A TALNTED artist is hopping that his work will catch the eyes of the world. “If Syrian refugees can make art this great, you have no excuses”. Joel said.
Joel finds sadness in happy moment, As the Syrian war rages on, hopeless civilians continue to pour across the borders into neighboring countries. While they have escaped the death and destruction of war, many refugees now find themselves in desolate refugee camps across the region.
Joel talked about his experience, “I heard explosions. I was very close to the bomb.” he said. The key moment after that to start visiting the children there.
Joel Bergner (aka Joel Artista) is an artist, educator and organizer of community-based public art initiatives with youth and families around the world. He works in acrylic and aerosol, creating elaborate paintings and public murals that explore social topics and reflect a wide array of artistic influences. Joel has facilitated community mural projects in Syrian refugee camps in the Middle East.
In 2015, Joel joined forced with his frequent collaborator Max Frieder to be found and direct the Artolution, a community-based public art organization that is founded in participatory and collaborative art making.
Artolution projects engage youth and communities that have faced social exclusion and trauma, including refugees, street youth, the incarcerated, people with physical and mental disabilities, and young people living in areas of violent conflict or extreme poverty.
“A number of terrible moments pushed me to it, starting with the noises of fighting we would hear in the night. I tried to find a safe place, when it was very bad, and I painted on the wall that night, rather than sleeping,”
Joel supported Syrian refugee artists by providing capacity-building and opportunities to work in their field and to engage the youth in their community.
“There is a lack of arts and culture that enrich the human experience and no platform for refugee voices to reach out to the world to tell their own stories”, Joel said. “I haven’t seen it done this way, it transcends politics. He shows that with all that happened there, there is a bright light that shines through”.
Joel teamed up with Syrian artists and educators in the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan. Together, they facilitate workshops and public art projects with young refugees. Hundreds of children have had the opportunity to participate and add their own creativity to murals throughout the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps and in host communities, bringing color and life to a desolate environment and spreading messages of hope to local residents.
Art inspired by the war recently in Syria. Joel believes that the process of creating collaborative art is a powerful tool to bring diverse communities together in the face of conflict and social turmoil in order to address challenges that they face. “The children we work with maintain their playful spark despite all the trauma and loss they’ve suffered. The adult artists and educators continue to strive to uplift their community, never giving up on their hope for a brighter future.” He said. “It’s been an incredible experience for me to work with such resilient, warm individuals”.
Joel was excited that his dream for setting up sustainable, ongoing arts-based programming in Syrian refugee communities, led by local artists, is now coming true he tanksful to his partner organizations who have the courage to believe in this initiative, everyone at the IRC, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), GIZ, the European Union, UNICEF and UNHCR.
“thanks to Max Frieder and everyone at Artolution, and all the local artists and the kids who made these murals come to life”. He hopped that artists around the world should visit Syrian refugee camps to see the bright light there with Syrian kids and see the hope in their eyes.