A multidisciplinary approach that merges design, art, and pedagogy to empower youth living in marginalised areas
Carolina Gutierrez Nova, Silvia Remotti
Vulnerable youth living in marginalised neighbourhoods in Italy have a contribution to make in sculpting society, but they lack opportunities to bring them into the light. Visualising their unique views value their opinions and consequently shape people who believe in themselves and can be agents of positive change in their communities.
How can a participatory process that merges design methodologies, an artistic discipline, and educational objectives empower and give a voice to youth living in marginalised areas of Italian cities?
The phenomenon of reduced social mobility in Italy is intensified in peripheral areas where social and territorial difficulties hinder young people’s aspirations, participation, and access to social relations that go beyond their own family and/or neighbourhood boundaries that can be wider and more advantageous for their future (Fondazione L’Albero della Vita ONLUS, 2012).
Children and adolescents can be the protagonists of their own lives without letting the context that surrounds them extinguish their desires for the future. Participatory cultural activities may encourage them to trust in their thinking. By becoming active participants, the youth are empowered to perceive themselves as active subject creators and visually competent in explorative meaning-making processes through settings of art-based visual experiences (Häikiö, 2018).
From May to September 2021, four participatory analogue photography laboratories in the suburbs of four Italian cities were designed and run by PACO Design Collaborative, in direct collaboration with The Tree of Life and six local photographers. The aim was to bring a cultural opportunity for marginalised youth by inviting them to narrate their lives in the neighbourhood.
The merging of three different disciplines, such as design, art, and pedagogy allowed for the development of activities with a multidisciplinary approach capable of addressing the varied needs of its participants. On the one hand, the role of design was to structure an iterative process able to facilitate and support youth through various uncertain phases. The role of analogue photography, on the other hand, was to approach a mechanical and non-immediate process of creation. Finally, the role of pedagogy was to provide educational objectives to adequately guide and maximise the youth’s experience during the laboratories.
The outstanding results of the laboratories revealed the value of merging these three different disciplines in visualising the unique perspectives of vulnerable youth living in the margins.
Fondazione L’Albero della Vita ONLUS (2012). Sguardi oltre - i ragazzi riprendono le periferie. https://www.alberodellavita.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Sguardi-Oltre-i-ragazzi-riprendono-le-periferie.pdf
Häikiö, T. K. (2018). Cultural participation for, with and by children – Enhancing children’s agency through art pedagogy, visual knowledge-building and learning. Nordic Journal of Art and Research, 7(1), 19. https://doi.org/10.7577/information.v7i1.2630
Key words marginalised youth, multidisciplinary approach, analogue photography, participatory process, Italian suburbs