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I realized quite quickly what was so electrifying to me that morning. The regular waves of goosebumps, up and down, every time one of these words was spoken: art, culture, transform…

It could have been just another event in the city. Experiencing these vibrant sensations without my effort made me think there could have been something more in the air and I was somehow open to connecting with it. Art, culture, transform...

The words were spontaneously repeated quite often by a number of people. This is how I experienced five hours of being constantly plugged into a source of invisible excitement. Art, culture, transform…

Lever for transformation

The recent Networking Day on Conflict and climate: the contribution of art and culture in the current world situation (Konflikte und Klima: der Beitrag von Kunst und Kultur in der aktuallen Weltlage) was organised by Helvetas, independent organization for development based in Switzerland. With the mission of supporting poor and disadvantaged communities, they operate in almost 40 developing and transitional countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Creating space for 34 like-minded people opened up new connections and provoked new important questions at the intersection of development, art, culture and social change. My dream image of such a gathering always poses a key question about tangible action. We met, we talked, what do we do next about it?


Thanks to the idea of bringing us all together, I breathed a sigh of relief, reassuring myself that there are more people in Switzerland convinced of the transformative power of art and culture. It gave me a solid kick of energy to continue building the ART NOW! community of artists and art lovers engaged in climate action and social transformation. Experimenting not only with thinking, but also feeling sustainability during our art labs is meant to align our thoughts with behaviours on the way of shaping new paradigms. Our sleeves are rolled up high, so we try and explore.

The unknown

My workshop and personal experiences prompt me that the ability to maintain an attentive but non-impulsive bodily state while staying open to the unknown can be a turning point in developing new ways of doing things. The creative origins of new habit-building lie probably beyond the reach of our senses, but the senses can also probably be the first ones to grasp it. If so, art, with its direct access to senses and imagination, can be an important connector and catalyst for social transformation.

Thank you

Intrigued by what we cannot touch yet, I would like to thank Helvetas out loud for organizing so touching workshops. It was an opportunity to acknowledge that the tools for navigating in times of environmental challenges exist. Art and culture may open up social dialogue spaces where experimentation and new forms of exchange are possible. Who uses this potential, on what scale, and with what impact - these are the questions to address now.

Something more in the air can be the creative source of waking up every morning with the belief that we eventually step on the path of transformation en masse. It can be the source but it doesn't have to. It all depends on how open our bodies and minds are, and whether we have enough curiosity to move forward. Time will show.


Text: Sylwia Orczykowska, ART NOW! Founder, Social Transformation Storyteller Photo: Andy Brunner


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