In the aftermath of the Second Intifada, Artsbridge founder, Debbie Nathan, recognized a need for programming to empower youth of the region with the tools to experience and initiate constructive dialogue surrounding the conflict. She endeavored to help young people envision a different future, develop a sense of hope for change, and cultivate a passion for creating that change. As a result, Artsbridge was created in July 2007.
In response to her 30 years of observing the benefits at-risk, urban youth gained through experiencing a safe, supportive environment and the use of art as therapy, she developed Artsbridge’s wholly unique program design, believing these principles could provide Israeli and Palestinian youth the opportunity to come together and learn about each other – and the multiple narratives surrounding those effected by the conflict– in an inclusive and welcoming environment.
Over the years, Artsbridge, Inc. established partnerships with several organizations in Israel, the West Bank, and the United States and began recruiting youth to participate in year-round programming. In the summer of 2008, thirty Israeli and Palestinian students came to the U.S. to participate in Artsbridge’s first three-week summer intensive program, the Inter-Cultural Youth Leadership Development Program, at Endicott College in Massachusetts.
Since the first successful summer of programming, Artsbridge, Inc. has developed a two-year model, allowing alumni to become mentors for the new group of participants and to engage in service projects within their own communities. In 2010, Debbie was selected as a British Airways Face of Opportunity Winner as Artsbridge prepared for its third summer program.
In 2012, Artsbridge expanded its scope outside of the Middle East and began accepting American participants as well. Our American students find Artsbridge to be a life changing experience along with their Israeli and Palestinian peers, helping them to see beyond their own culture and hear about the lives of those living in other countries. They also begin to develop an awareness of the roots of conflict and how the conflict in the Middle East relates to the challenges facing their own communities in the United States.
Currently, each year, hundreds of youth in Israel, Palestine, and the United States are impacted by Artsbridge programming, which engages these students in a transformative process that builds resiliency, encourages imagination, voice, and a greater appreciation and understanding of narratives that are different than their own.