Salzburg Global Fellows Receive Intercultural Achievement Award

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Salzburg Global Fellows Receive Intercultural Achievement Award

Smile at a Common has resulted in the creation of murals in different parts of the Philippines, Manila, and Vienna

Ralph Eya and Katharina Kapsamer receive praise for their project, "Smile at a Common," A New Genre Public Art Project from the People and for the People

Photos by Ralph Eya
Mar 02, 2021

Salzburg Global Fellows Ralph Eya and Katharina Kapsamer have expressed their joy after being acknowledged by the Task Force "Dialogue of Cultures'' of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs.

They recently gave the duo the Intercultural Achievement Recognition Award for their project, "An Austria-Philippines Intercultural Collaboration – Smile at a Common."

The IAA honors "successful and innovative projects in the field of intercultural dialogue, both in Austria and a global scale."

Eya and Kapsamer first met one another at the 2018 program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI Forum). After the program, the duo continued to collaborate on several projects, one being the "creative fusion" of Kapsamer's urban adventure project "Smile At A Fire Hydrant" and Eya's genre public art initiative "We Are Common."

In 2019, Smile at a Common was launched as a tactical artistic approach in influencing people's perception of themselves, which can consequently inspire attitudinal change on how they see their sense of identity and their relationships with fellow people. It has resulted in the creation of murals in different parts of the Philippines, Manila, and Vienna.

Kapsamer said, "The project, as intervention, exits the white cube and transcends spaces. From the social space of the initial conversations to the visual space of the mural and its surroundings to the mental space of the audience to the social and virtual space of every individual's reaction."

Eya said, "This work is more about its co-creators which do not need to be physically together but can easily occupy the same space with others in order to share experiences of commonality which need to be seen and heard. People can actively engage with the piece by sharing reflections literally and figuratively, thus, catalyzing dialogues and creating a collective ownership of the artwork."

The project now is an interactive series of visual dialogues co-created by diverse individuals and communities in public spaces worldwide to promote human connection in times of shrinking civic spaces and cultural divide. It pursues the important objective of connecting communities of different gender, color, status, religion, languages, and culture.

Kapsamer added, "It works as a visual dialogue amidst a continuous saturation of pressing issues around the globe. It gives us a chance to pause and immerse in a visceral moment of connection with our own selves and our fellow people."

Eya said, “During times wherein human disparateness is magnified, narratives of inequality and injustices seem to prevail, anti-dialogue (Freire 1997) has become the 'norm.' As we seem to be more divided than unified, it has now become a necessity to 'rehumanize' through continuous dialogue.”

Kapsamer and Eya said they hoped the project helps to “rehumanize” people. Together, they agreed, "We believe that through this work, we uphold our right in exercising cultural participation and we continue to build physical and internal spaces of understanding, humility, compassion, respect, and most of all, empathy -  core values of our humanity."

Faye Hobson, program manager of the YCI Forum, said, "It has been a pleasure to see the genuine friendship between Ralph and Katharina blossom into an impactful project with a real social change agenda. Their collaboration embodies the values of the YCI Forum by using co-creation, humor, and empathy to create innovative arts-based interventions."