Friday, June 27, 2008

Artsbridge: The Art of Imagination, Dialogue and Conflict Resolution for Israeli and Palestinian Youth

Boston Globe article features Artsbridge camp founder Debbie Nathan. Artsbridge provides dialogue training and art therapy to students caught up in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. You can view a video about the program at its website.

Students in the Artsbridge program will collaborate on sculptural artwork. 
Each student will be given the opportunity to place his or her contribution into a circle. If they want to touch another participant's work, they must ask permission. Where the kids choose to place their objects, say the organizers of Artsbridge, will reveal a lot about their perceived relationship to the group and their expectations for the program.
Art can be a powerful tool for dialogue and imagining new possibities. Maxine Greene says, "For me, the child is a veritable image of becoming, of possibility, poised to reach towards what is not yet, towards a growing that cannot be predetermined or prescribed. I see her and I fill the space with others like her, risking, straining, wanting to find out, to ask their own questions, to experience a world that is shared." Community created art work mimics this becoming and possibility, and opens up a shared space for questions, risks, and possibilities.
Though Nathan lived in Israel from 1976 to 1979, on a recent trip to interview candidates for the program she was struck by the depth of despair on both sides of the conflict.

"If you woke up tomorrow and the world was perfect," she asked every youth who applied for the program, "what would it look like?"

None of the children could begin to answer, she said this month at a daylong retreat for the Artsbridge board members at Nathan's house in Swampscott. She is haunted by the shocked looks that came over the students' faces when she asked whether they could imagine peace in their lifetime.

"They hadn't even thought about it," she said.

When she asked the prospective campers what they would ask for if they were granted three wishes, she recalled, almost all of them wished for health for their families and peace for their communities. She couldn't help but wonder how American students would respond.

"These kids' stories are so powerful to me," she said.