Alongside his works in painting and ceramics, the artist is also active in non-governmental organization in his area of expertise. In all these activities, he acts with the knowledge that, ‘art’ repairs the relationships between the self and the others, it is an important tool to be connected with the outside life in closed establishments, it eases the co-existing process, it prevents people to deteriorate physically and psychologically, and it helps to erase the perception of “otherness”.
Artist’s social work started with Association for the Development of Social and Cultural Life (SKYGD) that incorporates many artists of different disciplines, and which have founded after Marmara earthquake, with works directed towards children. The goal of the organization is to support and re-enable the socio-cultural activities in places where socio-cultural life has been damaged and became unrealizable because of disasters, terror, immigration, war and the like. With SKYGD, he conducted works with ‘groups of children living under poor conditions and risk’ (children who are working, abused, living on the street, using substance) in many regions of Turkey between the years of 2001 and 2007, as the art workshop coordinator and board member. He has established art workshops for children and worked as a tutor in these workshops. Within this period of time;
Art workshops for children has opened in İstanbul, Diyarbakır and İzmit, and in these workshops, plastic arts, rhythm, creative drama, and reading room activities has been done, and child festivals has been held. In these cities, workshops for “Tutor Education” (plastic arts and methods of working with children living under poor conditions) have been opened. University students, who are being educated in fine arts, psychology, philosophy, sociology, primary school teaching, and who are volunteering in ‘art workshops for children living under poor conditions’ projects, have participated in these workshops.
Pedagogical progress seminars and workshops about children and their effects on art have been held in Gotlands Konstkola Fine Arts Academy in Sweden, and workshop coordinators from İstanbul and Diyarbakır participated in these projects.
In heavily immigrated districts of Diyarbakır, ‘Travelling District Workshops’ project, consisting of open-air workshops (painting, sculpture, kite flying, story, rhythm, drama, dance and sports workshops) has taken place where volunteers work with children.
In Değirmendere Woodwork Symposium and Erzincan Geçit Municipality, 2nd Gökkuşağı Spring Festival, open-air art workshops for children has been held. After the earthquake in Afyon, Çay Municipality children art workshop and Afyon Fevzi Çakmak Orphanage renovation and art workshop programs, open-air and gallery exhibitions of the works from children art workshop Diyarbakır, İstanbul, Değirmendere, İzmit, Afyon and Sweden has been held. Panels, conferences, interviews and workshops have been organized about the ‘issues regarding children living under risk and organizational collaboration’.
After the workshops with children, artist’s social work continued as the art workshop coordinator in preventing human rights abuses in closed institutions projects.
As part of Anatolian Culture, “Prison Project”, art workshop projects held with prisoners in Bandırma, Kars and Tekirdağ F-Type prisons.
In 2006, with NGO representatives who have gained work experience in prisons and volunteered to work on this issue, Civil Society in the Penal System (CİSST) has been founded in order to contribute to the solve the problems of penal institutions. Deniz is a founding member of CİSST. The organization rejects all violence, whether it is verbal, physical or psychological, and it is unbiased. Its area of work is problems and needs of every prisoners, convicts, and old convicts who need support after their release, and the personnel working in penal institutions without exceptions. With CİSST;
As part of preventing the human rights abuses in penal institutions, works has been done to increase the use of shared domains in 13 high security F-Type penal institutions in Turkey (Adana, Ankara, Bolu, Edirne, İzmir, Kırıkkale, Kocaeli, Tekirdağ, and Van). Plastic art workshops established and workshop exhibitions have been held with prisoners and prison personnel (correction officers, psychologists, sociologists, tutors, social service experts, doctors, directors) in F-Type prisons. University students have been trained to do volunteer work in Juvenile Detention Centers.
Artist’s workshop projects continued in collaboration with Human Rights in Mental Health Initiative (RUSİHAK), with the patients and personnel in Mental Facilities and Mental Disability Centers.
RUSİHAK is founded by the people who lived and witnessed the problems firsthand. It works in order to prevent the abuse of basic human rights of people who are psychiatrically diagnosed and who have mental disability, to increase their visibility and protection capacities, to develop proposals of social policies for their full participation in social life, to promote the application of these policies, and to create an environment where their needs and problems can be negotiated within the perspective of human rights.
With RUSİHAK, social work has been done in large mental facilities under Ministry of Health and the care and rehabilitation centers under SHÇEK, where patients with mental disabilities reside or get service (in Manisa, Elazığ-Adıyaman, Adana, Samsun, Ankara and İstanbul). Art workshops have been held with the participation of people with psychiatric diagnosis and people who have mental disabilities, and also the hospital personnel (nurses, psychologists, social service experts, wardens, art tutors).
All these activities are the contributions that Gökhan Deniz offered within the frame of his expertise. The “works” of an artist who gives importance to the parallelism between the right of a person to be on his own, which is envisioned in plastic arts, and his participation in the collective life, provides a perspective to see art and life together, without separating one from the other.