A-SMYLE Alumni in Belgrade Kick Off Project for Inspiring Roma Youth

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A student and volunteer drew together during the art-themed workshop on November 11th.

Friday, November 11th marked the beginning of a five-week project that aims to inspire and motivate Roma children in Belgrade through hands-on workshops and field trips.  The project, entitled “Niti” or “Threads”, is a joint effort between A-SMYLE alumni and experts and volunteers from the Center for Youth Integration (CYI) who, in cooperation with the city government, sponsor a Day Center for Roma youth in Belgrade.  The workshops are being held in Branko Pesic Elementary School in Zemun, where faculty and staff have shown strong support for the project.

The first week’s theme was “art”.  On Friday, participants spent the morning drawing and making figures out of modeling clay.  Guests Jana Nenadic, a student at the Academy of Fine Arts, and Vuk Stojisavljevic, who studies graphic design at Higher Polytechnic School, joined the group.  “Through games and laughter we talked a bit about what art is and what forms it can take,” explained project coordinator Katarina Djordjevic, ’08.  At the end of the workshop, students’ drawings were collected and combined into a collage.

On Saturday, November 12th, the group went on a field trip to the Museum of Applied Art in Belgrade. “We were lucky enough to be taken [on a tour] by Mrs. Lea Zei who works in the museum,” Djordjevic explained.  “She showed us the exhibition of furniture and wedding dresses from the end of XIX and the beginning of XX century. The girls were actively discussing what their dresses would look like, while the boys were more interested in how their houses would be furnished in comparison to what they saw in the exhibition. At the end of the tour, the kids got some silk and other fine materials, papers, scissors and some glue, and had a task to reproduce one of the dresses from the collection. With help from Lea and the rest of us, the task was successfully completed and the children got to keep their work.  After thanking Lea we headed off for a warm lunch, where, among other things, we discussed what we saw, what we liked and disliked, and what we remembered.”

Organizers agree that the first week’s activities were a success.  Students learned what applied art was, learned that everyday objects can become beautiful works of art, and had fun in the process.  “With the topic of wedding dresses came talks about love and boyfriends and girlfriends, and the day went by in giggles and cheerful laughs, while discovering new things,” reported Djordjevic.  Participants are looking forward to the next four installments of the program, which will cover the topics literature, tradition, science and health.