June 14, 2012 • Podcasts
Art, Community, Labour and Money
Continued from page 1
AC: Community art can be interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary in nature, but what’s at the center of it is that what’s being made is being made in a community engaged context. Fundamentally, it’s about something that we’re going to imagine, create, produce, possibly disseminate together with community members. So what’s clear at the beginning is the form or the disciplines we’re working in. The concept is unknown. We do arts based research, consultations, sketches, exploring experimenting, working in print making, storytelling, collage…kind of all over the map. We’re looking for a concept.
We work in a format that’s essentially kind of consensus based. We’ve identified themes, visual motif, narrative threads and this is the story or the direction we want to move in and then we make it. It’s pretty complicated in reality. But that’s my perspective on community art. It’s not just art that’s theoretically about community or that ‘community’ - you know in quotes - is invited to attend, but that it’s essentially participatory and collaborative in nature and that we’re constantly in relation to one another.
SF: And what would you say is the labour of a community artist?
AC: There’s a lot of pieces. It’s really exciting and intense work that requires a lot of skill. Proficiency in a discipline (or disciplines) and aptitude or skills working in community engagement; they’re different things. When they come together it’s really great but they are different things. So when we say community arts it’s this big umbrella.
So as an example right now, Redress Productions is working on a project based in Queen West Community Health Centre. We began doing arts based research and community consultations in January. Really intensive process, three months long and now we’re in production. But the backstory is that we were approached by the Health Centre back in January last year, and we decided to partner with one another. We’re worked with the organization on fundraising for the project for a year. That’s a big piece of the work. How are we going to do this thing? Because in most community arts projects there is no revenue. If access is one of your central values then your not actually going to make any money anywhere along the way doing this thing. I mean certainly there’s payment for the work, like artist fees, but it’s a real piece, of like, how are we going to put together the budget that we need to run a project that is artistically sound, that is sound from a community perspective, that’s ethically minded, that’s inclusive.
We work with apprentices. Mentorship is really at the centre of what we’re doing so there’s a lot of supporting, training, encouraging, mentoring. That’s a big piece of the work, building a team. There’s lots of administrative work. Intense partnership. And I probably should have said that first: Community arts is partnership. And you know, relationships are work. Any relationship is work and partnership is work.