Maria Galea: No Big Words Can Describe This Experience

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Nov 13, 2019
by Maria Galea
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Maria Galea: No Big Words Can Describe This Experience

Salzburg Global Fellow reflects on her experience at the sixth program of the YCI Forum Photo by Herman Siedl

Maria Galea is a Salzburg Global Fellow. She recently attended the sixth program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators. This blog was originally published on Galea's website.

This is my very first blog. It has taken me a while to let myself go and make time to share my experiences with you all. The experience I am about to share has definitely triggered the need to do so. I have just returned home from the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, a five-day stay in the incredible Schloss Leopoldskron, a magical place, to say the least.

However, what has really made this experience special were the other 49 young cultural innovators selected from all over the world. Their stories, their passion, their energy, and how we all became so connected by the end of our journey, has really given me a new perspective on how to perceive both myself and the world around me.

We came in different forms; poets, visual artists, dancers, singers, photographers, musicians, filmmakers, drivers behind institutions, entrepreneurs, activists, gallerists, curators, and the list goes on. However, really and truly, we are just humans using a different language leading to the same goal - that of creating positive change in our communities through arts and culture.

Justin Galea, Romina Delia, and I were this year's Maltese participants at the Forum. We met at the train station in Vienna and started to make our way to Salzburg. We had only met briefly before. Our three-hour train journey to Salzburg was a great time for us to get to know each other even better before embarking on this amazing experience together. We didn’t really know what to expect upon arrival. I mainly wanted to meet new people around the world who shared a common language of love for the arts and a passion for innovation that leads toward positive change.

During the first two days, I was still connecting the dots to why was I really here and what the main goal of this Forum really was. We were told that in the next few days we would be diving into a series of “workshops” and “sharing sessions” touching diverse topics that we come across in our work as well as focusing on ourselves as individuals and our core purpose. Big words, but no big word can really describe what we felt.

Every morning we would wake up to a postcard-like view of mountains, birds flying over a mirror-like lake, trees, and fresh air. We would first all meet in a big room where we performed Japanese exercises called “Rajio Taisou,” which left big energetic smiles on our faces before starting our long day of discussions.

The workshops were a useful combination of tools. Some answered questions, and others tackled challenges. We engaged in diverse topics from partnerships, fundraising, leadership, sustainability, to active discussions around global issues and narratives. However, one of the most powerful workshops was about “the power of listening” - a series of exercises focused around the importance of listening to one another, as well as to listen to ourselves in moments of silence. This is something which we usually take for granted in our day to day lives.

The so-called “sharing sessions” where the moment I realized why I was really here and why I needed to be here. We were divided into a group of people from all sorts of backgrounds. We met in the same room every day, and we all knew that what is shared in this room stays only within us.

The first day our facilitator asked us to try and describe our balance between our career, family, friends, and values, or beliefs. We were basically asked to face reality of our present life. On the second day we were asked to think deeply about our purpose. What drives us? This took us back to the past and what really sparked us to lead us through this path. On our third day, we were asked to select three words that describe our future.

We faced the changes we want to make in our lives, what our deeper goal is and now we had a clear reason for why we want to do it. We laughed, we cried, we stayed silent, we thanked each other for sharing, gave long hugs of comfort and - at the end - we would stay in a circle, hold hands and just shout as loud as we could. Little did I know that this group of strangers in a room in this amazing palace would change my perspective of life.

We sometimes underestimate the value of listening to others, sharing, taking a moment just to stay still, appreciating people around us, and why we are actually doing what we are doing. We sometimes get so lost in the middle of all of it that we lose the connection to our existential purpose. Listening to others, sharing common values, passions and struggles, created a deep bond between us. No matter where we are, and no matter what we are doing, we will now always know that we are never alone and that we can always count on each other.

As “young cultural innovators,” we find ourselves immersed in passion, continuously finding new ways to break the walls of cultural resistance to change, engaging our communities, and inspiring others to take charge. Saying that what we do is challenging and tiring is perhaps an understatement, but really and truly we wouldn’t want it any another way because we know that every tiny step we make on the way leads to a greater purpose, which will live beyond us.

This is just a very small insight into how we have lived together in these five days. However, one thing I will always hold on very tight to is understanding how we can find happiness in each other no matter what background we share.

Salzburg Global Seminar will always be that happy place in my heart, which I will never let go of. Special thanks go to all organizers, facilitators, and staff at Salzburg Global Seminar who have made us feel just like home. I would also like to thank Arts Council Malta for making this experience possible.


The Salzburg Global Seminar Program, Cultural Innovation, Leadership and Collaboration: A Global Platform, is part of the Young Cultural Innovators Forum annual program. The program is held in partnership with Adena and David Testa, Arts Council Korea, Arts Council Malta, the Bush Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, Japan Foundation, the Korea Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Nippon Foundation, Salama Bint Hamdan al Nahyan Foundation, Shalini Passi Art Foundation, and World Culture Open.