Refugee-inspired art scoops €1,000 prize

Refugio Mnchen Kunstwerkstatt is a German charity offering refugee children access to art workshops – visual arts, music, dance, theatre and writing. Theresa Gtschl is working with the foundation as part of her bachelor thesis. When Corbis offered a €1,000 donation to a charity chosen by the winner of their Make Your Mark competition, she joined forces with her sister to create what would ultimately be the winning entry.

"We wanted to embed the impression of a childlike world and fantasy," Theresa says of the design, "and we like the metaphor of travelling to a creative, fantastic world. The boat represents escape and also boat refugees, which some of the children actually are."

When Theresa and her sister, Sophia, began brainstorming ideas for the competition, they were almost immediately in agreement as to how their project should look.

"It was clear that we would have to use some of the refugee children's drawings to show that those children have the opportunity to be creative as Refugio Kunstwerkstatt," Theresa continues, "which they often do not have in the crowded refugee accommodations. We got our inspiration from the children's drawings."

Competition winners Sophia Gtschl (left) and her sister Theresa (right)

Competition winners Sophia Gtschl (left) and her sister Theresa (right)

"We were both convinced that we had to bring the great drawings of the kids to the fore," Sophia agrees. "Later we had the idea to make the background look flat, like a cardboard theatre to fit the illustrations. All in all, the scene is supposed to look like an adventurous place in the imagination of a child."

Like her sister, Sophia was creative from a young age. She spent much of her childhood engrossed in painting, handicrafts and pottery. The role the arts played in the sisters' lives as children encouraged them to support the Refugio Kunstwerkstat cause.

Sophia has just completed her Masters in design and communication strategy at the University of Applied Sciences in Augsburg, but admits the winning competition entry is quite unlike anything else she has previously worked on – though her workflow was the same.

"The poster for the contest is actually not my style," Sophia says. "Normally I prefer clean typographic solutions. In this case, we had to comply to the wonderful illustrations of the Refugio children and follow their style in the complete artwork to find an appropriate way.

"The creative process always starts with enthusiasm, followed by struggle and despair, then comes a lot of work, then it usually ends with contentment. If not, the despair comes back and everything starts anew."

The result is a simple and effective creation, which succeeds in carrying the charity's message as well as it catches the eye.

What's next for the Gtschl sisters? After completing her degree, Theresa will apply to study a master's in art therapy at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Sophia, on the other hand, is currently looking for her first permanent position as a designer. Studios take note.

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