Instructional signs at the Social Art Summit lab, Site Gallery, Sheffield. Image: Jules Lister 2018

NEW WAYS OF SEEING, MAKING AND TELLING: ADDRESSING BARRIERS TO PARTICIPATION AND INVOLVEMENT IN THE ARTS FOR BLACK, ASIAN AND OTHER MINORITY COMMUNITIES 

 

A visual provocation and live debate at the 2018 Social Art Summit, Site Gallery, Sheffield

 

"[The lab] actually made people visibly upset and verbally uncomfortable in acknowledging their own privilege. By flipping the very frame we have been handed to view diversity and equality, we were bluntly shown the difference between truly understanding and paying lip service."  

Dan Russell, Artist Development Coordinator at The NewBridge Project

 

Taking the Creative Case for Diversity - the Arts Council England's 'blueprint' and strategic approach on diversity for all those working in arts and culture in Britain as a starting point for discussion, this lab asked three profound questions; how can we genuinely address barriers to participation and involvement in the arts for black, Asian and other minority communities? 

 

Purposely framing the impact of the lab around provocation, transparency, perception, territory, power and privilege, I enlarged quotes taken from the last three available Creative Case for Diversity Data Reports and quotes from key figures who have contributed to its advocacy, alongside an assemblage of collaged images exhibited on protest style placards around the space. Delegates were then invited to anonymously comment on the three questions in two voting booth areas that were positioned on opposite sides of the room. The delegates' comments were added to the gallery wall, which formed the foundation to lead the discussion.

"The workshop highlighted the racism (and sexism) that exists systematically and institutionally. Groups are powerful and can act as microcosms of wider society, hence being capable of amplifying and reinforcing oppression as well as challenging it. My ethical concern is that if we consider oppression as trauma, then trauma was surfacing and it felt dangerous."

Mary Stephanou, Art Psychotherapist, Associate Lecturer, Mentor, Creative Expressive Practioner, Facilitator, Artist, Activist, and an Intersectional Feminist

See further reflections on the Social Art Summit here.

The Social Art Summit was an artist-led review of Socially Engaged Arts Practice in the UK and beyond, convened by Social Art Network (SAN) over two days in Sheffield. The core of the programme was a series of labs devised and facilitated by artists to create frameworks for dialogue whilst reflecting practice. SAN invited eight artists to devise two-hour labs around specific themes with 1-2 guest contributors.

Priya Mistry aka Tropical Awkward Bastard joined me as my guest artist contributor. Dawn Walton was unable to attend on the day due to family illness.

 

All photographs were taken by Jules Lister

© Copyright Elsa James 2020. All Rights Reserved