Inside Out: a global participatory art project


“I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world…INSIDE OUT.” – JR

Connecting with people across lines of difference is a fundamental goal in conflict resolution and this process has, in some ways, become more accessible due to the presence of the internet and social media tools. Through a course I am taking focusing on Art as a means of social change, I came across a project called the Inside Out Project started by a Parisian street artists known as JR. Winner of the TED Prize in 2011 (awarded annually to an exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and, much more important, “One Wish to Change the World”), this project tackles causes like peace, diversity, sustainability, and justice through photography as well are large scale displays of these works. According to the inside out project website http://www.insideoutproject.net:

INSIDE OUT is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities. People can participate as an individual or in a group; posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window to a wall of portraits on an abandoned building or a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually.

This resource presents a unique opportunity to actively engage students in a global movement aimed at highlighting identity and diversity.  The project can either used a stimulated visual example in the classroom that would display the ways in which people around the world are getting involeved in social justice and human rights issues creativily, or you could chose to collaborate!  For example, this nonprofit group in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (Olhar Coletivo, an organization that seeks to empower impoverished youth between the ages of 13 and 15 through the art of photography) participated in the project.

Inside out project is an ambitious experiment in civic engagement through art and would serve to facilitate dialogue about social issues like freedom and diversity as well as actively engage student in a global initiative to respond creatively and nonviolently to response to the political, social, and religious conflicts that are prolific in our contemporary landscape.

Visual Peacemakers

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Connecting with people across lines of difference is a fundamental goal in conflict resolution and this process has, in some ways, become more accessible due to the presence of the internet and social media tools.  Through a course I am taking focusing on Art as a means of social change, I came across the online resource visualpeacemaker.org.  This site is essentially a host for the collaborative project coordinated by the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers.  Working with such partners as Peace Catalyst International, the Guild of visual artist and photographers challenge stereotypes and prejudices by capturing the beauty of diversity.

The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers resource consists of collections of photographs, documentaries, and photo blogs that work to promote the message of the Guild as described in their manifesto.  By capturing the human elements of cultures, the project seeks to build peace.

Throughout history people have fallen into the trap of making enemies with, demonizing, stereotyping, and fighting the “other.” There has been a flood of conflict based on ethnic, cultural, and religious identity in the post-cold war era that has ended the lives of millions, destroyed economies, and torn apart families.

Much of this has been fueled by the growing availability of technology, especially photography and videography. While the written word carries an expectation for honesty, there is a void regarding the ethics of images due to their subjective nature. This void has opened the door for photographers to exploit people’s desire to confirm their thoughts about the “other”—mobilizing innumerable people towards slander, violence, and other fear-based responses.

Since 9/11, conflicts between Muslim cultures and western cultures have been growing in intensity. There are deep misunderstandings and stereotypes that are producing widespread fear and anger.

The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP) was created to build bridges of peace across ethnic, cultural, and religious lines through visual communication that is both accountable to an ethical standard and created by those who authentically care about people.

This resource can be used in both the formal and informal learning space due to its accessibility and the intelligible nature of the content.  Visually the images are powerful and the stories that the pictures tell are worth sharing with students and learners of all ages.  This resource can incite discussions about toleration, diversity, and the beauty and dignity of human life which is aptly illustrated in this project.  This approach to facilitating understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures while also educating the international audience about global issues is creative response to the political, social, and religious conflicts that are prolific in our contemporary landscape.

Using this resources students will not only be exposed to global conflict as humanized by the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers, but will also gain insight into the varied approaches experts in the field of Conflict Analysis and Resolution are tackling and implementing.

Art + Sports = Peace Education!

In order to meet children where they are developmentally and intellectually, the Arts Olympiad program combines art, sports, and technology in a multi-level program to teach children aged eight to 12 years about peace. The program, implemented by the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF), is a worldwide initiative that engages children in peace-building on local (classroom), national, regional, and global levels, teaching them cooperation, positive identity formation, empathy, creativity, leadership, and multiculturalism (see more information here).

This specific program is intended be utilized by elementary school teachers (and possibly after-school childcare providers and other informal educators), and adaptations of it could be effective for children from early elementary school through middle school. By employing media that are universally accessible – visual art and sports – this program is both highly inclusive and successful at connecting children from vastly different regions and cultures. At the same time, the elements of collaboration and cooperation built into the program (for example, classes work together to select which artworks will be submitted to the next level of the competition) teach children tolerance and community.

Participation in the Arts Olympiad could be easily implemented in classrooms as well as in informal settings. Because the only materials required are art supplies (crayons, markers, paper, pencils), this project needs virtually no preparation. Ninety minutes should be plenty of time for children to draw their favorite sport, share their artworks, and decide together which pieces will be entered to the next level of the competition. Teachers should supplement the project with a discussion of sports in an international context, such as exploring the Olympic Games or the World Cup. They could even go one step further and use sports as a metaphor to talk to young students about conflict, collaboration, and healthy behaviors.

The Arts Olympiad supports learning about cooperation, tolerance, identity, empathy, creativity, and leadership throughout the four levels of the competition, as children are increasingly exposed to their larger local, national, regional, and global communities. It teaches multiculturalism and international relations in a way young children can understand, and exposes them to the understanding that, though people may have many differences, they also have much in common.

(By Emily Ludwin Miller, emillerk@gmu.edu)