La Source Garouste: artistic practice as a way to help children with learning and social difficulties
In 1991, the artist Gérard Garouste and his wife Elizabeth created La Source — an inspiring association that combines social and academic ambition with the visual arts. Laurent Issaurat, Head of Art Banking at Societe Generale Private Banking, met with Guillaume Garouste, the founders’ son, who now runs this magnificent project.
Laurent Issaurat: How did the idea for La Source come about?
Guillaume Garouste:The genesis was my parents, Gérard and Elizabeth Garouste. Thirty years ago they became aware of the number of young people in rural areas living in socially precarious situations, often compounded by deep isolation. My parents intuited that practising art could break their solitude, but also help bring these children’s ideas to life and restore their self-confidence, often sorely tested. This is how, working with educators and with the support of public figures, they created the association La Source, using an old industrial building in La Guéroulde, Normandy, as its base. Which it remains to this day, after opening its doors in 1994.
Laurent Issaurat: Can you describe the work La Source does?
Guillaume Garouste: The main objective is to help children with learning difficulties at school, or who have problems at home or socially, by engaging then in creative projects. In practice, the children join a workshop run by two adults: an artist and a sociocultural educator. The workshops either last a week (Monday to Friday, for 20 hours), or take place every Wednesday for a three-month cycle. Every child designs and makes their own pieces — which they can take home — as well as a collective work, which encourages them to work with others. Spending a relatively long amount of time in the workshop means they can produce something of a high artistic quality, and is an opportunity for genuine interaction with others. Of course, for young people it’s about learning techniques alongside the artists, who in turn impart their creative passion. But more importantly it’s about uplifting children and freeing their imagination and their emotions by inspiring them to make and create things themselves. At the end of the experience, we also see how proud they are when we give them back their work, in front of their parents!
Laurent Issaurat: La Source has grown considerably since its origins, hasn’t it?
Guillaume Garouste: Yes, you could say that! To date we’ve helped around 100,000 young people, and the rate has accelerated over the past few years, with 13,000 beneficiary children and families in 2022! Today, 200 artists run 360 projects and organise nine exhibitions every year with the help of our 30 employees, 100 volunteers, and 180 partner social workers. Our reach now extends well beyond La Guéroulde in the Eure region of Normandy thanks to a network of legally independent associations that want to support our project. Today, La Source is present in nine other departments in France: Val d’Oise, Ille-et-Vilaine, Ardèche, Hauts de Seine, Pyrénées Atlantiques, Paris, Maine et Loire, Bouches du Rhône, and Seine-Maritime. This year, La Source becomes La Source Garouste in order to be immediately identified and to embody the spirit of its founders. This change goes hand in hand with our ambition to extend our action to the whole territory in order to accompany more and more children, by developing the creation of new sites in the future.
Laurent Issaurat: Where do you get your funding and how can people support your cause?
Guillaume Garouste: We are supported by our partners in the public sector for 40% of our resources, and the remaining 60% comes from our private partners, as well as companies and individuals. At a national level, our benefactors send their support to the “La Source Garouste” Foundation (under the aegis of Fondation de France since 2013). It’s also possible to directly support the associations that are active locally. And thanks to the generosity of our partner Vitra, which donates designer pieces that are transformed by artists, every year we hold a charity auction.
Laurent Issaurat: What are some of your current projects?
Guillaume Garouste: We want to first and foremost consolidate the existing network by helping each of the associations in our network to grow and strengthen its organisation. At ground level, we are continuously improving our equipment, and we’re now moving towards digital art. Some of our friends of the project, like Neil Beloufa — a Franco-Algerian artist famous for his video installations — are very committed in this endeavour, and their help is invaluable.
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