The Arts and Communities Programme, otherwise known as A+C, provided eleven artists with an opportunity to learn about new developments in socially engaged art and participatory art practice. Over a six month period the artists gathered for a weekly three hour peer-learning session to critically reflect on their own art practice, current debates in theory, and the socio-political frameworks that define ‘art’s and communities’ engagement. The programme encouraged critical reflection and creative practice whilst also providing an hospitable-critical context to explore collective working methods.
The programme included talks by the lead artist and other members of the group; workshops on facilitation, communication, and skill sharing; a field trip to Leeds to learn more about innovative community art projects; talks and workshops by visiting speakers addressing questions such as, ‘what does community mean for you?’ and ‘how does an artist tell the story of a collaborative art practice?’, alongside practical presentations relating to funding, networking and partnership working; finally, each artist was asked to keep a reflective journal to further their own self-directed learning.
In addition to the above, four public workshops took place, two prior to the programme and two at the end of the programme. The first two workshops raised awareness of the programme, explored the relationship between ‘arts’ and ‘communities’ engagement and generated content for the programme itself. The final workshops focused on experiential learning. The first workshop explored Theatre of the Oppressed techniques and the second workshop explored dialogical aesthetics and listening skills.
The programme was led by Jonathan Baxter with each of the A+C artists taking responsibility for delivering significant aspects of the programme. This included talks, workshops, fund raising, and catering for the group and public workshops. More broadly A+C was a collaboration between Aberdeen City Council’s Creative Learning Team and ArtWorks Scotland, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation programme supporting training and professional development for artists working in participatory settings.