Volunteers who have always used art to express themselves may want to consider taking their passion for art abroad to help others pursue or discover their love for art. With opportunities in photography, the performing arts, community projects, and other areas, volunteers for the arts abroad can choose to participate in a program specific to their art experience and interests.
Some communities abroad lack the resources necessary to incorporate the arts into the school curriculum, while others are home to women who may need to learn a craft that can be translated into sustainable income. Activities include teaching the arts to disabled women and promoting intercultural understanding through photography projects abroad. Wherever you’re headed, as a volunteer for the arts you’ll have the opportunity to inspire others and practice your art skills in a totally different setting.
Photo Credit: Gina Rogari
Ways to Help
Teaching Art in Schools
After school programs, summer camps, and schools around the world need volunteers to help organize arts and crafts activities. Volunteers for the arts can also encourage new ways of expression by teaching different types of dances, musical instruments, and songs.
Programs in this area are ideal for those who love working with youngsters and want to bring some light to the lives of poverty stricken children.
For more information specifically on working as a volunteer teacher, read our guide to volunteer teaching abroad. It includes a listing of volunteer teaching programs as well.
Whether you’re studying photography in school or photography's just one of your hobbies, volunteering abroad through a photography program can be an enriching experience. Some programs offer photography classes that teach volunteers about photography composition and how to use Photoshop. These classes are often supplemented by community service projects and outdoor treks that allow plenty of opportunities for volunteers to get practice snapping photos.
Others may include a photography project for more experienced photographers that focuses on expressing a certain country topic such as peace or the environment through photos and then putting up a photo exhibition.
Volunteers participating in such projects will also perform additional volunteer work in their respective cities, such as tidying up public places or even painting over graffiti.
As an arts volunteer with a focus on performing arts, you work with students or the mentally and physically disabled to coach drama groups and lead acting workshops. Some volunteers will even get the chance to help put on a play by assisting students with their particular roles and supporting set design and construction.
Volunteers in the performing arts can help students build self-confidence and inspire children to explore their imaginations. Opportunities to take drama classes and perform in plays are limited in disadvantaged global communities, but volunteers can use their enthusiasm for drama to bring the performing arts abroad.
Empowering Women Through Art
Help women find employment by teaching them useful skills in arts and crafts. Many women face the responsibility of providing for their family and are struggling to find ways to earn sufficient income. Female unemployment rates are often higher than the male unemployment rate, and the majority of jobs available to women are low-status and low paying or outside of labor regulations.
Arts volunteers can help volunteer with women's empowerment by teaching them the skills necessary to make products they can sell and earn income from. For disabled women who may be land mine or polio victims, finding a job may be even more difficult, and volunteers can find specific programs tailored to teaching art skills to these women.
Where to Go
Many schools and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa experience an absence of instructors in areas like music. Music oriented volunteers can teach musical instruments to primary and secondary students or conduct rehearsals with the school choir.
Arts volunteers working in African schools with a focus on music must be passionate about music because they will have to teach large classes with limited resources and inadequate classroom space.
Music can be essential in aiding children’s development, and some of the school music projects are aimed at using music to enhance students’ abilities in other subject areas such as math.
In parts of Asia, volunteer projects in the art can range from cultural preservation, to education, to a means of helping with women's empowerment.
Volunteers can use their creative art skills in Southeast Asia to empower young Cambodian girls by teaching them photography, jewelry design, and t-shirt making. This is a great way to combine a knack for the arts with an interest in international development and human rights.
There are also opportunities in Asia to teach arts at Montessori schools and volunteer with the Cambodian Children’s Painting Project (CCPP).
Many Latin American schools and community centers are extremely basic or have been neglected due to an absence of extensive resources. Thus, volunteers with an aesthetic eye are needed to bring color into communities by painting classrooms and other structures.
Revive an old building in a Latin American community with the stroke of a brush, and put your design skills to work by painting inspiring murals. Painting projects can often times be community events, allowing an arts volunteer to work alongside locals and bond over community revitalization.
- UNESCO: The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture stresses the importance of “culture and art, the sciences, education, and communication and knowledge” as core values of humanity. You can visit their site to learn more about what they’re doing to achieve such goals as “fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace.”
- InSEA: A non-governmental organization of UNESCO, The International Society for Education Through Art seeks to integrate art into multicultural and international dialogue.
Contributed by Jasmine Foruzani