By Jade Yan
Laboratori Migranti is a Bolognese project that aims to take the concept of social services a bit further: by giving people free and open access to the arts.
This initiative takes the form of fifteen free artistic workshops, all held at Via Guido Guinizelli 3, Bologna. These workshops (“laboratori”) are run in collaboration with religious charity Antoniano Onlus, and are held in the same building as Antoniano’s soup kitchen.
While the sessions on offer are largely artistic, such as guitar lessons, theatre workshops, and folk dance classes, they also include activities such as yoga, English lessons, and Italian lessons. There are also consulting sessions with Avvocato di Strada. Located on Via Malcontenti, this organisation visits on a monthly basis, usually in the evenings, to provide legal advice for those who are homeless.
Laboratori Migranti was started by the larger organisation Arte Migranti six years ago. Arte Migranti is an organisation that organises weekly “serate”: informal evening gatherings during which anyone can come and perform. Its premise, according to one of its founders Tommaso Carturan, is to bring people together to share their diverse experiences through art.
The project Laboratori Migranti was developed as a natural extension of these evenings. Its workshops cater primarily to migrants, refugees, and those without fixed housing. As a result, all of the lessons are free and open to the public, in order to give the opportunity to engage with art to people who wouldn’t normally have the means to do so.
The workshops also encourage interaction and relationships between people who wouldn’t normally encounter each other. The fact that the workshops are free means that they often see students and older participants, which increases the opportunity for diverse connections.
Lena Breda, an exchange student from Chicago, teaches English and works in the Antoniano soup kitchen.
“As young women, we often feel scared of strangers because they may appear a threat to us,” she said.
However, working with the Laboratori has given her the chance to speak with many different people, and has made her feel more at ease around people and cultures she doesn’t know.
Carturan believes that these interactions can also help to combat racism and other stigmas associated with marginalised groups, by pushing people to see past first impressions. At a recent evening of performance, a man spoke about his experience asking for money on the street.
“It’s also to combat indifference,” said Carturan, speaking of how homeless people and others are often forgotten about and set apart from the rest of society.
The workshops offer a sense of community. Some of those who originally came to the workshops and the soup kitchen as participants are now working and teaching for Laboratori Migranti.
There has been a strong response to the project in terms of volunteers: the project now has 60 to 80 volunteers of a wide range of ages. In the future, Carturan plans to create more shows and initiatives with Laboratori Migranti.
Each year, a calendar is published with the schedule for the workshops, which can be found here: