On Friday 26 May 2023, the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation (IYMF) in partnership with Associação Yehudi Menuhin Portugal, Évora University and Évora City Council organised the Roundtable “Art in Education to Empower Society”.
The event, taking place at Évora University, brought together relevant stakeholders to discuss and advocate for the power of art education for social inclusion with the participation of distinguished speakers from the Portuguese political, social and academic panorama and from the International Council of the MUS-E® programme created by the IYMF. Around 50 people attended the event, the audience included international and Portuguese artists, and local teachers, school directors, and NGOs.
Marianne Poncelet, IYMF Executive Vice-President, and moderator of the event, opened the roundtable by presenting the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, the ARTEFORA 2023 project, and introducing the speakers:
-Ana Telles, Director of the School of Arts at the University of Évora,
-Werner Schmitt, IYMF Vice-President,
-Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, President of AYMP Board and Member of IYMF Board,
-Paula Mota Garcia, Team Coordinator Évora 2027 European Capital of Culture,
-Tom Goris, MUS-E Belgium National Coordinator,
-Andor Timar, MUS-E Hungary President.
Ana Telles, Director of the School of Arts at the University of Évora, focused her introductory speech on the importance of music in the development of the human being. She highlighted three different spheres in which music shows its impact: individual, social, and general wellbeing. Ana Telles emphasised that music can help to foster several competencies, among which cultural awareness, creativity, and critical thinking, and that nowadays the arts’ positive impact on the human being and his body is corroborated by many scientific researches
T Dahlberg, S. (2007). Think and Be Heard: Creativity, Aging, and Community Engagement. The National Arts Forum Series. https://www.academia.edu/11086899/Think_and_Be_Heard_Creativity_Aging_and_Community_Engagement.
Participating in the arts creates paths to healthy aging. National Institute on Aging. (2019).
Haider, S; Patrício, L.; Freitas, A. et al. (2022). Co-creation on Active Aging Challenges in Portugal. White Paper. Innovation Think Tank, Siemens Healthineers.
Lewandowska, K. & Węziak-Białowolska, D. (2022). The impact of theatre on social competencies: a meta-analytic evaluation, Arts & Health, DOI: 10.1080/17533015.2022.2130947.
McMahon, K.; Clark, I.; Stensæth, K.; Wosch, T.; Miller, H.; Bukowska, A. & Baker, F. (2022). A qualitative systematic review of the experiences of sharing music for people living with dementia and their family care partners: the thread of connection, Arts & Health, DOI: 10.1080/17533015.2022.2128381.
Werner Schmitt, IYMF Vice-President, illustrated the origin of the MUS-E® programme stemming out of a discussion between Yehudi Menuhin and Director-General of UNESCO, Federico Mayor, in Paris in 1992. He highlighted the originality of Yehudi Menuhin’s philosophy, resulting from broadening the concept of music education developed by the Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist and teacher Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967) to include all creative arts spanning all cultures. Today MUS-E associations of 12 countries have built up a wealth of experience in implementing on a regular basis the activities of artists mostly in primary school curriculums, working particularly with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This year marks the 30-year anniversary of the MUS-E® programme: everyone is welcome to attend the celebrations in Gstaad on 26th August.
Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, President of AYMP Board and Member of IYMF Board, former Minister of Education of Portugal, discussed the recommendations on policies towards an innovative and humanist model of education, following the path of Helena Vaz da Silva, who was President of the Centro Nacional de Cultura (National Culture Centre – CNC) in Lisbon and Member of the European Parliament and established MUS-E in Portugal. He emphasised, on one hand, the importance of education for all, as a means of societal empowerment, and on the other hand, the difficulty of mobilising decision makers on this matter. He continued by stating that education should go hand in hand with the understating of art and concluding that the role of artists and of citizens is of extreme importance, as art in education is a significant element for freedom, equality, solidarity, partnership, cooperation, democracy, and responsibility.
Paula Mota Garcia, Team Coordinator of Évora 2027 European Capital of Culture, presented the project of Évora 2027, based on the poetic and philosophical concept of “Vagar”. Here, the word from the Alentejo region, means awareness and full understanding of the right tempo and space, respecting the new position of the human being which is always in connection with the universe. Paula Mota Garcia highlighted the transformative power of art in connecting people with nature and the universe, promoting human rights and the right to the city and therefore the power of collectivity in Évora and Alentejo region, where inclusion and democracy are two important principles. She presented the work of Évora 2027 as an investigation, raising new questions and answers, emphasising the need to engage local communities in this process. Local communities, and local stakeholders, are invited to be co-creators here and “Vagar” becomes a principle for a more peaceful coexistence with all that is around us, including the other.
Tom Goris, MUS-E Belgium National Coordinator shared examples from MUS-E Belgium activities developed in Wallonia and Flanders since 2000. He highlighted the diverse projects carried out, ranging from social inclusion to language and creativity, emphasising the importance of a bottom-up approach, and the humanist nature of the project, working on the participants’ emotional intelligence. As an independent art organisation of artists with critical views and creative souls, MUS-E Belgium brought the reality of Belgium. The MUS-E programme is currently being implemented in 12 countries and in each of them there are different layers (social, educational,…).
Following the speakers’ speeches, also the audience, mainly composed of artists, teachers, school directors, and NGOs, took part in the discussion. Participants in the room intervened on the personal interpretation of the concept of “Vagar”, perceiving also as a moment of joy and pleasure of being together, on the role of art and artist in education and critical thinking, sharing experiences and practical examples on the power of the art in society.
In her follow-up, Ana Telles emphasised the potential and power of art, on societal topics such as inclusion and climate change as art can change mentality. She underlined the importance of a change of paradigm, from STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) and the importance of creative process and interlearning. She recommended to involve the policymakers in the creative process and seize the actions!
Andor Timar, MUS-E Hungary President, wrapped up the discussion based on the examples explored during the roundtable: the MUS-E programme and its international experience of 30 years and Évora 2027 European Capital of Culture. According to Andor Timar, the speeches mark the transition period for a big change, a new chapter starting. The purpose of this era could be the connection with the universe and peaceful coexistence. He emphasised that art is a proper tool to enhance and foster democracy, solidarity, freedom, responsibility, and consciousness and that art and artist can be very helpful to see and reflect on what we are living within the society, being creative, critical, and culturally aware. Policymakers should be involved in the creative process and today we should seize the moment to build tomorrow.
To conclude the event, IYMF Executive Vice-President, Marianne Poncelet, thanked the panellists and the audience for the enriching exchange and discussion and invited all to the networking drinks.
The recommendations can be summarised as following:
-Encourage policies towards an innovative and humanist model of education and emphasise the importance of the role of art and of artists in societal development: art and artists can contribute to a more inclusive, democratic and free society;
-Increase funding and support for arts and arts education programmes in order to allocate more resources for all;
-Recognise the role of art in fostering competencies such as creativity, critical thinking, cultural awareness, and emotional intelligence;
-Integrate arts in the curricula: education system should prioritise the integration of arts in the curriculum, changing the paradigm from STEM to STEAM;
-Support continual research on the impact of arts and arts in education on human well-being: research on the impact is essential to provide evidence-based support of its inclusion in policies;
-Ensure lifelong practices in arts: promoting lifelong learning in the arts can ensure that individuals continue to benefit from arts education beyond their formal schooling years;
-Support grassroot co-creation initiatives and bottom-up approaches for local communities,
-Encourage interaction, dialogue and collaborations among stakeholders in the field of art in education and involve the policymakers in the creative processes.
From left to right, the roundtable participants: Paula Mota Garcia, Ana Telles, Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, Werner Schmitt, Marianne Poncelet, Andor Timar, Tom Goris.
Sharing reflection moments after the roundtable with a networking drink.
The event was featured in local newspapers and local authorities web pages:
Diario do sul, 21/07/2023: https://diariodosul.pt/2023/07/21/escola-da-cruz-da-picada-acolheu-parceiros-internacionais-do-programa-mus-e-2/?fbclid=IwAR23fvMcLAKGqTEkmLWyb44VxjW04eQibtjRmUCt887ruDtPGtZqn5kImhk
Radio campanario, 31/05/2023: https://www.radiocampanario.com/ultimas/regional/evora-acolheu-encontro-transnacional-do-projeto-erasmus-educarte
City Council, 31/05/2023: https://www.cm-evora.pt/evora-acolheu-encontro-transnacional-do-projeto-erasmus-educarte/
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