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 MINORITY ETHNIC COMMUNITIES
A participatory lab discussion 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 artist-led lab asked three profound questions about how we can genuinely address barriers to participation and involvement in the arts for black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. The intention and emphasis of the lab - provocation (in multiple layers), transparency, perception, territory, power and privilege.
The lab space consisted of a composite of quotes taken from the three Creative Case for Diversity Data Reports and quotes from key figures who have contributed to its advocacy, alongside an assemblage of images displayed on protest style placards.
Delegates were 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 what became a heated and uncomfortable discussion along with my guest artist contributor Priya Mistry aka Tropical Awkward Bastard.
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.
"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.