ART ME UP | A Story of our Youth Exchange in Ligonchio, Italy

In April 2024, a group of 35 young people from Italy, Denmark, France, Greece, and Poland gathered in the snowy town of Ligonchio, Italy for a Youth Exchange focused on using art as a tool for self-expression, stress relief, and improving mental wellbeing.

ART ME UP | Youth Exchange

The exchange, which took place from April 17-23, was hosted at the Ostello dei Balocchi, a social enterprise managed by Legambiente Ligonchio. The activities were based on non-formal education methodologies and centered around the following objectives:

  1. Explore how art can be used as a tool for self-expression, stress relief and improving mental wellbeing. Through coordinated workshops, participants explored different art forms, both visual and performative.
  2. Increase awareness and reduce stigma around mental health issues. The schedule was personalised based on participants’ mental health needs and daily feedback, incorporating centering activities, debriefings on emotional wellbeing and self-care, and introductions to artistic practices for stress and anxiety relief.
  3. Develop empathy and cultural understanding by sharing personal stories and experiences with mental health through art. Participants were encouraged to share their journeys in activities like the self-managed creation of artistic performances or artworks in small multicultural groups.
  4. Foster community and social connection through collaborative art projects. Working together, the group created a collage depicting their exchange expectations and other collective art works that were hanged on the walls of the hostel.

Additionally, the exchange provided participants with tools and techniques for using creativity as a coping mechanism, including mindfulness practices through art, movement, dance, and guided painting/drawing for relaxation.

The Activities

The first day was dedicated to introductions, ice breakers, team building, and setting shared values and agreements to foster a supportive environment. In the following days, the sessions were facilitated by the group leaders from the participating countries, empowering them to structure and manage activities with the support of the main facilitator.

The participants also had a chance to experiment with new art forms thanks to two workshops about carving and cyanotype led by the staff of the hostel.

On the free day, the participants had the opportunity to go for a small hike to the town of Ligonchio, where they visited the open-air museum of Ravin’Art, a small treasure hidden in the forest surrounding the town.

The Results

Overall, the Youth Exchange in Ligonchio provided a transformative experience for the young participants, empowering them to explore the intersection of art, mental wellbeing, and cultural exchange. By unlocking the creative potential of the group, the exchange fostered personal growth and community building.

Here are some testimonials from our participants:

“I took the Youth Exchange trip to the Ostello dei Balocchi as an opportunity to try varying methods of groupwork across different nationalities. I experienced a balance of autonomy and schedule in managing both our time, as well as how much we each got out of the activities — the activities providing a platform to get to know one another while exploring techniques related to working in a group environment, and our theme of mental health. The trip taking place in a certain kind of isolation in the mountains proved a very comforting space in getting to know each other, and allowing for brand new perspectives not only of the country, but of general conversation; Italian tendencies were demonstrated via this environment quite smoothly!
Overall, although there were a lot of activities within short intervals at a time, these activities were well thought out, and I had a good time experiencing them with such a vast group of people!”
Erin from Denmark

“This was my first Youth Exchange, and I loved the experience!I learned about non-formal education, and art as a way to take care of my mental health. I really would like to go to the Training Course for leaders, because I want to be part of the Erasmus family. Ligonchio is a truly pretty place, maybe too small for 30 participants, but still cozy. I am very thankful for the opportunity to get to know this many awesome people!”
Julia from Poland

“In the nine days I spent in Ligonchio I was able to improve my English, my communication and as a person; I matured a lot thanks to the different interactions with the different international groups. I felt very relaxed these days, and my mental and physical health improved a lot. Thank you again for this opportunity and I hope to continue to grow by discovering other similar activities. Thank you!”
Igor, from Italy

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