“From the museum to the city streets: a round trip” (YEAD 2 – Cultural Influences)

Fondazione Ismu | Milano


“YEAD – Young European (Cultural) Audience Development” builds on the expertise developed by Fondazione Ismu through a long-standing involvement in two key areas of research, training and experimentation:
1) its emphasis on the potential contribution of heritage institutions in promoting intercultural exchange and understanding (since 2005), by creating the website “Heritage and Interculture” (which over the years has become a unique observatory on intercultural education policies and practices developed by Italian museums and heritage sites), as well as by promoting groundbreaking working practices through training and action-research courses, publications, seminars and conferences, joint planning and running of intercultural projects in partnership with museum institutions
2) its involvement, also since 2005, in “YEFF! – Young European Film Forum for Cultural Diversity”, a network of organisations working in media literacy, intercultural education and anti-discrimination. YEFF’s goals include enhancing the creative and expressive potential of (mostly disadvantaged) youths through the development of multimedia products; promoting intercultural dialogue, exchange and cross-fertilisation; supporting the dissemination of videos created by young participants on the theme of cultural diversity; encouraging creative synergies between young visual communication professionals, filmmakers and media educators.

YEAD partners are:
• Project leader: CVB – Centre Video de Bruxelles (Belgium)
• Project partners:  YEAD’s first three years are run by “working duets”:
– Italy (Fondazione Ismu) / France (AlterNatives) in 2016: “Universal access to culture”
– Netherlands (Stichting En Actie) / Portugal (AO NORTE – Associação de Produção e Animação Audiovisual) in 2017: “Cultural Influence(s)”
– Germany (Regionale Arbeitsstelle für Bildung, Integration und Demokrati ) / Belgium (CVB) in 2018: “Migrant Audiences: Ex/Inclusion”
The fourth year, run by CVB, will be devoted to the overarching theme “Democratisation of culture and Cultural democracy”.
Most partners are members of the “YEFF! – Young European Film Forum for Cultural Diversity” network (see “Background”).

In parallel with the actions carried out by the “working duets”, the other four European partners run smaller, local workshops resulting in the creation of videos devoted to the year’s theme.
In Year 2, this was the case with Fondazione Ismu, which ran the local workshop “From the museum to the city streets: a round trip” in partnership with MUDEC – Museum of Cultures (Milan).

Funding bodies
YEAD is a four-year project (2015-2019) supported by the “Creative Europe” programme of the European Union.

YEAD overarching goal is to “open” cultural institutions to a traditionally under-represented audience through:
• the involvement of young people as cultural actors and creators, with a particular focus on creating opportunities for mutual knowledge, exchange and enrichment between youths with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds
• the development of creative partnerships between cultural institutions and film-makers.

More specifically, Year 2 local workshop’s objectives were to help young participants:
• familiarise with the museum and get engaged with it in an active and creative way, with a particular focus on MUDEC’s section devoted to Italy’s colonial past (e.g. reflecting on the fact that also museum displays may be seen as “framings” expressing a deliberate, never “neutral”, point of view)
• become aware of the influence of “other” cultural practices and languages on contemporary daily life in Milan
• learn the basic skills and techniques of filmmaking in order to effectively express the outcomes of their “discoveries” and reflections in visual form.

Target groups
A group of young people aged 17-21, both “native” and with an immigrant background.

Duration of the project
Year 2 – Local workshop: March-June 2017.

Project description
The workshop “From the museum to the city streets: a round trip” took place within the framework of YEAD – Year 2, devoted to the theme “Cultural Influence(s)”.
Through the exploration of MUDEC’s collections and the story/ies behind them, discovery tours of Porta Venezia neighbourhood (where a large  community of Eritrean descent started to settle in the 1970s) and its inhabitants, filmmaking and video-interviews, a group of 7 young participants with diverse backgrounds (Italian, Eritrean, Chinese and Rumanian) developed new insights into the different cultures interweaving in the museum as well as in urban spaces, in a round trip which triggered a reflection on their own “shifting” identities.

The workshop:
• had an overall duration of 30 hours (5 afternoons and 2 whole days), from March to June 2017
• took place at the Museum of Cultures and around Porta Venezia neighbourhood
• resulted in the production by young participants of a short video
• was run by Fondazione Ismu tutors and a professional film-maker (already involved in YEAD – Year 1), in collaboration with the museum staff.

Fondazione Ismu designed:
• a short questionnaire to gather information on young participants’ expectations, needs, previous cultural experiences and perception of museums (before starting the workshop)
• a final questionnaire to assess the impact of the experience on young participants’ perceptions and skills (at the end of the workshop).

Outputs and outcomes of the workshop were presented and discussed in the one-day seminar “IUS CULTURAE. Young people, cultural participation and new allegiances” (MUDEC, 1 December 2017, see programme).

1 video and 3 video-interviews produced by young participants:
• video “Intercultural Fluencies. From the museum to the city streets, a round trip”
• video-interviews with Zemichael Misghinna and Ibrahim Mohamed Munir (Porta Venezia neighbourhood)
• video-interview with Davide Avila (Peoples Orchestra).

On-line resources
• video “Intercultural Fluencies. From the museum to the city streets, a round trip”
• YEAD website and Facebook page.

Lessons to be learned: strengths
• All young participants involved judged the experience lived throughout the workshop “very positively” (4) or “positively” (3). The most valued aspects of the workshop were being actually involved in a cultural project (not as passive “users/consumers”), working in a team («sharing thoughts and ideas with new people»), learning new competencies and skills, discovering new places in the city, working with cultural operators (from Fondazione Ismu and MUDEC) and the filmmaker, feeling welcome in a place they thought was not “for them”.
• Compared with YEAD – Year 1 (which involved a far more intensive, long-term work in close touch with the staff of the 3 partner museums – MUDEC, MUST and “Adriano Bernareggi” Museum), the relationship with cultural heritage, the appreciation of its value and relevance, seem to have had a smaller impact on the experience of young participants; and yet, they were positively surprised by realising that museums are relevant to their lives, not only in terms of learning opportunities, but also as places able to trigger emotional responses.
• With respect to the specific theme of YEAD – Year 2, young participants not only had recommendations for local cultural institutions on how to represent the cultural influences of colonial history on contemporary life in Milan (through «images and interviews with people with a migrant background», «images, videos and texts» on the theme of these influences), but also expressed the desire to play an active role in helping their peers to discover this heritage («share my experience and take them to “meaningful” places, such as Porta Venezia»).
• For many participants, creating a video was useful to better understand their relationship with museum collections («team work and a continued exposure to the museum’s heritage helped us create a closer connection with it and its history»), as well as to reflect on the issues of identity and cultural influences («we met people coming from Eritrea and other distant parts of the world, which we tend to underestimate because we don’t know their history»). The opportunity to express their thoughts in visual form, and more in general taking part in the workshop, were very positively perceived by everyone («the group and the museum made me feel welcome and listened to, free to express my ideas »; «I have interacted with everyone freely and without barriers»).
• Expectations were fully met, and in some cases exceeded. As was the case with YEAD – Year 1, among the most positive “surprises” young participants highlight interpersonal relations («I had the opportunity to work with special, sympathetic, passionate people, who listened to us and “guided” us from the beginning»; «I am proud of the boys and girls with whom I took part in the project; they are extraordinary people, brave enough to step into a new world; I am grateful to the filmmaker for the patience and passion he puts in his work»). The generative potential of the workshop emerges from the repeated appeal to take the project forward, as well as from the desire «for other young people to see the video we made, so they will want to make one themselves».

Lessons to be learned: critical hurdles
The positive, often wholehearted response of workshop participants confirms the extraordinary potential of actively engaging young people in the “life” of cultural institutions, although YEAD – Year 2 presented some apparent critical issues.
Fondazione Ismu’s choice to work once again in partnership with MUDEC, which had the obvious advantage of having already shared with the museum an intensive process of training, planning and experimentation in 2016, did not have the expected impact in terms of a strong, continued commitment on the part of museum operators, whose delicate task should have been to “guide” young participants in a gradual, in-depth exploration of collections in relation to the theme of “cultural influences”. This lack of participation on the museum’s part is largely due to a complex phase of institutional transition (the appointment of a new Director, responsible not only for MUDEC but also for two important city museums of modern and contemporary art), which absorbed most of the museum staff’s time and energy.
However, the very “architecture” of YEAD as a whole, where two project partners run in turn the key activities devoted to a different theme each year, while the other four partners run smaller workshops resulting in the creation of videos devoted to the same theme, brought to the surface the limits of an “empowerment-lite” of young participants.
In fact, for a cultural institution (a museum, in our case) to create a meaningful, “generative” connection with its young audience (or non-audience, in most cases), there clearly are some prerequisites which could hardly be met with the small scope of this year’s local workshop: a long-term work, a continued “exposure” of young people to the collections, a truly collaborative meaning-making process concerning museum objects, the idea of what a museum stands for, the very notion of “community” (which must constantly be questioned, because identities are not fixed, but continually shifting). While these prerequisites were met, although at varying degrees, in the three pilot projects of YEAD – Year 1 (“Riprendi-ti al MUDEC”, “MUST REC YOUR ART” and “Action! Tell me a story about MAB”), they barely emerged in Year 2.
And yet, against these odds, the response of young participants in terms of the richness and depth of reflections on the issues of identity and belonging was surprising.

Contact details
Fondazione Ismu, Settore Educazione
via Copernico, 1 – 20125 Milano
– Mara Clementi, project leader and scientific coordinator
– Simona Bodo scientific coordinator

Target Groups

Young people aged 17-21, with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds