On Thursday, July 9th, 2015, we’ll be exploring this question in an intriguing way. With the help of a small grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we’ve created an event which brings together community artists who began working in the area in the Seventies and early Eighties with artists who began working in the area much more recently. We’ll be exploring what is still common to their practice, what has changed and what can we all learn from each other.
10 brilliant artists have agreed to collaborate together on the event. We’ve paired up artists from drama, textile, print and photography, making and film and video backgrounds and they are currently learning about each other’s practice, discussing the opportunities and challenges they faced then and face now, and designing a workshop together. Organisations working in Greater Manchester are helping us out by inviting participants to the event to get involved in the workshops; we’ve told them it’s a bit of an experiment and we’re really grateful that they’ve agreed to give it a go.
During the event, Gerri will be interviewing the artists about what it’s been like working with each other (when they’re not running their workshop!), film-maker Annie Woodson will be documenting the event for a short film and visual artist Paul Gent will be documenting it too. It’s being held at Manchester University and post-graduate students have volunteered to help us out as well.
In the evening, Alison Jeffers will chair a round table discussion, inviting artists to reflect on broader questions about similarities and difference and about the place of ‘community arts’ in contemporary practice.
We will be posting more about the event in coming weeks and uploading the film and the visual art work when this is ready. It’s also part of our research for the book we’re writing about community arts (we’ve now got a contract with a publisher for this).
Meanwhile, how would you answer our question – do you think community arts practice is still relevant?
Professional Development in the Seventies: Gerri on the beach in North Devon practising her juggling skills with Diana Murray, Beaford Centre Community Project. Her dress sense has since improved. Photographer: Philip Trick
How would something that is uniquely born out of the moment, the milieu, an endless array of different relationships, partnerships, conversations, a myriad of approaches, mixes of skills, a vast array of timescales, depths of engagement, outputs and outcomes not be relevant still? It’s relevance may be measured and reconfigured in some ways against genuinely new forms of practice (as opposed to reframed language or lesser forms than fully engaged and embedded practice) and changes in society, but that would be to define a slippery customer when it comes to definitions. Perhaps the idea of a movement resists or even overcomes the need to cram ‘the practice’ into a box and close the lid…
OMG Gerri, what an archive photo is this! do you mean your dress sense? or mine? and have our juggling skills improved? mine have! happy to bring lots of balls to throw into the air on 9th July.
‘Is Community Arts practice still relevant today?’ ….. ‘Does the sun still rise in the East?’ X
Congratulations on getting a publisher signed up!
I think the answer to the question has more to do with the underlying values of life, that should be in place! than the specifics of ‘practices’. I am not convinced that any one area of the arts is more important than another but that the reasons for doing it and the values informing those actions are the key attributes of practioners.
It is how the values are implemented that has the potential to change others perceptions on their own creative potential. If there is any truth in the supposition then effectiveness may be a more useful measuring metric for projects than quality of product. On the other hand…………..
I know, but won’t name, many projects where the activity has not led to any others creating their own creative initiatives and so several years of funding result in the original creator seen as the ‘worker’ serially doing good work but without the thousand flowers, or indeed any, blooming!
I can remember a very well known practioner telling an assembled group that what was important was the development of the Artist implying that they, and their careers had prominence over the masses with whom they would work!!