Artolution and UNHCR create large mural in Sofia with 18 artists from nine countries

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and global non-profit organization Artolution have brought together 18 artists to create a large mural with refugee children on the façade of Sofia’s Fifth Evening School, Penyo Penev.

The artists, which include refugees from Ukraine and Syria, arrived in Sofia last week from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine, and three artists from Bulgaria. More than 30 children from Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine joined the artists to create the mural and an art installation made from recycled plastic.

The monumental artwork is being created over a surface area of about 500 square meters and depicts the connection between different cultures and a shared hope for the future.. Work on the mural began on September 7 and will be completed and unveiled on September 15 from 6.30pm. on the ground of the school.

“The mural serves as a powerful symbol of hope,” said Seda Kuzucu, UNHCR Representative in Bulgaria. “Using Arts for Protection and including refugees in artistic activities enhances their wellbeing and fosters connection and unity with host communities.“

Refugees face harsh conditions that can put their mental health and wellbeing under significant stress. While many of them show remarkable resilience, some need extra support to rebuild their lives.

Access to community based mental health care and support empowers them to cope with the challenges of displacement, take care of their families, earn a living and contribute to their communities.

“For the first time, we have brought teaching artists from 10 countries to train to facilitate community based public arts and education programs back when they return home,” said Artolution co-founder Max Frieder who has been leading the artist team.  “This is the next model for arts and education to support refugees and host communities through creativity and collaboration all over the world.”

The mural is part of KvARTal festival which launches its eighth edition on 15 September in Sofia’s Old Quarter under the “People Power” motto.

The project was made possible with the support of Fifth Evening School “Penyo Penev” and Sofia Municipality which provided the space for the mural; the State Agency for Refugees, the Bulgarian Red Cross, Caritas Bulgaria, the Council of Refugee Women in Bulgaria which supported the engagement of children residing in reception centres in Sofia; KvARTal Festival which included the mural in their official programme; Sofia Graffitti Tour which promotes the mural within their network; and volunteer organization “Dоbrovоltsi za Badeshte” which engaged Bulgarian children to collect plastic bottles that were donated for the recycled sculpture project.

The opening of the mural will take place on the territory of the school from 6.30pm to 10pm on September 15. It will be accompanied by the presentation of an installation of recycled materials, symbolizing sustainability and innovation, made by artists and refugee children.

The Sofia Globe staff

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