After being forced by Paris City Hall to leave its Montmartre studio in June L’Atelier des Artistes en Exile moved into a 3,200-square-foot space to support about 200 exiled artists from around the world. Now, it will have to vacate its current location in December. It has no idea where it will go next.
The non-profit under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture has welcomed artists from more than 40 countries, including Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It operates with an annual budget of about 600,000 euros (about $662,000), mostly from public funds.
“We don’t find the artists; they find us,” said Judith Depaule, an actress and theater producer who runs L’Atelier. “And they need a home, a real home, a permanent home, four or five times bigger than this one, so they can have space to paint, to rehearse, to sculpt, to film, to create their art.”
Volunteer French professors offer the artists free French lessons; volunteer lawyers give them free legal advice on how to obtain political asylum in France; other volunteers teach acting and writing skills. Museums including the Jeu de Paume and the Palais de Tokyo have lent their support.
“Because being a refugee is not a profession, because the role of art is to say and show things that are disturbing and to give voice to the oppressed,” reads the organization’s mission statement, “because it is through the voices of its artists that the cultures of imperiled countries can continue to be perpetuated, it is important that artists have the opportunity to continue practicing their art.”
Last year, L’Atelier got a psychological boost when Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, visited and said on Twitter afterward with a photo: “A profoundly moving visit to the @aartistesenexil in Paris. Through their works of creativity and courage, these artists are shining a light on the hardships that so many face as refugees.”
Excerpts from The New York Times article 23/10/2019