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Traces: Stories of Migration – Evaluation Report 2024

This report gathers qualitative data regarding the positive impact of participatory art methods on the identity, sense of belonging and self-development of first and second-generation migrants.

Traces: Stories of Migration – Evaluation Report 2024

The study is situated within the framework of ‘Traces: Stories of Migration’, a socially engaged practice research project conducted in three phases; community engagement, responsive portraits, and the exhibition of the resulting artefacts. It was led by artist and researcher Professor Lucy Orta in partnership with University of the Arts London’s Portal Centre for Social Impact and Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Conducted in community centres in the boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets in east London, the engagement phase of the project aimed to bring together the memories and experiences of first- and second-generation migrants through the creative medium of textiles and the making of artefacts termed the ‘Story Cloth’. The primary goal was to investigate how cloth and stitch could creatively express and celebrate the diverse cultural and social experiences of migrant communities. 

The project proposed oral and visual mapping, text-based storytelling and textile-based practice in group settings with trained facilitators as its main methods, where participants shared personal narratives and textile knowledge, ultimately creating unique Story Cloths that figuratively or conceptually depicted familial or personal migration experiences. Rooted in the multicultural history of east London, especially the East End Rag Trade, the project sought to provide a positive space for individuals to engage in a meaningful art activity, connect with their communities, and express thoughts and emotions associated with positive places. 

The research specifically seeks to explore how Traces: Stories of Migration influenced the well-being and identity of the first and second-generation migrants who took part by delving into an exemplary social engaged and participatory art project grounded in psychological literature, this exploratory study contributes to understanding how the participatory art methods employed by Lucy Orta can positively impact the well-being of migrant communities without necessarily addressing difficult or traumatic memories.

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