Is it possible to feel both joy and sadness simultaneously? As healthcare clowns, we know it is!
This is exactly how we felt at the closing meeting of the ClowNexus project that took place last week in Vienna.

Artists and project managers from the eight participating healthcare clowning organisations met for the last time to close a cycle of international collaboration, co-creation and learning.

For the past three years, the clown artists dived deep into researching approaches to engage with people with neurological conditions, more concretely interacting with older people with dementia and children with autism.

Our artists conducted a lot of work with the senses, focused on creating a safe space for play and explored new artistic and humorous tools to connect with these special groups and their environments.

We reflected on what worked well and what could be improved in terms of the processes and structures of the project. We also considered the ways in which we were able to implement co-creation techniques working with the target groups, their environments and experts. We thought about the different artistic laboratories, which took place in every participating country over the last three years, and how we were able to share international exchange and collaboration.

For future collaborations, we discussed how to increase and add capacity building opportunities for the cultural managers who steered the processes behind the scenes.

Moreover, we reflected on the learnings of the project, such as the artistic tools developed and the co-creation approaches applied with family members, professionals and experts, and how all participants will incorporate the new knowledge in their daily work as clown artists and managing projects in healthcare clowning organisations.

What will the future hold for us?

The project is over, but the participating artists and organisations have many plans to continue to work with people with dementia and children on the autism spectrum.

On a long-term basis, the plans range from developing and implementing workshops for staff and families to playfully learn more about arts and humour in the everyday lives of older people, people with dementia and autistic children; as well as taking inspiration from the concept of relaxed performances and creating theatre plays adapted to the needs of children with autism which can be performed in schools but also in theaters.

Despite the challenges that the project faced, starting in November 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, the Cooperation Project turned into an enriching and fruitful endeavor for everyone, and we look forward to sharing more results with the public, tools and evaluations over the next few weeks and months.

 Pictures: © Red Noses International – Miloš Vučićević