At Large  January 19, 2018  Barbara Basbanes Richter

Exiled Artists Find Footing in France

Courtesy AA-E, Photo by Sébastien Jédor / RFI

Omar Ibrahim, a painter from Syria, at AA-E

Europe is in the throes of a massive refugee crisis with millions of asylum-seekers fleeing war-torn lands like Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Among those forced from their homeland include writers, artists, singers, and other creatives who now can find refuge and a place to practice their craft in Paris.

Since November 2017, the Atelier des Artistes en Exil (AA-E), or atelier for exiled artists, has welcomed painters, poets, writers, and musicians to its 10,000 square foot space on rue des Poissonniers in the densely populated 18th arrondissement, where immigrants, blue-collar workers and artists live and work side-by-side. The organization is the brainchild of Judith Depaule and Ariel Cypel, a pair known for piloting engaged communal artistic spaces throughout Paris.

Courtesy AA-E, photo by Medhat Soody

Studio space at AA-E

The AA-E provides WiFi-enabled workspace and fully-equipped workshops and sound studios where displaced artists have the opportunity to return to their professions and to also regain a sense of stability during a most difficult and stressful time in their lives.

Additionally, the AA-E organizes French language courses, meetings with other artists, assists with resumé writing, facilitates contacts with fellow professionals in France and throughout Europe, and guides asylum seekers through lengthy and confusing French bureaucracy processes.  

Courtesy AA-E, photo by Medhat Soody

An artist in their AA-E studio

As a nonprofit, the AA-E is constantly looking for assistance from educators, artists, curators, teachers, psychiatrists, and librarians, as well as financial support and donations. The AA-E’s current wish list includes tables, chairs, notebooks, drawing supplies, and even food and temporary housing for its displaced patrons. To raise funds, the organization will be launching a crowdfunding campaign in January.  

The AA-E lists over two hundred current members. Some work or practice in the studios every day, while others visit when they’re completing projects. Others stop by for meetings, workshops, or to receive legal advice. New visitors are always welcome. Learn more at http://aa-e.org/fr/category/atelier/  and check out some of the artists’ work on the AA-E instagram at https://www.instagram.com/atelierartistesexil/.

Courtesy AA-E, photo by Sébastien Jédor / RFI

Lina Aljijakli, a painter from Syria, in her AA-E studio

About the Author

Barbara Basbanes Richter

Barbara Basbanes Richter writes for Fine Books & Collections magazine and Art & Object. She’s also a professional ghostwriter.  

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