Words from our current Artist in Residence Fellow: Cailin Mateleska

In January of this year, I took flight from Boston, MA to Haifa, Israel as the recipient of Artsbridge’s Artist in Residency Fellowship. My mission was to utilize the arts in order to empower youth and various communities within Haifa, by promoting self-expression, collaboration, and interconnectivity. Working alongside Artsbridge’s partnership site, Beit Hagefen, I have found myself quite busy facilitating several art-making initiatives throughout the city.

Included in these, is a recently completed mural within the neighborhood of Neve David. Painted by a group of young woman ages 13-16, this mural was created in a public park as a way for the youth to become more engaged in their community.   The girls were excited for the opportunity to express something positive about Neve David (a place that they explained doesn’t have the best reputation).   The group had minimal experience with art, but after some reassurance that I would be there to guide them through, they became very dedicated and committed to this project. Taking place over several weeks, it did not take long for members of the community to join in on our weekly Wednesday afternoon painting. Through this, the girls quickly took on leadership roles, guiding community members with where to paint and showing them how, describing to onlookers the initial ideas behind the mural, and supporting one another in order to complete the image.

The Neve David mural is not the first time I have witnessed the power of art to impact individuals this way, but it is certainly an experience I will hold close to me well after my return to the States. For me it is an example of how, even in a place where the spoken word is valued so much, one can begin to understand how the non-verbal can play a role and have a powerful voice too.

In addition to the Neve David painting, I am also currently working on a mural with a group of youth boys in Wadi Nisnas and co-initiating the “Artsbridge at Beit Hagefen”, pilot program. This program brings a mixed group of youth ages 15-17 together to participate in collaborative art projects that will be displayed in a public exhibition at the end of May. Each of these experiences has further supported my belief that art is one of the most underutilized languages and tools within the field of conflict transformation.  This is what initially drew me to Artsbridge three years ago and what has kept me as a dedicated employee since.

Does this mean however, that I expect leaders to begin signing peace treaties with a paintbrush or substituting peace talks with joint art projects anytime soon? Of course not. Although, I do believe the act of making art, especially in collaboration with another, creates an ideal and nonthreatening environment for people to practice the skills necessary to facilitate individual as well as communal growth and change. Couple this kind of art with a dialogue method promoting respect and consideration, and you have one of the most unique programs impacting this Region. It will take more than one newsletter to summarize my experiences and the knowledge I have gained here so far. But I will leave you by saying that I now understand without question, just how special a program Artsbridge is, and just how much potential it has to benefit the communities here.

About Cailin:

Cailin is an artist and art therapist with works that have been published internationally and shown throughout the eastern United States. Holding a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and Masters of Expressive Arts Therapies degree, Cailin primarily uses photography, painting, and illustration as tools for expression and bridging connections between people.

Believing strongly that art is a universal language, Cailin has worked with a wide range of populations possessing varying degrees of artistic ability including, Israeli and Palestinian teens, youth within the US foster care system, adults within mental health settings, and urban youth within the US juvenile justice system. Cailin conducts her work by guiding groups and individuals through the process of both small and large-scale artworks such as murals, sculptures, and photography projects. Through the creation of these art pieces, Cailin provides an outlet that empowers individuals, promotes self-expression, and raises awareness of the issues and benefits that impact those communities in which she works.