We’re really pleased to post this short film, ‘The Right to Make Art’ – thanks very much to Annie Woodson, the film-maker, who has made sense of our complex brief to her and edited hours of footage of the workshop day we held in July at Manchester University.
Join the conversation!
The film raises some interesting questions – has community arts become institutionalised ( and some would say de-politicised?) Do some arts organisations and artists see their ‘participatory’ work as a tedious necessity in gaining funding? What do you see as the purpose of your work?
Separate cultural spaces, shared cultural spaces: a personal note
One element that really stands out for me in the film is the mix of participants taking part and enjoying the opportunity to work together. I think one of the adverse effects of current funding regimes is that fragmentation gets exacerbated, not addressed. So artists end up working with ‘elders’ or ‘youth’ , with ‘people with mental health issues’ or ‘ refugees and asylum seekers’. I understand the importance of specialist knowledge and expertise. I also understand that those who are already privileged and empowered can easily colonise any cultural space, to the detriment of those who are less pushy! However, I’m currently interested in how to make space for people to have conversations and share experiences with others whose life experience is different from theirs – if you have an interest in this, please get in touch through the blog, particularly if you work in Greater Manchester
ArtsChain: the new ‘first Tuesday of the month’ experience!
Some of the post-graduate students who helped out at the July event said in our final discussion that it had made them feel quite sad; in spite of the fact that practitioners who had started work in the 70s’ and 80s’ pointed out that there had been lots of disagreements over practice and strategies, they thought that were was a strong sense of people feeling like they belonged to a movement, shared a common cause and could bounce ideas off each other. In contrast, they often felt quite isolated and fragmented.
So on the first Tuesday of every month, a group of us (older and younger practitioners) have organised ArtsChain, an informal networking event for artists and arts organisers who see themselves as social engaged, community arts workers or participatory arts workers. It happens at Nexus Arts Café in the Northern Quarter in Manchester between 4 and 6 and it’s an opportunity to chat, let each other know about opportunities and upcoming activities and learn from each other. People drop in for the whole two hours or for 15 minutes to say hello and come when they can – many people work free-lance and so can’t come every month. We have chosen not to apply for funding for it and just contribute what we can in terms of time and expertise to help make it work. So you do have to buy your own coffee or tea – Nexus has a great selection on offer.
It is an experiment and we’re committed to organising it until April to see how it goes – so far we’re really enjoying it. If you work in the Greater Manchester area – or are visiting on the first Tuesday of the month, why not come along? You’d be very welcome. Dates so far agreed for 2016 are January 5th, February 2nd and March 1st.
So wonderful to see this video and the work you are doing and to see you Gerri always an inspiration. Makes me want to live in Manchester! Thanks for doing this work and would love to find a way to be involved. I do think it might be time for a national gathering of Community artists to weave the links and web between the past, present and future of this longstanding but evolving art practice. I think our field is undergoing rapid change and expansion as there is more and more realisation perhaps or acceptance of the power and potential of this work to catalysing change and transformation in people. I see opportunities but also see and have experienced pitfalls and challenges for the sector as socially engaged art becomes more mainstreamed or on a day where Im feeling ungenerous I might say appropriated. Can we measure integrity? I feel lucky to have recently been part of a group of 60 + socially and ecologically engaged artists who have contributed to the Book Playing For Time -Making Art as if the World Mattered https://docs.google.com/a/encounters-arts.org.uk/document/d/1AyPbIThioOijoVVRnUhKBEX1zFcEY36bkceS2kamp_E/edit?usp=sharing by Lucy Neal published by Oberon Books. That has been a very empowering process, to collectively really articulate this common practice, to share recipes for this work, to talk about integrity and to feel a sense of being part of something that very much has its roots in community arts. So I’d be up for a National Gathering ….. 2016 anyone?
I am really glad to be a part of this project and the video summarised very well the event and what was achieved during it in so many areas of community arts. I would definitely like to see more political activism through community arts as there was a few decades back eg. Bannerworks and maybe change people’s opinions of what community art is and what it can be! Thanks again for all of this Gerri and Alison and bringing together such a diverse group of community artists!
Great video Gerri, I wish I’d attended all day – I missed so much!
Pingback: ‘We’re trying to change the nature of art’ | A Restless Art