(PL) Podlasie: A Cultural Animation project for the UK? – Janine Goldsworthy (UK)
Many of our conversations before we (the UK participants) left for the second visit to Poland centred around the terms and meanings of Artist/Community artist and/or Participatory artist and what assumptions people make of those terms in the UK art world. I had a bit of an epiphany on my visit to Poland and realised that perhaps I am not an Artist, Community artist or a Participatory artist perhaps I could be a Cultural Animator and perhaps Cultural Animation is what is missing from the UK art scene.
My overriding impression of the art projects we visited in Poland was that they were extremely high quality; that neither the process of involving people or the output were compromised in quality. This balance is something that I feel is lacking in the current UK art scene, with either the project being an ego or side project for the Artist or the outcomes/artworks not being as important to the Community/Participatory artist . Following our research visit I wanted to develop a research project to test out some of the exiting ways of working we found in Poland and if they would work in the UK art context.
My initial ideas were inspired by Pocztówka Cultural Association, Jan Józef Lipski Common University, The Centre of Education and Promotion of Belarusian Culture and The Centre Borderland of Arts, Cultures and Nations. These projects in particular stood out to me not just because of the quality of the work produced but through the discussions we had around why the projects through Cultural Animation produced quality artworks and meaningful engagement.
Our research group came up with some theories as to why this was possible and through reflection I believe that it was down to three main factors: the lead artists for the schemes had true passion and personal connections to the places they were working; seeing their line of work as a social responsibility and not just a job. The leaders then worked closely with a group of young people over a significant period of time (often years) to develop the artworks in an open and experimental way, ensuring the outcomes have a genuine impact on the lives of the young people involved and finally that they meet a real missing need within a community and solutions to bridge gaps with an outcome that people want to see. I wanted to use these initial reflections to develop a research project in Stoke-on-Trent that is important to me and is needed in the City.
The theme of the project will be of a Common University and will create a space where people develop skills in building their own opinions, developing ideas, cooperation and creativity. The Common University will bring together a small group of young people from each of the 6 towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent. The project will start by exploring each of their home towns as a group looking at the architecture and what is special and unique in each town, this could involve building mechanisms to explore in a sensory way such as skate boards using everyday found materials.
Each stage of the project will be documented in a creative way and will be reflective on what they each want from Stoke-on-Trent City Centre and what they can bring to it, It is anticipated to last at least one year and lead into other projects, I would also like them to have sessions with inspiring creative people from across Stoke-on-Trent including Matthew Rice of Emma Bridgwater and Barney Hare-Duke from the British Ceramics Biennial. The outcome of this could be a piece of film and a series of artworks that could be showcased at an event in Hanley the City Centre of Stoke-on-Trent to demonstrating what the young people of the region want from a city Centre and importantly also how they can contribute to this. The aim of the project is to raise aspirations, inspire a group of young people to come together, to have pride in their community and the City of Stoke-on-Trent.
This initial idea is just the start of the process and I hope with the creative contacts I have made through the Localise project to continue developing and refining the project. I also hope through the Common University research project to have a better understanding of Cultural Animation and how this model could work to rethink current artist working methods with communities and lead into templates for future ways of working.