Sunday, June 04, 2006

the theory and practice of participatory arts

I'm in Barcelona for the closing conference of the FORTE project. Great city, lovely people and very interesting case study projects from London, Lithuania, the Basque Country and Berlin. What was striking about the event was - as happens all too often - how enthusiastic yet uncritical and vague some of the contributions were. This is a problem that the whole field has, but one that it will need to get over if it is to make the progress it deserves to make in the wider political, cultural and economic world.

However this has been a cultural and learning exchange between four projects with very different contexts and histories, and as always the informal conversations were really illuminating and useful...Because youth and community arts is such an under-resourced yet vital field of work, everyone has their own autobiographies and routes through, and often very distinguished histories of commitment to communities and excellent practice. But somehow the specifics can get lost in generalities about empowerment and enjoyment, when actually what is needed, perhaps, is a more fiercely self-critical enquiring and analytical attitude in order to pin down what is needed to move things on.

At the end of the event I attempted to pull together some of the disparate strands of conversation in my presentation, which can be downloaded here; not sure that I made a particularly good job of it...The overwhelming sense I had by the end of the event was how much practitioners need to be able to articulate more clearly what it is that they actually express clearly the theories, traditions and discourses which inform these ask clearer questions... How do we develop a genuinely self-critical and searching learning culture for practitioners? And linked to this there's a hunger for information, shared knowledge, training and development...

There's plenty of material out there - not least in my book but also in many other places - a couple of useful starting points might be the US based website, some of the links from the old NewVIc Pathways into Creativity archive, and the fantastic encyclopaedia of informal education, which whenever I look at it makes me think that I don't know anything, which is probably a good thing...

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