RESPECT project promotes diversity through art
Wheelworks, an arts organisation funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, launched a unique exhibition called RESPECT at Belfast City Hall recently. The exhibition showcases the creativity of young people in Belfast who took on the task of challenging stereotypes about youth culture. RESPECT runs from Tuesday Jan 31 st to February 28 th as part of Belfast City Council’s year of Art and Culture.
Gavin O’Connor, Youth Arts Officer at ACNI congratulated Wheelworks, attending the launch he said,
“ The Respect project is an excellent example of how the arts can inform attitudes, challenge negative stereotyping and promote diversity. The project has helped young people to express themselves confidently through photographic and written media. The arts are a powerful way to engage with young people and present an effective way for young people to engage with their peers and local community. The text and photographs on exhibition provide a greater understanding of what earns our young people’s respect”.
Up to 80 children and young people aged between 4 and 25 years took part in RESPECT from a diverse range of backgrounds. The exhibition includes a selection of photographic self portraits as well as portraits and text depicting things that they respect.
Sonya Cromie, RESPECT project co-ordinator, Wheelworks said,
“This work has encouraged us to look more closely at ways to engage younger people in discussion and confidence-building using arts as a common language. Art transcends all ages and cultures and in this project it provided a means for these children and young people to express their thoughts and feelings about respect without fear of retribution. There were some amazing contributions in response to a request for them to take a picture of someone they respect; from grandmothers to pet dogs and even musical instruments”.
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland believes in the fundamental right of every young person to experience the arts and creativity. It is acknowledged that the creative skills young people learn through active participation in the arts – imagination, innovation, originality, and collaboration are all part of the fabric that makes a vibrant and healthy society.
Young people’s groups participating in RESPECT were:
Star Neighbourhood Centre
Girls Empowering Girls
Chinese After Schools Club
Morton Community Centre
Ledley Hall Youth Club
Loughshore Educational Resource Centre
Belfast Travellers Support Group