In just a few short hours, a quiet campus in Western Massachusetts will be filled with the energy of twenty-five young people committed to exploring each others' cultures and stories through dialogue and creative arts. Artsbridge, in its ninth year, is excited to partner with local Berkshire County Organization, Music in Common, for a month long Intercultural Leadership Summer Program for students from Israel, Palestine and the United States. For the past week, staff and counselors have been eagerly preparing for the arrival of students, with both anticipation about the unknown, as well as excitement about the meaningful experiences to come.
During an introductory conversation with staff members this week about the goals of the program, Artsbridge director Deb Nathan, expressed the desire for the students "to engage in rich conversation in order to understand each other and find a path forward." She encouraged staff members to help create a sacred space that might foster the ability for students to be in relationship with someone who has differing opinions and beliefs. During the weeks to come, students will be engaging in dialogue and art classes daily, the latter of which will include visual arts, film making and songwriting. The creative process has an intrinsic connection to the dialogue process: that is, when done with reverence and respect, the intention is not to interpret the work of another, but rather to learn about the work as well as the person who created it, through the art. The summer program has the intention of providing an opportunity for students to use their voice through the arts as well as find an outlet of hope and empowerment.
During a staff training on dialogue this past week, our facilitator commented on the complexity and difficulty of the work at hand: "What we're doing here is challenging us. Challenging us about who we are and what we bring to the world around us." We thank you for your commitment to our work and look forward to the challenging and rewarding weeks to come.