In mid-June, Dr. Janelle Junkin (director of community programming & research) and Ami Yares (executive director) traveled to Northern Ireland at the invitation of the NGO, Beyond Skin of Belfast. For nearly 15 years, Beyond Skin has been “enabling the Arts as the dialogue to assist the development of a more peaceful, equal and intercultural society free from racism & sectarianism.” Beyond Skin also leads an international collaborative of organizations dedicated to peace building through the Arts from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Colombia, Israel, Palestine and the United States. The collaboration, #ArtsDialogue convenes online regularly and shares best practices, successes and trials of mission-driven arts non-profits. The trip exposed the work of BuildaBridge across Northern Ireland created new collaborations across the globe.
Northern Ireland has been undergoing a turbulent time and in particular Belfast. Despite being years past the Trouble, an undercurrent of unrest exists. For nearly two years, Northern Ireland has had no political leadership. The coalition that embodied the Good Friday Agreement dissolved and was unable to create new leadership and a coalition. While the violence that characterized the Troubles of years past has not returned, the keystone of Northern Ireland politics lacks leadership to attend to crafting a new national budget and the funding of essential and non-essential programming, In addition, youth suicide has increased dramatically. It is unrelated directly to the political situation but something has gone amiss in regards to the wellbeing of Belfast youth. The education system and social services seem to be in need of new interventions to help sustain cohesiveness and community among the citizen of Northern Ireland and preserve and strengthen the well-being of Belfast youth. The presence of BuildaBridge offered up new possibilities and programs as a means to help develop and more hope-infused future in Northern Ireland.
While in Northern Ireland, Beyond Skin organized a number of engagements at schools, community centers, social groups, libraries, and conferences for us to share BuildaBridge’s pedagogy of trauma-informed art-making as well as the chance to implement programs. Over the 12-days, we performed, presented and learned from local NGO leaders, artists, musicians, teachers and students. It was deeply moving to be able to represent BuildaBridge and to begin to establish more international relationships for the organization.
Read more from Beyond Skin's post about our time in Northern Ireland together. CLICK HERE