ArtCorps was founded on the premise that many organizations struggle to create the kind of strong local support and partnerships within communities that are necessary to build sustainable programs. In reaching out to local communities, organizations face many challenges: how do they communicate their work in an accessible and culturally relevant way? How do they build community around projects when racial, ethnic and religious tension prevails? How can they promote dialogue around complex environmental and social issues? Through the participatory arts, organizations can establish a platform for education, engagement and empowerment.
- Some women in a village in Guatemala refused to take small bottles filled with chlorine given to prevent the spread of cholera?
- 80% of the people in a village in Nigeria do not take free medicine to treat and prevent river blindness?
- Conservation groups in Brazil regularly teach the villagers that cutting too many trees is not in their long-term interests, yet local people continue deforesting their fragile land?
- A message cannot be imposed but needs to be conveyed in a culturally sensitive way.
- A verbal message has a more lasting impact if it is reinforced with powerful images.
- A message is much more effective if the audience is involved in the presentation.
ArtCorps provides the vital link that connects organizations to the communities they serve by introducing the arts as an innovative education, engagement and empowerment methodology. The arts have the power to establish trust, build confidence and promote local initiative.
From theater to mural painting to puppetry, the arts create an opportunity for local organizations to initiate dialogue around development issues, tapping into the imagination and voice of the people. By building the skills of critical reflection and action, communities are empowered to change the conditions of their own lives.
Art is a powerful and universal communicator. How do the arts contribute to cooperative and sustainable work? The creative process of art:
- Attracts interest and builds trust
- Educates creatively
- Helps people express different points of view
- Establishes a process of shared power and decision-making
- Creates an environment where all participants make decisions together
- Encourages critical thinking
- Builds confidence and embraces many types of intelligence
As experts in communication, artists can convey important messages about health, protection of the environment, sustainable agriculture, and many more issues. Volunteer artists work with nongovernmental organizations (NGO) in developing countries to help that NGO deliver their message more effectively.
The artist works with local residents to design and create the art project. Together, they communicate community development messages using skits, mime, puppet shows, painting, mask making, singing and murals. For example, a performing artist volunteer guides children to create skits about health issues, while a visual artist helps women design embroidered cloths with environmental themes.
ArtCorps makes these connections possible by building relationships between artists and community development organizations.