For the Art: A Two-Way Bridge Between Switzerland and Lebanon

For the Art: A Two-Way Bridge Between Switzerland and Lebanon

For the Art builds a bridge through the arts between Lebanon and Switzerland and, in the process, supports art therapy.

From projecting a short movie on a human body to having Pierre Geagea, an artist who, since birth, is deaf, perform the most incredible dance, to sending a Swiss composer and pianist to Lebanon for a private piano concert at the Swiss ambassador’s residence, the events of For the Art Association vary, but always meet the same success and appreciation of the audience.

It all started in 2015, when three friends — Rouane de Labouchère, Zahi Haddad and Yasmina Wakim, all born in Lebanon and raised in Geneva, decided to create an exchange of art performances between their two HOMElands.

For de Labouchère, the attraction of participating in For the Art is the chance to volunteer. The pregnant, working mother of three, said, “It is a continuity of what I have always done. I have been involved in volunteer work since I was a teenager. Every summer break, when we went to Lebanon for vacation, I used to volunteer. One year it was teaching French to orphans, another time it was restoring an old school, or clowning in a hospital. In Geneva as well, I have volunteered with associations – one of them helping people and families who are HOMEless and in need.”

For Zahi Haddad, the arts tugged his heartstrings. Haddad has been professionally engaged with cultural events through work with the mayor of Geneva. Also, he is a writer who worked with the Lebanese publisher Tamyras for his first story (Au Bonheur de Yaya), which highlights the importance of art exchange.

“Art is the best way to share your country with the world. I am blessed to have two countries,” said Haddad. “The importance of this two-way bridge is obvious to me. I met great artists during my visits to Lebanon and I know how important it is for their careers to have international exposure. For the Art was born to support and create this visibility. Switzerland houses many inspiring artists and Lebanon is rarely a spontaneous destination to show their work.”

The young association has successfully put on more than five events. Each event has required dozens of hours of work — from fundraising, to organizing and planning. “Heritages,” a film by Philippe Aractingi, was projected for the community to enjoy earlier this year. It is an archive of family photos and personal videos that weaves the story of his ancestors traveling through the Levant across five generations.

“Switzerland houses many inspiring artists and Lebanon is rarely a spontaneous destination to show their work.”

The association’s current focus, as explained by Yasmina Wakim, a serial entrepreneur and architect (previously interviewed by HOME Magazine), is to spend minimal money on advertising and other event-related expenses in order to raise the maximum amount of money for the associations they support.

“Creating visibility for an event and gathering around 500 people each time is not an easy job without paid advertising. We are currently using our own networks and counting on our friends to spread the word, but it’s a real challenge every time.”

For the Art has been contributing any funds raised to art therapy in Lebanon through Astharte, an initiative that aims to support artistic projects to promote therapy and social change.

Why art therapy? “Because it’s a great way to deal with life’s challenges. Art therapy allows us to communicate and express what we are not capable of expressing with words alone, through painting, corporal expressions and other art media. It’s a door to our inner self, a different voice to express and get rid of our fears, that works perfectly with children and adults,” explained de Labouchère.

“We have worked in Lebanon with refugees, female victims of physical or sexual abuse, and special needs children. In Geneva we are running an art therapy workshop for children between 4 and 8 years old who have special needs,” said Wakim.

“We have just finished a concert with La Camerata du Léman (15 young European musicians). The founder of Camerata is half Lebanese. The event was a morning breakfast followed by a classical music concert. The pieces were explained to the public and kids were encouraged to openly participate. It was an incredible event – all ages in the audience were able to engage. We got great feedback.”

The Association is also working on developing an Arno Stern atelier in Lebanon, a place for people to come together and heal through painting. Mike Ayvazian was sponsored by the Association to recreate the concept in Paris. “Our plan is to find the funding we need to make this project sustainable in Lebanon,” he explained.

The team believes that if they are to create a true impact through art therapy and support the association’s work in this field well, they need to access more funding. You will certainly hear more from this very promising Lebanese- Swiss association as they continue making positive and impactful strides through art therapy.

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