Arts Council Empowers North Kent’s Creative Community

Arts Council England have announced that a community consortium from Swale and Medway has been successful in applying for a commissioned grant from its Creative people and places programme – designed to empower communities to take the lead in shaping local arts provision.

Swale and Medway is one of seven successful consortium applications across England that have been awarded a total of just under £16 million over three years, with Swale and Medway receiving £1,476,000.

Creative people and places takes a new approach by supporting communities and grass roots organisations to play a leading part in inspiring others to get involved with the arts.

The projects all employ innovative ideas for reaching new audiences. The Swale and Medway consortium comprises Swale Council for Voluntary Service and Volunteer Centre; Medway Council for Voluntary Service; Artlands North Kent; LV21; Kent Architecture Centre; Creek Creative Studios; FrancisKnight – project managers for Leysdown Rose-tinted ; and FellowCreative. The consortium will showcase and test new arts activities, support local people to develop their own creative ideas, help strengthen existing arts provision and celebrate what’s great about the arts. Three local authorities (Medway, Swale and Kent) will work with the consortium to develop the project. The consortium will be working with locally based arts and cultural partners to do this, including: Royal Opera House Bridge Organisation, South East Dance, and Kent County Council Libraries and Archives.

Carl Jeffrey, Founder of FellowCreative and a member of the Swale and Medway consortium, says: ‘We are thrilled to have the support of Arts Council England. This substantial investment will make a real difference to the communities of Swale and Medway. The long-term aim of our Creative People and Places vision is to enable a spirit of creative experimentation and the art of doing, together.

‘Initiated by an ever-developing network of small-scale, grass roots individuals and organisations, we hope that Swale and Medway become widely recognised as places where all forms of creativity can thrive; where communities directly benefit from the power of the arts to make positive changes in people’s lives; where new routes for engagement are opened up through testing out pioneering and experimental approaches.’

Sally Abbott, Regional Director, South East, Arts Council England, says: ‘We have a long history of working with artists and arts organisations in North Kent and we know that there is a real desire among people locally to get more involved in the arts and culture. We’re looking forward to seeing what ideas the community come up with to encourage more people to feel the benefit that taking part in the arts and culture can bring.’

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: ‘I’m excited by the possibilities of this programme and by the vision of the successful applicants.

‘All the projects have the potential to make a visible and lasting impact on the places where the work will happen and, very importantly, they all share the ambition to unite increased access with excellent art.

‘We’re looking forward to working with them to help them develop their ideas for creating and sharing great art for everyone – which is crucial to the vitality and long-term sustainability of the arts.’

The projects will be delivered by consortia and partners which include arts organisations, museums, libraries, local authorities and commercial organisations working in collaboration with the local community, grass roots organisations and the amateur sector.

The successful applicants will now receive a small percentage of their award in order to develop their plans. Receipt of the full award is dependent on the Arts Council approving each consortium’s full business plan. Round two of the programme will open to applications in September 2012.

The Creative people and places programme is one of a number of initiatives designed to help the Arts Council achieve its goal of more people experiencing and being inspired by the arts – as set out in Achieving great art for everyone, the Arts Council’s ten year strategic plan.

Keep up to date with news here: http://creativepeopleplace.info

Area: South East

The Hoodwink Project – Bringing Art Into Unexpected Places

Suzie Plumb and I work as Cultural Projects Managers for the Arts Development Unit at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. We’ve recently received funding from various bodies, including Arts Council England, Kent County Council and Medway Council to embark on a 3 year audience development project: Hoodwink. This article aims to introduce the reader to the concepts behind the Hoodwink philosophy and to stimulate debate about the value of contemporary art in everyday life.

The Hoodwink team are trickster do-gooders, working at the very edges of curatorial practice. They target non-users of museums and art galleries and expose them to art practice in the most unlikely, surprising and exciting of places. By bringing the art to the people, their work creatively challenges current perceptions of exhibiting space and environment, and often deliberately subverts the traditions of curatorial practice in order to break down the barriers to engagement. They provide opportunities for museums and artists to expose their work to new audiences and develop their own practice through working in new site specific ways.

60 Large Aerial Photos have been on display in Chatham town centre, Kent. for a number of months. The alternative photography exhibition has brought a new look to the high street and has been a positive influence on the general public.

Hoodwink Venues

We will be commissioning work for 9 commercial venues across the next 3 years. Unlike other arts projects that have used empty shop spaces, Hoodwink venues are already occupied for commercial use, for example: supermarkets, sports centres and public houses. Showing work in these spaces targets non-users of galleries and museums by exposing the venues’ existing customers to the work on display in a comfortable and familiar setting.

We’re using Arts Council England research to define and target our non-users. ACE arts-based society segments define the majority of non-users into 3 categories: time-poor dreamers; a quiet pint with the match; limited means, nothing fancy.

http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/research-and-data/arts-audiences/arts-based-segmentation-research/

Targeting is realised through community engagement undertaken by the commissioned artist during the research and development of their work, which will include creative sessions with venue staff, and from the approach to and presentation of interpretative material displayed with the artwork. The effectiveness of this approach was established through qualitative evaluation of previous audience development projects undertaken by Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery: Kentish Delights (2010 – 11) and Public Art House (2011-12, http://publicarthouse.tumblr.com). This evaluation exposed some exciting revelations:

  • Customers enjoy seeing things out of the ordinary in their daily lives because it gives them something different to talk about than the weather (Kentish Delights)
  • When staff are confident about a display, they enjoy talking to customers about it (Kentish Delights) Perceptions of customer service are improved if staff are able to engage with customers about objects on display in their venue (Kentish Delights)
  • Customers enjoy having an activity associated with the art on display, even if they don’t think it has anything to do with the art on display (Public Art House)
  • Customers are able to make meaning in their lives from engaging from art in this way (Public Art House)

Hoodwink will allow us to explore these concepts in greater detail, by commissioning artists to create work on a larger scale, and through experimenting with different types of interpretation.

Pubs will be one of the spaces used for the Hoodwink project.

Hoodwink Artists

Our commissioning process is very simple: once we’ve secured a Hoodwink venue, we agree an artist brief with the venue management, and advertise it as widely as possible across the UK. The brief asks that the artist respond to any aspect of the venue, its community, or the environment the venue sits in.

We also offer the artist the opportunity to work with a museum from Kent, by researching and selecting objects from that museum to be displayed in the venue. For many artists, this can give a local or historical context to their work, providing an access point to engaging with their work. This commission offers the artist opportunities to:

  • Engage with a new audience in a meaningful way
  • Expose their work to a large number of people
  • Develop their work in new directions, through responding to a commercial, competitive setting

Hoodwink Interpretation

Interpretation is a vital component of good engagement with contemporary art, and is an element that will be experimented with during Hoodwink.

Hoodwink aims to realign interpretation with marketing, and borrows from commercial practice to do this. Selling concentrates on informing the customer why a product is important to them, and therefore why they should invest in it financially and in many cases, philosophically and intellectually as well. Customers think carefully about what they purchase and what meaning this has to their lives. Decisions are based on having the essential information about a product accessible and available. Access to this information depends on the success of the marketing campaign in exposing it to the right audience.

Hoodwink draws its audience by selling information about the works on display, and this is approached through many different media and interactions.

Firstly it will look at building an audience in advance of the exhibitions of work at the venues, by generating interest through social media communities, exposing the story of the artists’ work as it develops from ideas to installation.

Secondly, interpretive material will accompany the artwork on display. This material will offer customers different ways to engage with the work on display, avoiding presenting a single-voiced textual interpretation and encouraging meaningful interaction. This is a creative and exciting curatorial challenge for the Hoodwink team and offers them the opportunity to:

  • Find and showcase effective models for meaningful engagement in real situations
  • Grow a vast audience for contemporary art
  • Work with different and unexpected specialists to achieve our aims.

Hoodwink has enormous potential to change arts practice and display, and it is something that we expect to gather momentum as it progresses. The social benefit of this change in practice can be enormous and life changing for everyone involved. We welcome your thoughts on our model and ideas at every stage of the project.

Our second commissioning opportunity is about to go live – we’ll be announcing it on our Facebook pages soon, so please join us at   http://www.facebook.com/groups/396956693682730/

By Polly Harknett

Hoodwink Project Manager

hoodwink@tunbridgewells.gov.uk

Area: Kent    South East