Daniel’s Story: Life as a Social Artist

We envision a world in which all young people lead creative, purposeful lives.

Canadian born Daniel Lalande is a recent convert to social artistry. For 24 years Daniel worked as a costume designer, but in 2002 he slowly initiated a career transition to the development sector. He uses creative mediums such as crafts, theater, creative writing and music to help cross barriers, providing a voice for those who don’t normally get heard.

Over the years he has worked as a social artist with women, youth and children from low-income communities in Indonesia, India, Nepal, Guatemala and Brazil. Daniel’s work reflects his strong commitment and sensitivity to human relationships and social dynamics. He believes that every person has assets and talents, so providing a safe place for people to discover their own voices and sense of empowerment is the most important thing for him.

What has been the hardest obstacle to your work as a social artist?

Recognizing that I had to first look inward and understand my own cultural frameworks before I could begin to understand others. Through sessions of music and art therapy I experienced an in-depth journey that helped me to better understand who I am. That ended up being a benefit to myself and to those around me. My creative journey is still very active and I feel nothing is ever complete.  For that reason I use my down time constructively, and try to nurture different facets of myself as an artist.

What does the term ‘social artist’ mean to you?

For me, social artistry is about allowing, understanding, and nurturing from within. It’s about really finding out who you are and using that to create enriching, inspiring, and uplifting moments for others and for yourself. I think that social art has a real ripple effect. Again, that starts from within. Stretching yourself beyond your usual boundaries creates opportunities greater than your daily life experiences.

Being one with the energy that is flowing through you is the beauty of creativity. This is our constant challenge as social artists, to stay connected to that flow of energy, while taking the risks to truly discover ourselves and others on deeper levels.

How would you describe your experience with Partners for Youth Empowerment so far?

I have attended Partners for Youth Empowerment’s facilitation sessions in Sao Paulo and so far I have found the organization to be very nurturing. I believe very much in the power of the ripple effect to affect the lives of young people around the world, and through Partners for Youth Empowerment, I have got to meet wonderful individuals that are contributing to this movement.

How do you imagine your work with us impacting your work as a social artist?

Over the years doing this work I have occasionally felt quite isolated and unable to communicate what it is that I am trying to do. I’ve also struggled to gather the tools I need to carry out my work. Partners for Youth Empowerment has provided me with a community of social artists and have encouraged me to create my own tools and to improve the work that I do. I’m really excited to begin sharing my work with a group of like minded individuals who have the same goals that I do. For me, Partners for Youth Empowerment provides a trigger for evaluation, exchange, engagement and coming together.

How important is creativity in our lives?

Creativity is our lives, without it we would be left with a fairly drab picture.

Creativity is linked to recognizing that we all have a healer within – a magician, an actor, a storyteller, a visionary capable of  recognizing new trends, new patterns.  Every day we are given opportunity to see things in an extraordinary way, but it’s up to us whether we grasp that opportunity  or not. Creativity can be found in all corners and aspects of life, and that is what makes it so rich.

If you could go back ten years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

“I would tell myself: ‘do not take yourself too seriously”.

Over the years, I’ve realised that we often have a tendency to become what others want us to be rather than just being ourselves.  I guess children are the best teachers for how to change this. One of my friends recently sent me this little line:

‘While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.’

Can you name any social artists that you admire?

I admire the ability of many artists to transpose their art with communities they serve.  Communicating, understanding, listening, and providing space for creation within communities is wonderful. For this reason, I admire all artists that are known or unknown participating in changing the world, one person at a time, one community at a time.

Here are just a few social artists I love for what they do:

Alex Heywood of Kid Powered Media , a small NGO from Canada working in India in slum communities and providing youth with the chance to write, act and produce movies that are socially relevant to them. Alex and his team also propose a very hands-on type of approach with the communities.  Great initiative!

Faith Goncalves, of Music Basti. Faith started the program in 2008 to provide music to children and youth living on the streets of Delhi. This program is conducted in 5 slum areas of the city and implemented with the support of professional artists. They have now produced a CD with songs written and sung by kids from different slums of Delhi.

Sullivan Camargo  from Arte em Itaporanga close to Porto Seguro, Brazil. Sullivan is a wonderful naturalist painter and a great social artist. He puts his art to the service of children and youth of the small indigenous community where he lives by giving them opportunities to explore, discover and be in touch with their own creativity. The program is connected very strongly to the community, the environment and discovery.

Nancy McGirr of FotoKids Guatemala, a project started with kids living in the poorest regions of Guatemala. This project has grown and now offers over 100 children opportunities to develop useful, employable skills as a means to self-exploration, expression, and discovery.

This list could go on and on. I feel over all that the person that inspired me most was my mother who introduced me to music, art, sculpture, theater- she had the ability of creating these special moments for my sisters and I, giving us the ability to dream, to travel and think outside of the box.

If you would like more information about social art drop by and have a chat with our online community on our Facebook group.

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