U-CREATE: Social inclusion through the arts

1.The International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation

Since its setting-up in 1992 in Brussels, the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation (IYMF) has used the creative arts (music, singing, dance, visual arts, etc.) as a tool for meetings among world cultures and has produced high-level multicultural concerts presenting stage concepts merging classical and world music in an innovative way.  


The IYMF has also established an informal artistic education network in Europe since 1993 entitled the MUS-E programme (900 artists from all disciplines and all cultures working in over 540 primary schools and reaching over 55,000 children a year through their art, in collaboration with 4500 teachers). The aim of this programme is to foster social inclusion of all children through the practice of the arts at school. In 2022, the programme exists in 10 countries of Europe: Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland as well as in Israel and Brazil.  


The Foundation’s artistic, educational and cultural actions are unique in their development and are mutually enriched by daily practice from artists in schools, their multicultural experiences, the on-stage celebrations of the richness of cultures and reflections on cultural diversity together with reflections on the protection of these cultures and the enhancement of their value, especially at a time when the principle of diversity and the acceptance of multiple identities seem to create a new, favourable environment for the cultures that make up the European mosaic.  


These actions make it possible to manage an ever increasing multiculturalism on a daily basis in Europe and contribute to integrating young people and developing their multiple identities. 


The IYMF brings together artists, children, teachers, project leaders, partners and cultural experts who share the vision and ethics of the great humanist violinist Yehudi Menuhin (“we live in a period of time when change is required for survival. Growing controversy and confrontation must be abandoned in favour of complementarity, solidarity and reciprocity”). 


Since several years now, the Foundation is also active in the field of social inclusion of refugees and migrants through inclusive projects such the HOMELANDS project or the INSIDE project which take place in the several regions of Belgium. The latest EU project we launched with enormous success is entitled “UCREATE.”  What is all about? 

2. The U-Create project

UCREATE is a Creative Europe funded project, in which four European artistic organisations based in four countries, namely International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation in Belgium, Big Sur in Italy, HANGAR in Portugal and MUS-E Hungary have joined their forces to launch a training programme based on co-creation and dedicated to the inclusion of young artists from cultural minorities and migrant backgrounds.  

Through this project, creation is shared! Co-creation is at the centre of this project, and the arts are used as a powerful lever for creating social bonds between individuals. In each country, one artistic discipline has been in the spotlight: music in Belgium, cinema, photography and performing arts in Italy, art education in Hungary and visual arts in Portugal. Our main objective has been to involve local European communities with young newcomers around a common artistic project. Sharing experiences, creating and achieving something together are the solutions UCREATE is implementing for the social integration of newcomers in Europe, setting the premises of a feeling of belonging.  

In addition to proposing solutions for the inclusion of audiences, UCREATE is indeed a training programme for young artists, a research around co-creation, and an artistic research of the multiple facets of what Europe is today and how we foresee its future in four European countries.  

The highest priority of UCREATE is capacity building, developing skills through training and education transnationally. The second priority, intrinsically linked to the first, is facilitating intercultural dialogue and social integration training through co-creation, increasing newcomers’ participation in European cultural and societal life. 

While in the last decades many efforts have been done on how to engage new audiences in the passive “consumption” of art, today we see a strong focus on involving audiences in a more active and participatory way. This is not only because of the desire to find new approaches to attract new audiences but also because of the understanding of the importance of active participation in the art for our own personal development and, therefore, its beneficial impact on society as a whole.  


Artistic co-creation is a new, innovative model that goes even further. Within co-creation, participants do not just participate in what already exists, but they become decision-makers within the artistic process, design and implementation. Principles of artistic co-creation can also effectively be applied to many other sectors of our lives, thus contributing to innovation and creativity not just in the field of culture, but also promoting innovative spill over on other sectors. 

Through the last two years of activities of UCreate, we have learned a lot and gathered many positive experiences that we would like to share and multiply in future in order to create a meeting place, a place for dialogue and a laboratory for critical reflection on the role and meaning of art and the growing need to have more innovative approaches to participation in culture, regardless of background and artistic experience.  

The synthesis of these best practices has been gathered in an interesting document entitled « U-CREATE GUIDELINES » available in English, which aims to inspire practitioners in the field of social inclusion through the arts, in the specific context of migration.  

3. U-Create final event

The U-Create project culminated with a final event of two days in December 2022. The first day the event took place in Brussels at the Instituto di Cultura italiana in partnership with ENCATC and gathered all partners involved in the project as well as members of ENCATC at the occasion of their “Happy Hours”. A presentation of the project was done by the partners and culminated with the solo interpretation of cellist Matthieu Saglio, Ambassador artist of the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation.  

The second day the event took place in Yvoir, within the asylum Centre for migrants and started with a participative workshop on percussions for children led by the artist ambassador of the IYMF, Antonino Talamo. In the afternoon, a concert took place within the Centre and gather a large audience of residents and social workers. The musicians who participated in the concert were cellist Matthieu Saglio, percussionist Antonino Talamo and five young classical musicians from String for Talent, an association with whom we work for this special occasion.  

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