This short series of blog posts draws on the Art of Belonging research project. The project aims to understand how to lessen the impact of social isolation experienced by young forced migrants who have newly arrived in cities in different European contexts. We are interested in understanding how to enable young refugees and migrants to build connections with their new place such that they can go on to lead lives of meaningful engagement in their city. This concern relates to identity formation, but is also coupled with the development of skills, social connections and cultural capital that young people are able to mobilise as they become cultural citizens in their new cities. The project is located in Nottingham, England and Lund, Sweden. Our main research question asked: How can place-specific arts and cultural initiatives help young refugees to develop a sense of belonging, and increase participation in the civic, social and cultural life of their new cities?
The Art of Belonging project brings together city leaders, artists, and researchers. It is based on the premise that participation in the arts can enhance place-making and encourages social belonging. The Nottingham strand of the project culminated in The Art of Belonging exhibition at the New Art Exchange gallery in Nottingham. The young participants, many of them unaccompanied children, worked with artists and the city's cultural venues to consider what it is to 'belong' in their new city.
This is a University of Nottingham research project in partnership with Lund University, Sweden, as well as New Art Exchange, Nottingham. The Art of Belonging project is funded by JPI Urban Europe: Urban Migration/ ESRC/ AHRC/ FORMAS. The emerging findings speak to issues of integration, representation of youth, and the role arts and culture can play in individual and collective mental wellbeing.