The GSBTB Open Art Shelter is a safe, creative space for the free expression of emotions, intercultural dialogue and trauma healing. Art, craft, music, theatre, dance, storytelling and literature are used to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers and foster peace.
The idea calls upon the old tradition of arts and crafts circles that is found in nearly every culture across the globe, in which people used to spend evenings telling stories, making music and doing handcraft. The project offers a comfortable and non-shaming form of being together and doing something creative where everyone brings value, rather than a stigmatising charity that creates barriers between “us” and “them”.
Our activities include:
- a weekly womens-only space with family and kid-friendly activities at the Tempelhof Airport refugee shelter. This takes place every Monday with up to 150 women and children.
- weekly Open Art Shelter and Creative Cooking for smaller groups and families. These take place in Sharehaus Refugio or in different refugee homes. This project is providing psychosocial support to a number of refugee families with which we have developed strong ties to.
- designing and painting murals at different refugee homes
- letter exchanges between refugee kids and volunteers
- pop-up Open Art Shelters allowing connections between refugees and locals at festivals and in public parks
- urban gardening on the Klunkerkranich rooftop every week (during the summer)
- city and nature excursions for individuals and families, enabling contact with local culture through visits to theaters, museums and cinemas
- creative language exchange (we teach each other German, English, Farsi, Arabic and Russian by singing, drawing and doing calligraphy)
The project and community is developed by a multicultural team of locals, migrants and refugees, from teenagers to senior citizens.
Pedagogy and psychotherapy professionals are part of the group as free expression often triggers difficult memories and emotions. The Open Art Shelter is a safe space for respecting and caring for people living with trauma and depression and has the diagnostic function of identifying people (children and adults) who may need more individual, specific, professional care. For this reason, emphasis is put on the creation of community as a prime source of belonging, support and stability.
In the first place we build connections between each other and then we invite others to be part of it and find the soothing feeling of belonging. Hence, we organise support not only for our community but also for our team that includes psychological support, training, skillsharing and an enjoyable social experience.
2. Inclusion and equality
We are a community that invites people of all cultures, religions and beliefs. Our group is made up of both old and new Berliners. Our activities are not a one-way charity giving to refugees, but rather focused on what we can all contribute to the group.
3. Environmental sustainability
Before we buy new art and craft materials we check for second-hand supplies. We ask: could I involve my friends, family, neighbours? Where can I find recyclable objects?
We make a difference by:
- Maintaining a creative community that overcomes ethnic and religious differences; elicits a state of belonging, of feeling at home.
- Giving voice to the newly arrived members of Berlin society; encouraging them to share personal stories and views on life.
- Introducing trauma therapy, allowing the expression of emotion in a supportive and non-judgmental environment supervised by an art therapist and psychotherapists.
- Helping people find focus and peace of mind by shifting attention from past and future problems into the peaceful present moment.
- Empowering individuals through a discovery of personal potential together with creative skills brought from their homes and cultures (experience from previous gatherings shows that this includes many crafts, such as: henna tattoos, Arabic calligraphy, arabesque paintings, and more).
- Finding a common visual channel of communication, overcoming linguistic barriers. Creating objects that can become gifts, which is especially useful in a situation with financial limitations.
- Creating objects that can serve as decoration in what are usually sad, grey refugee shelters.
Read more about some of our actions:
- Interview with Sinéad Walsh, an Open Art Shelter volunteer coordinator
- Letters from the field: Refugee families at Tempelhof write to the Immigration Minister
- The King and Queen of Sweden visit Give Something Back to Berlin
- A view from the Frauenzimmer at Tempelhof refugee shelter
- See one of our mural projects
- Syrian-Polish exchange: What do I want people to know about my Syria?
- Open Art Shelter Klunkerkranich Rooftop Edition
- Storytelling and fundraising dinner with Afghan cuisine
How do I become part of this project?
To be part of this project you need the meet the team and undergo certain training. There are also security regulations around some of the refugee shelters where we work (like Tempelhof Airport) but all information around that will be made clear at the introduction meeting.
You can also support this project by donating to our online-campaign on Betterplace and we are always looking for partners who believe in art as a tool for both private and public change.