Art as a tool for social engagement and change
Street art, and subsequently the modern urban mural, is a powerful tool that can raise important topics for society. That is why, at Visionary, we believe that the cultural value of the realized projects always lies, apart from the high artistic content, in the social issues of the presented topics.
First and foremost, for all of us as human beings, it is valuable to recognize social issues and bring public attention to them to provoke conversation, reflection, and self-awareness in the wider public. Of course, there are many ways to do this, but we see it as one of the keys to this visual art.
Every year we work with our partners and artists for the realization of art with social meaning and we can share that we successfully reach many new wide audiences who, through the created work of art and the information campaign we deploy online, are intrigued by the message, the content and the topic.
WHEN THE WALLS TALK
The lack of awareness is at the root of the misunderstanding and non-acceptance by society of a given problem. And urban art allows the creation of a lasting impression that provokes with its scale and grabs the attention of the modern man. Through it, important events that mark human history are marked - there are many examples of this around the world - murals, sculptures, monuments, memorials, etc.; we believe it's important to keep creating them to remind us of who we are and what we face every day.
A good example is how in 2019, with JahOne's " A Part of You May Be a New Life for Another" mural, we strengthened the donation information campaign at the invitation of "Astelas Bulgaria" and the Bulgarian Society of Nephrology (BDN) in an attractive way. The lack of donors is a very serious problem in Bulgaria and it is rooted in the public's lack of information. We hope that through a permanent artistic intervention of nearly 100 square meters, we will successfully remind people in the future, and not once, that donation can change many human lives.
TWO-WAY SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
Social engagement can be achieved not only through a meaningful and attractive visual image, but also by directly involving part of the community or certain groups in the process. There are many examples of such an approach in artistic projects with a social undertone, and there are numerous creative interventions in Favelas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for example, which, apart from their scale, involve the participation of people from the neighborhood in the creation of murals and mosaics.
On this principle, we work together with the Meeting Points Foundation on many projects, and in 2022 we realized together an extremely strong idea - the Unsilenced project, aimed at the collective creation of a contemporary mural, through which to publicly send personal and collective messages significant to the deaf community. The mural "TOGETHER" by Albena Limoni and Kostadin Kokalanov provokes with its "poster" style - clean, with very well-defined shapes and contrasting colors, and is perfectly noticeable from the park in front of the National Palace of Culture.
The project is "strong" not only visually, but also because of the relationship created between deaf and hearing people in the series of creative meetings, in which we got to know each other and studied Bulgarian sign language. Right here is the key element in social engagement and the first step towards change - to show through the implementation of the project your involvement and initiate the change you are looking for - not personal, of course, but rather societal. But personal examples are important. ;)
Here are other projects that, together with Meeting Points and TOCHKA, we executed on the same two-way principle of social engagement, such as ''Dreamland'' and ''Mural, mural, on the wall, I'm at home after all''.
THE POWER OF SOCIAL CHANGE AND THE FREEDOM TO DREAM
The process of working on the "Hope" project, on which we are partnering this year with the association "Doctors of the World" in Sliven, is very dynamic and interesting. Its main goal is to awaken imagination, creativity, and the potential to dream in the children of the Nadezhda neighborhood, a large number of whom live in dire poverty. The nature of the project is deeply social and significant for changing the attitudes of society in the direction of segregation. We are working on it with the artists Alexi Ivanov, Victoria Georgieva MOUSE, Tochka, and Kokichan.
"Nadezhda" quarter is the roma quarter of the city Sliven. The reality is that many families in it do not have access to drinking water and electricity; when it rains, the streets disappear and muddy rivers form in their place,and during winter, many people do not even have the opportunity to heat their homes. The children do not attend regular school, and there are no playgrounds or green spaces in the neighborhood itself. The neighborhood itself is isolated from the rest of the city by a concrete wall and has only two entrances: a pedestrian railway underpass and a street to a busy boulevard. This further contributes to the symbolic marginalization of its inhabitants.
The project seeks to inspire hope and improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable by transforming the environment and working directly with children and adolescents from the neighborhood. Through art, they can develop their worldview and see that a better future is possible.
Art placed in the social context of the neighborhood gives freedom to experiment and apply a relatively flexible approach to working with children and youth. There is an infinite number of directions that can be taken depending on how they respond in the creative process. If an idea doesn't work, it can be immediately adapted or replaced. This also gives artists freedom to choose the best way of working at the moment. It happens very often that you give an idea to the children and they interpret it in their way, which makes the process even more beautiful. The main mission of the creative team is to change the environment by painting it and turning it into a real gallery. The pedestrian railway underpass, which is the only "living" connection of the neighborhood with the rest of the city, becomes a "canvas" for the artists. And yet it remains our tool for the real change we would like to make - changing the mindset of the children and youth growing up in the neighborhood. Creating an illustrative world where everything is possible and you are the creator is the inspiration we would like to leave as an important message for them.
"More importantly, change has begun. First, through the art workshops held in February 2022 with the artists invited to the project - Alexi Ivanov, Victoria Georgieva - MOUSE, Tochka Ilieva, Krikor Papazyan - Kokichan, and secondly, and very key, is the presence of Alexi in the neighborhood for a whole month. He made a huge difference in the perception of street art as, I hope, a natural part of their habitat," says Delyana Angelova, project manager.
Passionate about the effect of the workshops, the "Doctors of the World" association offered a one-month residency to the artist Alexi Ivanov in March 2022 in the city of Sliven. Thus, he systematically managed to involve the children from Nadezhda quarter through more creative meetings, direct painting on the walls, and giving ideas for the sketches.
The "Hope" project is part of the "Power" project of the "Doctors of the World" association, implemented with the support of the international organization "Aide et Action" and in partnership with Megahim AD and the Municipality of Sliven.
Photos in the publication: Mihaela Draganova, Lina Krivoshieva