This article explores the role of non-formal arts education in Thessaloniki, Greece for fostering contact considered valuable by the young refugee community. Drawing on accounts of their daily life, gathered over eight months of ethnographic fieldwork for a project on their post-15 educational participation, the article details how around the city, young refugees (aged 15-25 years) experience conflicted encounters involving both hostility and solidarity. While this hostility impacts their aspirations, self-image, and feelings of inclusion, a large solidarity movement attempts to counteract these challenges by offering educational activities for ‘inclusion’ such as arts workshops in temporary spaces. These offers were popular among youth in the study, as they constituted a welcoming opportunity for building social connections, language skills, and self-confidence-outcomes that extended beyond the physical space of the workshops. As such, they functioned as valuable, creative ‘(en)counterspaces’. Based on observations from one case study site, this article unpacks the key processes that promoted these valued outcomes-including collaboration, mediation, and informal contact-as well as the role played by arts materials and arts-making practices in these processes. This article also offers key considerations for designing similar activities, such as being sensitive to inclusivity and power relations. It aims to build on the literature on both ‘counterspaces’ and ‘encounters’ by documenting the outcomes young refugees value from contact in these sites of solidarity, and how and why they proactively seek them out; as well as analysing the other actors and specific activities involved in them.

DOI: 10.1093/migration/mnad016
ISSN: 2049-5838