By Olga Ovcharuk
Professor of the Department of Cultural Studies and Intercultural Communications
National Academy of Managerial Staff of Culture and Arts (Ukraine, Kyiv)
Photo Credit: Tina Hartung, Unsplash
Russia’s full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine, began on February 24 2022, marked the beginning of the largest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe since the Second World War. Thousands of innocent people have been killed, huge civilian casualties, millions of refugees, and large-scale destruction of the country’s infrastructure: including schools, universities, museums, libraries, and cultural heritage sites destroyed. This is resulting in the deep psychological trauma for the entire Ukrainian society, especially for its most vulnerable, namely youth and children. That is why the search for opportunities to provide them with psychological support, overcome psychological trauma and stress are extremely important tasks facing Ukraine’s state institutions, non-governmental organisations, educational and scientific institutions, across Ukrainian society today.
In this regard, the National Program of ‘Mental Health and Psychosocial Support’ is of great importance. This program was initiated in 2022 by the Office of the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, and supported by government agencies – the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, and the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine. Equally important for Ukrainian society is the international experience gained in cooperation with educational institutions, civil society representatives, artists, and cultural figures. The «Mobile Arts for Peace» art project attracts attention perhaps most of all as a source of relevant international experience that demonstrates the possibilities of using art to address pressing humanitarian, social, and ethnic problems, including the use of art to provide psychosocial support to children and youth.
Despite the fact that the problems of human psychological health are actively attracting attention and being discussed in many areas of life today, the use of art to address them has not received sufficient coverage. However, art itself is a powerful force capable of transforming a person, his or her worldview, inner world, and causes spiritual transformations of both individuals and the entire community. The influence of art today makes it possible to solve many social problems. This understanding of art is key to the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ art project and opens up opportunities to use its ideas to overcome various types of conflicts and provide psychosocial support to children and youth in many modern societies. These ideas are extremely relevant for modern Ukrainian society.
Involvement in the atmosphere of artistic creativity is an effective way to establish interaction, cooperation, and partnerships between all participants in creative communication. The synthesis of the arts – music, dance, drama as a key method of the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ project allows us to use the potential of each art to overcome psychological trauma, stress, nervous tension, etc. Involving children in working with shape, color, space, movement, and sound opens up wide opportunities for their creative expression and creates a wide scope for self-realization. In addition, the combination of different types of art is the basis for using the achievements of other scientific fields and creative practices. Thus, in the context of an interdisciplinary approach, it is especially important to turn to art therapy. Its achievements have recently been actively used to restore psychological health, to develop a healthy worldview and lifestyle.
The synthesis of the arts – music, dance, drama combined with an interdisciplinary approach can become a conceptual basis for the development of effective cultural and artistic practices as a way of psychological support for children and youth in Ukraine.
In this context, one of the key methods of the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ project is noteworthy. Its essence lies in the combination of different types of art and national cultural traditions of the countries where the project is being implemented. This ensures its success in achieving its goal of building peace and establishing dialogue. At the same time, the involvement of national traditions allows us to solve problems related to the psychological health of children and youth. National cultural traditions not only preserve and transmit from generation to generation the history, values, and worldview of the people, they are a source of formation of the national character and mental experience of the people.
It is important to note that in Ukraine, national cultural traditions are an important component of the national education of children and youth. That is why the national cultural space is the most natural environment for maintaining psychological health through various types of creative activity, such as folk choral singing, playing various folk instruments, folk dances, theater performances, etc.
An essential method of the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ project is to use art as a way of creative development of the individual based on his or her individual capabilities, abilities, and inclinations. It is in the atmosphere of artistic creativity that full-fledged conditions are created for the comprehensive self-expression of each person, the disclosure of their creative potential, and the manifestation of creative activity. However, only through an individual approach, the search for the most appropriate type of artistic activity that meets the intellectual, physical, and emotional needs of each person, can a way be found to overcome the consequences of psychological trauma, get rid of negative emotional experience and stress. Involvement of the non-verbal language of art allows to reveal the deep aspects of each person’s spiritual experiences and, at the same time, to find the most effective mechanism of psychological assistance in accordance with individual needs.
It should be noted that many practical steps have already been taken in Ukraine today to provide psychological assistance to children, youth, veterans of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and society as a whole, but it is children and youth who, as an important human capital, need to co-develop the latest humanitarian strategies to overcome the negative psychological experience of war. With this in mind, the valuable practical experience and relevant artistic methods of the ‘Mobile Arts for Peace’ project can be used in contemporary cultural and artistic practices to provide psychological support to Ukrainian children and youth.