Back in the 1970’s and 80’s I worked in arts funding and had some lively discussions with close colleagues on the merits of Community Arts versus what one might call “high art”. Over the past thirty years most of the ‘classic’ community arts projects have mutated or fallen away and a different, some might say, more sophisticated, engagement between artists and publics taken their place. On occasion I have had uneasy feelings about some of these, wondering whether there isn’t a whiff of condescension about what passes for ‘engagement’ especially where the ‘work’ winds its way back into the art market with a hefty price tag attached. But there are artists and arts animators out and about nowadays with a rich and meaningful relationship with their communities that is based on mutual respect and delight in sharing creativity to a purposeful end.
I’m focusing on two such projects, one that’s taken place just recently and was celebrated last Saturday and one that’s an annual event and will next take place in September. Both have the merits of being genuinely collaborative and open to all as well as being a great deal of fun.
The ‘birdman’ David Tideswell shows how to build a bird box…
The Airspace Yarden launch last weekend was a delightful event. You can read all about it here so I’m simply going to add my own spin on it by saying that this was not only a valuable ongoing project but that what really marked it out was the quality that went into every aspect of it from speakers on the day to the graphics on the walls and the food and drink on offer. Those whose hard work culminated in the event, effort that had been going on for months, do all of it voluntarily with all of the modest subsidy going directly into the projects themselves. They are to be both congratulated and commended for an initiative that is both unique and in a modest way, rather wonderful.
Another such venture, entirely self funded, is the Cheap Thrills film festival… This is ‘run’ by one of the UK’s genuinely original eccentrics, Martin Currie, aided and abetted by several equally crazy friends and family. I have yet to make it to the cemetery for this event but I’m a ‘dead cert’ for this time around. I may even make a film – note: a film not an artist’s video (see my previous post!). This might even be a still from it!!
It’s activity of these kinds that makes one realise that the future with diminishing state funding ain’t so bleak as one might expect it to be.