Cota Art for Society

What are COTA’s main activities? 

COTA is a small association based in Paris focused on how visual creativity can become a tool for social exchange and a support for environmental protection. We do it mainly within cooperation projects on a European level but we’re also about to launch projects on a local level. Concretely, we organize workshops and trainings and we continuously elaborate new arts and craft techniques, using recycled material and pedagogical methods 

Who are COTA’s target groups, who are you working with locally? 

It depends on the project we are involved in, but most of the projects we participate in are dedicated to people with migrant or refugee backgrounds. As most of our members has a link with the Arab world and Arabic language, lot of them are from Middle-Eastern or have South-African origin. Other projects have more specific target groups such as Hungarian children living abroad and willing to learn their language of origin. But we also have a project which is targeting other crafts people. 

How you function locally? Do you have you own local where you set up your workshops or you work in collaboration with other organizations? 

We are still quite a young organization, COTA exists only since two and a half years and we don’t have yet our own place. We are officially based in the Parisian region but some of our members work from other places as Tunisia or Lebanon. The people we work with regularly in collaboration with a local association live mostly in Marseille, where we hold regular workshops too. 

How and when did you create this association and how was the idea born? 

 had been working in parallel in two different fields for quite a while: in education and in arts and crafts. I have my own small enterprise and create jewelry using recycled materials. The idea was to link these two activities and create pedagogical methods to support learning. At first, I concentrated mostly on language teaching through visual creativity, then with our European project this was extended to other fields and skills as well. 

Do you work only with arts and crafts practices or do you have also other practices? 

Yes, we have. We also set up trainings and activities and pedagogical methods using audiovisual and digital tools and gamification. We also have a project which is entirely based on comics and online games. 

How do you measure your impact locally or internationally? 

For each of our project we have different impact measurement tools. As for COTA as a whole, I would rather say something from a more personal point of view, as a trainer; for instance, you can feel that you have an impact when you realize how your workshop can open up new possibilities through discovering practices such as comics and game creation, or craft techniques such as jewelry making; embroidery, painting, etc. 

With project partners too, we feel the positive impact when they adopt practices invented or collected by COTA. 

How do you disseminate your activities? 

Through traditional channels, such as Social Media, but the dissemination strategy of COTA as a whole is still to be elaborated more in detail. We also participate to local art events and fairs where we make our projects known by a wider local public. 

Probably you know other organization with similar profile like yours. What makes your organization different? 

I think that visual art practices are often used as an alternative self expression for instance for advocacy or for empowerment. What makes our approach different is that for us visual creativity is part of a more complex method aiming at acquiring diverse skills, not only communication and self expression but also analytical thinking, orientation and different soft skills. 

Are there other organizations, people and practices who have inspired you? 

Of course, many. Some of the partner organizations we work with have very inspiring methods but there are also many good practices in France and in Europe working on social and environmental engagement who inspire out activities. 

How your activities can be inspiring for other persons or small business owners? 

I think this question, I could rather answer as an individual craft person not as an organization. Before founding COTA, I had a small business in design. What has changes with COTA, is that I managed to extend my activities from simply selling products to transmit knowledge and skills too and to have a social impact as well. 

As the founder of the organization, what kind of advices would you give for someone willing to launch in a similar adventure? 

When I founded COTA, I jumped into it with very few experience in the field. The most important thing for me was to find the good people to work with and to be surrounded by skills complementary to yours. 

What are your expectation and wishes for the next couple of years? 

First of all, we would like to grow a little bigger. This would be necessary in order to obtain our own local for instance. This is clearly one of our main objectives, to be able to organize our own workshops. This would be also important to be more integrated in the local network of organization but also in local community in general.

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