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Artists, Displacement, and Belonging

January 15, 202015 January 2020

Social benefits: The arts and post-crisis recovery and resettlement

International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies


Kiley Arroyo, Mary Ann DeVlieg, Dian Ika Gesuri, and Alma Salem

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Based on a literature review and interviews with government agencies, grantees, and displaced artists, this report examines the situation of artists displaced through natural disasters or conflict. Case studies in the report highlight programs that help artists “sustain their practice in their new home”. (Note: This summary is of an abridged, publicly-available report, with the full report being available exclusively to IFACCA members).

The research team notes that there are currently more people migrating “than at any other time in recorded history. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that 31 people are newly displaced every minute.” However, there is no data available on the number of artists and creative professionals among the displaced people.

Global migration is a complex and sometimes divisive issue in many parts of the world. The report notes that current negative narratives around migrants, including displaced artists, are a major challenge. The authors argue that, “first, we must transform the current narrative about migrants and displaced people from one that is based on fear, to one that is based on strengths and celebrates the benefits of pluralistic societies”.

The authors argue that the arts and culture are well positioned to “cultivate the capabilities that communities need to manage complexity. Cultural strategies can shift the atmosphere in communities, facilitate interaction and dialogue between diverse people, and help to foster mutual understanding and openness to discovering new solutions to shared problems.” In particular, displaced artists “hold tremendous potential to build bridges between worlds”.

The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is cited as a promising example of collaboration in aid of persecuted writers and artists. Working with PEN International, local municipalities, and arts councils, the ICORN Secretariat provides selected cities with lists of artists in need, while the host cities provide housing, stipends, and support for one or two years for their chosen writer or artist. The research team recommends increased collaboration among “public agencies, civil society actors, and grassroots initiatives – particularly artist-led initiatives”.

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