By participating in the project, the time of lockdown will not be remembered as lost time or a time of powerlessness, but as a time of silent inner growth. – J.S.Y., India
Rita Eckart from stART interviewed by Nicole Asis on Oct 12, 2020 | Team: Barbara Schiller, Katrin Sauerland, Nicoletta Artuso, Franziska Schmidt von Nell, Valentina Popova, Olga Kolganova | Photos: stART international e.V.Nicole Asis: What is the motivation behind the project CHALLENGING TIMES?
Rita Eckart: 2020 is marked by a worldwide pandemic, which for many people is associated with lockdowns and government-mandated social distance. CHALLENGING TIMES is one of our answers to this. It is a social art program, which was carried out by stART international from April 1 to June 19, 2020. Over 1,000 participants from 58 countries joined the project. The program consisted of 4 different social art projects, all of which were based on Rudolf Steiner’s exercise of the initiative (6 Subsidiary Exercises). 
The participants went through an intimate, very individual artistic-meditative path over a period of 40 days. Each one was accompanied by special project letters from the project managers for personal inspiration as a pathway development companion. In addition, the resulting works, thoughts, and feelings could be exchanged and mutually appreciated in closed groups online.
Nicole: What motivated you to initiate such a project during the COVID-19 pandemic? Who were the people that collaborated with you and what did they offer to bring this to the public?
Rita: stART international e.V. was working in the Moria refugee camp when half the world was declared a crisis area. The lockdown in Europe came and our work on Lesbos had to be suspended. Our core competence is to react spontaneously to emergencies worldwide in an artistic, educational, and therapeutic way. Since we also have many years of experience with international social art projects, CHALLENGING TIMES was obvious. With the program, we addressed aspects of the pandemic such as the infection, the rapid global spread, and quarantine in the form of a health-promoting meditative-artistic offer.
Nicole: What social needs did your project address? And how did you tackle or handle these needs with the participants?
Rita: People react differently to limitations. Some become ill or are afraid. Others worry about their future or struggle with loneliness, crises of meaning, or boredom. Despite all the differences, however, everyone needs mental stabilization and spiritual nourishment. CHALLENGING TIMES tried to meet this need. At the same time, it helped to overcome a prescribed spatial distance through mental-spiritual closeness.
Nicole: As project coordinators, what touched you the most in this project? And how do you wish to continue this project and also other upcoming projects from stART?
Rita: We only had 6 days to prepare CHALLENGING TIMES. When it started, we did not know yet that we would send about 6,000 mails at individual times during the next 79 days and correspond with people from 58 countries. Everything came about in the process. What happened there was pure wonder. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who worked on or participated in the project. CHALLENGING TIMES is finished, but we are constantly initiating new social art projects.
Anecdotes from the participants
Actually, I’m quite touched by my own words and drawings, which is like someone talked to me patiently. – Y.M., China
The project time belongs to the most magical and powerful days in my life because of the creative flow and great inspiration I felt every day. Each picture was a deep meditation thought at the beginning and a kind of great surprise as a result. – A.S., Russia
Nicole: How was “CHALLENGING TIMES “funded?
Rita: The project involves about 3,000 working hours. Even though we have done this work, and much of what we do at stART, free of charge, there are still costs associated with the documentation. We try to cover these costs with donations. We would like to thank everyone who would like to support this global project, our work with refugee children on Lesbos, or our work in general.
IBAN: DE56 7001 0080 0009 0098 05 | BIC/SWIFT: PBNKDEFF
1 Steiner, R. 2019 Ed. Die Nebenübungen: Sechs Schritte zur Selbsterziehung. ISBN-10: 3727452951.