How to facilitate intercultural programs with storytelling?
23/06/2020
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How does art inspire meaningful conversations and sharing stories by people from various cultures?

„I loved it!” Why?
1. The subject was presented visually and it immediately addressed my emotions.
2. Connecting the four types of stories to the paintings made it easy to remember them and to discuss the power of these narratives in groups
3. The flow of the session was something I really liked and connecting with other participants was really cool.
It’s incredible how paintings help to reflect and focus the conversation and evoke emotions. As for me, I am definitely going to change some of my narratives.”

Veronica de la Fuente

With this feedback from Veronica, one of the participants of my first Visual Intercultural Stories Art Adventure on July 1st this year I dived into creating new experiential sessions combining art, intercultural communication, and storytelling with coaching. When, if not now, as we witness the rise of xenophobia, racism, and polarization, is the highest time to reflect on visuals we see, doublethink of stories we share, and find the courage to speak up when we face injustice in the everyday life?

All art adventures are designed as learning journeys in three acts. In the beginning, we set on a quest through three art institutions, such as museums, galleries, and other art collections around the world. Sometimes, also graffiti, posters, and comics are involved to initiate sharing stories in the intercultural story circles. Why? Because art is a universal language that enables amazing conversations among people who do not know each other and those who wish to get to know each other better way.

Being inspired by various pieces of art, we dive into the exchange of stories, observations, and moments when we experienced the situations captured in the pictures, sculptures, installations from around the world.

The third act is aimed mainly for educators and coaches, but also for everyone who wishes to invest some time and energy in self – development. That is the moment when we work with the insights from the shared stories and focus on coaching questions. Those who are interested can get access to the sources that can be used in educational programs. The aim is to enhance the development of cultural intelligence, expand the comfort zone to be able to spread, appreciate and consciously introduce more diversity and inclusion in our lives and create spaces of belonging in times of xenophobia, racism, and polarization.

My personal inspiration to start this series of virtual events was the passion I saw in people’s ‘ eyes when they discovered new details in pieces of art we enjoyed detecting together in various art collections. I really loved strolling through the exhibitions with friends from different corners of the world, colleagues sharing the love for art and intercultural communication, and my family. Many of the discussions afterward, mostly in coffee shops or over a glass of wine still echo in my ears and I recall them as very inspiring conversations on the current themes and the historic events that still have a major impact on our thinking and perception of the world.

I witnessed many times how experiencing art also led to meaningful conversations on the roots and danger of antisemitism, racial and social injustice, and cultural uprooting. That is the reason why I decided to enrich the art experience with the intercultural flavor, and vice versa – to enrich the conversations on diversity, inclusion, and belonging with art experiences. Listening to different stories from around the world is namely like trying out new spices, and adding new flavors and fragrances to our lives.

We leave the art adventure with a coaching question.

And again, You may ask why a coaching question at the end?
Let me answer with a short story…
Mid-January this year my mom called me with a Hiob message that she suffered from cancer. Helplessness, anger, and definitely the question of “why she?” were overwhelming. I was lucky enough to manage to visit her before the lockdown and on the eve of closing the borders between Poland and Germany. It was the most intense week in our lives, filled with calling back memories of happy moments, laughing, and… crying together. Shortly after my arrival back in Hannover, I started sending her paintings with short descriptions and a powerful question, inspired by these descriptions and the stage of her therapy every day. Now, when she is doing much better, she asked me to publish a book with all the pictures and the short descriptions, including the questions…

As a book project is a long term commitment, I decided to start the learning journeys called Visual Intercultural Stories Art Adventures with the focus on art, its inspirations on intercultural communication, diversity, inclusion, and belonging, and to enrich this experience with spreading the invitation to join story circles and leave the events with a powerful coaching question.

And you know what? It simply works! Just have a look at some more voices of the participants of the very first vis-a-vis Art Adventure:

A powerful session for me as we were asked to bring crayons. I was always self-conscious as a little girl 👧🏽 about which crayon to use when drawing my family and showcase our beautiful shades of “black”. We are so diverse. So I used “un crayon” (pencil/black) and we were all the same. The color was in the smiles, the sun, and the beautiful trees I drew and that meant life to me. Later, I found myself adding orange, blue, red as skin color to reflect energy more than skin color. 🎨 🌍 Bravo 👏🏽 Joanna for bringing this crucial angle, perspective to diversity.

Patricia Malidor-Coleman

What a wonderful treat (and also a shake to my brain!) to get a fresh perspective on how our dominant narratives are both shaping and being shaped by the images we consume. As we become an even more image-addicted culture it is good to keep raising my awareness about what I think “ordinary reality” looks like and to keep asking myself: “from whose perspective?”. I really enjoyed this fusion of art, story and conversation. Well done, Joanna

Mary Alice Arthur

I really appreciated the experience of Skin color – an anti-racism event on art, storytelling and re-narrating. It was personally rewarding and the people in my break-out group were amazing. I look forward to learning more about your work and from you.

Carol Gorelik