Where Art meets Advocacy: Youth from 10 Balkan countries learn the power of art

Participants of the Art for Advocacy training in Ohrid

Over 50 youth from Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia came together to learn how art can influence advocacy to solve their burning societal issues.  From comic strips and data visualization to graffiti and stencils, they learnt how to use different art techniques during the Art and Design for Advocacy training which took place in Ohrid, Macedonia from 22-28 June 2015.

Art is a language for advocacy and social issues. Art is really connected with our social issues and politics – Hanja Marovic, a participant from Podgorica, Montenegro.

‘I believe that art has always been a means to express ourselves as social beings and that art doesn’t only exist as something beautiful for hanging on a wall. Art is much more than that. When we want to address to society is that art is the most elegant medium to show that we are here and that we have something to say,’ – said Maria Anna Kotti, a participant from Thessaloniki, Greece.       

‘Art is a language for advocacy and social issues. Art is really connected with our social issues and politics. I believe that art, especially comics, which are sometimes considered as a working class art form, is instead a perfect way to say something meaningful to a wider audience and in this way, I believe that advocacy can happen through art.’– Hanja Marovic, a participant from Podgorica, Montenegro.

Participants were divided into groups of 10; each of the groups worked on a final project and presented it on the last day of the training.

‘On the second day, I heard the news from Hungary that they want to build a wall on the Serbian border to stop migrants from entering the country. Walls never stop the natural flow of people and they have never brought any good, only tragedy. That is why we choose to work on these issues as our final group project. The first thing that this project will do is help migrants and since we have a language barrier, data visualization will help spread the information among migrants. The second part of the final project focusses on the public in Europe who are afraid of migrants or newcomers. We want to introduce them and to show people that they are not going to do any harm.’ Hanja Marovic explains about her final project on the migrant issue that the group chose to work on.

Police and Youth, Rethinking Drug Policies, Youth Unemployment, Smartphone Addiction, Positive Society, Digital Freedoms: these were some of the topics on which participants at Art and Design for Advocacy training and their groups chose to create an advocacy campaign as their final project. 

‘Art is the only tool to connect people from different backgrounds and social issues. Art can surpass all t language and cultural barriers and connect us. As such, art is a tool not only to express yourself but also to connect with others who are coming from different backgrounds.’- said Aurora Baba, a participant from Tirana, Albania.

‘When most people think of “street art,” they think about images of graffiti which are provocative and uncompromising. And it’s understandable, due to its close associations with gang culture, who is used to vandalize public property and essentially mark the gang’s territory. But times have changed. Today, street art has become a respected new art form, a unique aesthetic with very few restrictions or rules. Street art can be found on buildings, sidewalks, street signs and even trash cans. This special kind of art can take the form of paintings, sculptures, cloth or even stickers.’ – said Goran Kostovski, art trainer at Art and Design for Advocacy training and art director and illustrator.

‘The good thing about street art is that you can repeat your artwork over and over again. It is good to repeat it because that is how your story lives on. Street art is bringing change to our society and can have a huge impact on many people as it’s accessible the way language isn’t.’ – added Kostovski.

Art and Design for Advocacy training is organized by Foundation IDEA Southeast Europe with the generous support of Open Society Foundations.

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