The SMAK and ENGIE are awakening young people to culture

Over the past four years, ENGIE’s policy on corporate social responsibility has enabled students at a work-linked training centre in Ghent to implement projects with SMAK, the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent, and to show their work to visitors.

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ENGIE SMAK jbc

How do you see yourself? Where do you come from? Who are your idols? What do you want to do with your life? These are the four questions that the SMAK, the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent, asked 250 students at the CLW, a Ghent-based college providing work-linked training.

Together with guest professors and artists, they answered these questions by producing a self-portrait on fabric in a specially set-up workshop at the museum. All the resulting portraits were then displayed together in a large gallery that was open to the public over the 2016 festive season.

A customised programme with no constraints

As part of its policy on corporate social responsibility, ENGIE wants as many people as possible to have the opportunity of accessing culture. To this end, the Group includes in its cultural sponsorship, actions aimed at young people or groups lacking ready access to culture (like prisoners, refugees and the underprivileged).

Teaming up with the SMAK, which shares the same outlook, is perfectly in keeping with this policy. On each occasion, a specific, customised programme is set up to allow students at the CLW, who may not necessarily be receptive to the idea, to gain access to the world of culture and to works by contemporary artists. The idea is to let the participants simply be themselves, without fixing any objectives in advance regarding the resulting end product and then tweaking the idea until it sits well with them.

Perfectly at home in the museum

“By making culture readily accessible and enabling these students to express themselves and give free rein to their feelings, we hope they will feel truly at home in the museum”, explains Hidde Van Schie, the SMAK’s project coordinator. “Football isn’t just for elite players capable of playing for Manchester United. Well, the same applies to contemporary art: it’s not just for collectors or art lovers.”

The gallery of self-portraits is the fourth project jointly carried out by the SMAK and ENGIE. Students in previous years were given an opportunity to create an audio guide made up entirely of rap songs or a stop motion film.

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