene ever since her arrival in Belgium, and has performed traditional Haitian music around the world. She is always in search of new sounds that reflect basic emotions produced by traditional instruments such as the lambi (conch shell instrument used during the revolution of the Haitians against colonial rule), the Haitian drum, pine, hazelnuts, ti bwa, agogo, maracas, shells, etc.

Marlène Dorcéna is also the author of a collection of Creole stories and songs to share a part of her childhood with children and to pay tribute to her grandmother.

MultiLib – The Multilingual Library for Children in Europe

Today, an increasing number of children are entering school with a need to develop their potential and learn to find a place in a rapidly changing society where even parents are having trouble keeping up. Regardless of whether or not they are from an immigrant/migrant background, children will need to be prepared to face a multicultural world with multiple facets and values.

Destined to “educate and enrich both the soul and the life of this world,” tales are part of human cultural heritage. They were created in ancient times and have come down through the centuries thanks to their educational value. Tales nourish and develop the imagination.

They allow us to project ourselves into a universe where all options are possible, and may then be reintegrated into our ordinary lives. The use of tales and stories is the oldest strategy to extend our vision of the world and of ourselves to another level. Venerable sages and masters of wisdom such as Milton Erickson, Idries Shah and Clarissa Pinkola Estes have used them because of their power of healing and stimulation towards social cohesion.

With this in mind, the MultiLib European project has developed several beautifully illustrated children’s stories in the form of e-books into twelve languages, including into six languages of cultural minorities present in Europe. These stories, whose authors and illustrators come from selected cultural backgrounds, recount the traditions or peculiarities of each culture through a series of metaphors or symbolic narratives that encourage transformation. They are stories in which each child can recognise him-/herself and where the child can learn and develop his/her imagination.

MultiLib accordingly meets the needs of teachers who seek new, innovative strategies to enable them to manage multicultural classes. The project proposes educational concepts, methodologies and tools to facilitate social inclusion and mutual understanding. It also encourages language learning to be fun and enjoyable. Today’s teachers need to provide children of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn new skills. They must also create pleasant and reassuring contexts, where speaking another language or coming from another culture enriches rather than detracts from, and becomes an asset for the entire class.

In spite of the ubiquitous presence of instant communication technologies that characterises contemporary society, it is the stories that have been handed down over the centuries, often orally, that best convey the meaning of experience and knowledge. By virtue of the universality of the symbols they contain, stories address that part of humanity which is common to all humans. While stories feed on themselves and evolve via their own creative processes, they also awaken the imagination, the magic, a universe of possibilities and sense of pleasure in us.

The tools developed specifically by the MultiLib project consist of e-book toolkits. These are composed of various children’s stories transcribed digitally as texts together with pictures and animations, videos and voice recordings in all languages represented by the project, as well as descriptions of activities to be carried out with children and a teacher’s guide.

Children and teachers from the partner countries involved also have the opportunity to exchange their own videos featuring their artistic achievement and performances related to activities with the stories.

Hence, storytelling as an innovative educational methodology is valuable for both children and teachers, as they can share in an inspiring and creative adventure together, using modern digital communication means whilst discovering new cultures.

Author: Marianne Poncelet, IYMF Executive Vice President (based on the description of the MultiLib project and reflection by Gilda Grillo)