The Bielsko Artistic Association Grodzki Theatre was founded in 1999 in the town of Bielsko-Biala (the southern part of Poland). The Association groups artists, pedagogues, culture promoters and entrepreneurs engaged in supporting children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly from socially excluded groups. The latter include physically and mentally disabled persons, children, and youths from families at risk including young offenders, victims of alcohol and drug addictions, unemployed persons and those alienated from the mainstream of social and cultural life. The Grodzki Theatre is the only non-profit organization in the region with such a complex and wide artistic and educational program to combat social exclusion.
The main activities of the Association include:
– Arts workshops (mainly theatre, puppetry, computer animation, and fine arts). The workshop program has been implemented in close cooperation with local specialist institutions (re-socialization and day care centres, hospitals, orphanages, etc.) It is aimed at supporting integration of vulnerable groups into society. Their active involvement in arts and creativity means not only acquiring knowledge and new skills, but also breaking down the walls of social and personal barriers. The workshop program gives the disadvantaged an opportunity to develop individual artistic talents and passions, and through encouraging personal fulfilment and success it motivates them to become open to further self-development.
– Editing projects (manuals, books, film documentaries, newspapers). This has been a very important field of exploration by the Association from the very beginning of its activities. It has aimed at sharing and disseminating good practice, like workshop and lessons scenarios and useful methods and techniques which are easy to apply in various educational context, and inspirational for trainers and artists. Most of the publications edited by Grodzki Theatre have an instructional character and appear in the form of handbooks. They often provide an insight into the lives of the workshop groups. Different editorial forms are used to facilitate orientation in the books and the visual narration in film materials helps to understand events which are sometimes hard to verbalize.
– Training programs (mostly in drama education and social economy) for instructors, teachers, therapists, artists, volunteers and workers of non-governmental organizations. It is another way of exchanging best practices, sharing knowledge, and teaching practical skills. Most of the training sessions are workshop oriented, allowing participants to experience the spirit and dynamics of presented activities.
– Vocational training programs for socially excluded groups. The Association runs 2 Vocational Rehabilitation Units (sheltered enterprise), employing 62 disabled people, who cannot find a job. It also runs Occupational Therapy Workshop providing a day care unit for 30 disabled persons. The main task of the OTW is the social and vocational rehabilitation of each participant, aiming at self-development, increased physical skills, assertiveness, coping with everyday tasks and independent living in society. Beneficiaries attend both individual and group occupational therapy.
The Association operates mainly in the Bielsko-Biała region but is also involved in artistic and educational projects at a national and European level (partner organizations in: Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Greece, Slovenia, Cyprus, Italy, Finland). The Association has been able to work with people disconnected from the mainstream of social life thanks to many grants and awards from Polish and international institutions and foundations, including the EU programs, Soros Foundation and Polish Ministries of Culture, Education and Justice, among others.