As I’ve looked at many projects in our video-conferencing sessions, and in my own research and information sharing, there have been a few that stand out for me in terms of thinking, ‘I would love to work like that’.

  • Sweet Arts in Norwich who “design and develop creative and enterprising projects that empower women to make choices that improve their health, employability prospects and general wellbeing”
  • artist Sarah Wakeford who works collaboratively in education, healthcare  and community settings
  • Sarah Corbett and the Craftivist Collective
  • Impact Arts Craft Café,  a “safe, social and creative environment where [older people] can learn new skills, renew social networks and reconnect with their communities”
  • The Depressed Cake Shop

And someone I’ve admired for a long time since reading her book ‘Awakening Creativity’ – Lily Yeh – “We are  creating an  art form that comes  from the  heart and  reflects the pain and sorrow of people’s lives. It also expresses joy, beauty, and love.” “We … learned that in crowded, deprived, and restrictive places, we could generate new nurturing spaces of freedom, openness, and abundance through creativity and imagination.”

book cover

I think these all fall into the same segment of socially engaged art:  community arts (or crafts, or cooking). They’re all focused around an element of making; one could say, like David Gauntlett, ‘social making’. They have to do with the wellbeing of individuals and communities, or making small changes that accumulate into something bigger. They are empowering. Individual and collective creativity is highly valued, sometimes simply for its own sake. There are elements of dialogue and social change, embodied in physical processes. They are inclusive. One of the projects I was most drawn to of the very many that Roxane  showed us during the course was these crocheted afghans on the steps of Helsinki  Cathedral, which wasn’t really even conceived as an art project (though it surely is).

William Morris said, “I  do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few”. That inspires  me.

There are challenging discussions going on about the whole area of grassroots ‘community-based art’ and its relationship with the more art world oriented ‘social practice’. Roxane pointed us to an article on ‘Artification‘ by Arlene Goldbard, who says that “one function of the term [social practice] is to erect a boundary between those who understand and feel comfortable in this language and those who don’t.” This article explores the same ground. It has been very  interesting and helpful for me to study social practice these last few months and begin to see where I fit in.

One thing (among many!) that I take away from the course is that I want to keep studying and set aside time to read more deeply. This section of my blog was set up for the course and after today I won’t add any more to it. But I see this as just the beginning and I’ll still be blogging about it. So this post will be the last  in  ‘Art and Social Practice’, and also the first in ‘Community Arts’ :-).

David Gauntlett, Making is Connecting, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011.
William Morris, ‘The Lesser Arts’, in William Morris, News from Nowhere and Other Writings, London: Penguin, 2004, p253.

Thoughts at the end of the course

One thought on “Thoughts at the end of the course

  • December 13, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    While I was writing this I was trying to remember another article Roxane mentioned that examines the ‘changing language and grammar of participatory practices’ – it’s here, and the comments are interesting too. I think this defines the term ‘social practice’ differently and more narrowly than we have come to understand it.

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