Sunday, 08 May 2011 14:48

Workshop summary: Arts and Volunteering

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A handful of artists make enough money to live solely off their art, but most can barely survive. And in an economic climate that has led almost all EU member states to cut back on arts funding, volunteers in cultural activities are left high and dry. The financial struggle is exacerbated by a problem with public image - volunteering in the arts is often not seen as "worthy" as, say, caring for the elderly. Delegates expressed their frustration at this lack of recognition, arguing that people volunteer in the arts with the same motives as those who volunteer in other areas of society.

The overwhelming consensus, though, was that creative pursuits are good for the individual and good for society as a whole, and they are likely to rely more and more on the third sector for support. So the group's report left volunteers with a desperate plea: "keep creativity alive".

What do you think? Should artists and not-for-profit cultural organisations get state support? Do they deserve the same financial contributions that we might give to charities? And can volunteering carry European arts through an economic downturn? 

Volunteering and Integration: Building Bridges From Below?


Integration is one the most topical European problems. Language barriers, prejudice, and lack of cultural and religious understanding widen the gap in society and make integration seem almost unachievable. European governments have been tackling the issue with different policies to little avail. More than 30 participants from across Europe came together in a workshop chaired by Artan Berisha, Chair of the Youth Council Esslingen, to discuss an alternative solution: volunteering. 

Volunteering can help build bridges between groups. Starting from daily life, by celebrating common occasions, such as New Year, with immigrants from your neighbourhood, you'd realise just how similar you are. Collaboration between different religious and cultural groups can create ideas across platforms, in order to truly develop a strategy that can make immigrants feel welcome and eager to integrate. 

Delegates from the workshop also brought up a refreshing perspective: to some immigrants, the idea of NGOs may be quite alien and unheard of in their home countries. Some of them have no idea that there are organisations that provide help and are instead suffering alone. As a result, welcome letters explaining what they can do and where help is available can make a difference. 

Last modified on Sunday, 15 May 2011 09:48
Lauren Davis

Lauren Davis, 23, studied English at Oxford and has written for free speech organisation Index on Censorship. Now a trainee reporter with the Press Association in Newcastle, she will be looking at stories affecting freedom of expression and freedom of thought across Europe.

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