There are countless reasons to volunteer abroad in the arts, and with a wide range of programs available, anyone can find activities that match the international experience they are looking for. Artistic volunteers will find inspiration in the new and vibrant culture that surrounds them as they volunteer in art programs abroad and enjoy connecting with the locals. Whether your goal is to sharpen your own artistic skills or share your passion for art with others, choosing to volunteer in art programs abroad is a decision you won’t regret!
While often used as an all-encompassing term to include dance, drama, music, and more, in the context of art volunteering abroad, art will refer mainly to visual fine art forms. These art forms may range from traditional media, such as drawing or painting, to more developed approaches, including photography. Whether teaching art or engaging in the hands-on creation of artwork, volunteers with have the chance to impact all sorts of populations. Volunteering in art projects abroad may entail working with elementary school children, underprivileged youth, minority populations, or simply those that enjoy art, and life!
African countries, as well as Central and South America, often provide the highest number of options for volunteering in art programs abroad.
South Africa and Zimbabwe are especially popular locations for volunteering in art programs abroad, as these nations have much to offer in terms of programs options and extracurricular activities. Home to countless wildlife reserves and the famous Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros), volunteers looking for slightly more comfortable accommodations and art volunteer placements in wildlife photography need to look no further than these two African countries.
Togo is one of the smallest and poorest countries in Africa, and it is an incredible destination to volunteer in art programs, especially for those looking to make a difference in the lives of locals through art. In this sliver of land in western Africa, volunteers will complement NGO (non-governmental organization) efforts by teaching their artistic skills in orphanages, allowing young artists to develop their talents, gain confidence in their abilities, and possibly learn an income-sustaining craft.
Ghana and Douala are also popular destinations in Africa for volunteers interested in working with children through art programs. Volunteers may find themselves in schools, art centers, orphanages, or out in the community spending time teaching the youth about art (and often about theater, dance, and music as well).
In Latin America, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua are equally great choices for kid-loving volunteers who want to teach art, theater, dance, and music in schools. Guatemala additionally offers volunteers the chance to work with the large Maya population, which makes up 40 percent of the country’s natives. Art programs in Guatemala often work with female artisans to further their craft and grant them market access to Fair Trade options.
Brazil makes the top of the list of South American countries for volunteering in art programs abroad. Brazil offers an especially unique volunteer experience by allowing volunteers to partake in the preparation and celebration of the country’s annual Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. The program cost for participating in this week-long festival will be noticeably higher than other placements, as a result of the flocking tourists, inflated prices, and the Carnaval cost itself, but it will be well worth the expense.
Volunteering in art programs abroad will most often include working in the following placement types: teaching arts and crafting skills, partaking in culture-specific projects, or photography.
Teaching. Teaching arts and crafts skills is the most common form of art volunteering abroad. Volunteers may teach in schools, art centers, or orphanages, and may work with ages ranging from primary school children to adult artisans. Most placements focused on art education involve underprivileged populations, it is especially common to work in schools that can’t afford art teachers or with impoverished women who have limited resources to support their families. Duties may include planning workshops, helping children use art media, or teaching artisan skills, such as pottery or jewelry making. Accommodation for art education volunteers is most often in homestays, and some meals and pre-departure and in-country support is usually provided as well. Volunteer who teach art abroad may also have the chance to work in other areas during their program too.
Projects & Events. Art volunteers who work at cultural events or in community art projects will often need to plan their trip timeline accordingly. Some art programs may have openings for volunteers year-round, while others may happen during specific dates. For example, Brazil’s Carnaval starts forty-six days before Easter each year and lasts for only one week. Though the minimum time commitment for volunteering in art programs abroad is generally two weeks, most programs will offer the opportunity to stay for much longer. Volunteering in art programs focused on specific projects or events will include a range of activities, such as making costumes, decorating floats, or painting educational murals around town.
Photography. Those who choose to volunteer in photography abroad will be able to develop their artistic skills while benefiting local communities in the process. Benefits may be related to conservation, educational development, or general artistic creativity. Volunteers should be sure to read the fine print to ensure they are aware of all the necessary equipment require and whether or not they are responsible for bringing supplies. Volunteer activities may include conducting photography workshops or capturing wildlife shots or volunteers in action. In some African countries, volunteer photographs may even be used for research, wildlife databases, and monitoring animal populations.
Language Lessons. While volunteering in art programs abroad, volunteers will often have the option to take language courses to advance their immersion and learning experience. This is especially common in Central and South American countries.
No Experience Necessary. Volunteers will find that little to no experience is required to volunteer in the arts abroad, above and beyond a passion for the arts and a desire to impact the local community. This means anyone and everyone can volunteer in art programs abroad!
Leave a Lasting Impression. Whether you paint a mural, take a photo, or teach a skill, the impact you make on the community through art volunteering abroad will last much longer than your stay abroad.