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Focusing on Education in the Arts and Culture as a Driver of Social Cohesion and Empowerment for Young People

Total Foundation has decided to increase its support for cultural projects that use artistic creation as a catalyst for social cohesion and personal fulfillment among young people. More than 7,400 young people aged between 12 and 25 will benefit from this redeployment of resources.

Giving Impetus to Young People: Total Foundation’s Philosophy Applied to Culture

All of Total Foundation’s initiatives are underpinned by one ambition: provide young people with the means to become independent, active members of the community so that they can each take control of their future and find their place in society. Total Foundation encourages access to the arts as part of its commitment to Cultural Dialogue and Heritage, striving to give young people the opportunity to get involved in producing projects. We strongly believe that artistic creation enables young people to develop useful skills for their personal growth and to take part in a collective endeavor that helps boost inclusion and strengthen social ties. That is why Total Foundation has decided to fine-tune the criteria used to assess partners’ projects in this area.

Long-Term Programs

To give young people the time to get involved, develop their skills with artists and other participants and see what they get out of the program in the long term, Total Foundation funds projects that run over several weeks or even a year. The Paris Mozart Orchestra’s “Orchestre au Bahut” initiative is one example of this. Combining music, literature and visual art, it invites high school students from educational priority areas to meet with artists between October and June and then create a piece together. In doing so, the project aims not only to give participants the chance to learn about new disciplines, but also to help them develop certain abilities (discipline, concentration, communication, etc.) and discover new passions, interests and pursuits.

Creating to Empower

In line with our commitment, we give priority to programs that enable young people to contribute to the development of an artistic project and then become its ambassador.

With La Source, a nonprofit organization that operates in five of the Group’s host regions, artists develop collaborative creation processes with teenagers during workshops. As with most of the initiatives we support, a public event is held to present the resulting works. These events recognize the young people as stakeholders in cultural life, giving them an opportunity to share and take pride in their work, which ultimately serves to overcome social determinism and boost their self-esteem.

Nonprofit Le Monde en Tête takes a similar approach, organizing writing workshops for refugees to help them practice their French, an essential tool as they enter society and the workforce. Led by writers, these sessions give rise to the production of a book of all of their stories. The creative process requires a lot of dedication, enhancing the different skills involved.

Another initiative, by Concerts de Poche, involves creative workshops in regions offering few cultural activities. Led by concert artists or an actor/musician duo, the workshops result in a presentation of the production on stage as the opening act for a major artist who has come to meet the local community.

Collective Projects Driving Social Inclusion

Our partners also put forward projects that seek to include young people in a collective venture. The creative exchanges that take place within the community foster self-expression, dialogue, respect for diversity and, ultimately, social cohesion. The La Colline theater, for instance, runs a project that pairs students from regular high schools with others from vocational colleges. During a week of immersive, in-residence workshops, they try their hand at drama together, reflect on the meaning of a play produced especially for them and take their first steps in staging. By listening to each other’s ideas and points of view – regardless of their past experiences, background, or academic choices – the young people learn what it means to be a part of the community. In this way, the initiative aims to debunk social stereotypes.

Connecting With Young People and Showcasing Their Talents

A final goal of the projects we support is to connect with young people in a way that builds trust and promotes sharing. The Auteurs Solidaires endowment fund, for example, runs the “Tell me about your life!” program, where high school students work with professional writers to put the story of their life on paper as part of writing workshops. A jury then selects some of the texts to be adapted to film, music or the spoken word. Programs such as this seek to showcase the skills of young people by using their environment as a starting point, building relationships with artists that revolve around exchanging ideas rather than a teacher-student dynamic. The Paris Opera offers students in France’s Apprentice Training Centers hands-on workshops developed by guest artists and adapted to specific industries (construction, glasswork, design, jewelry, etc.). This allows young people to meet professionals with whom they work as equals, opening their eyes to new applications for their skills and inviting them to step into another world.