Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Out of Place - Jumblies Community Arts Writing

This publication includes some excellent articles on community arts practice by Jumblies members - a Toronto, Ontario-based arts group. Ruth Howard introduces the collection:
This publication was conceived in 2007, out of enthusiasm for Jumblies’ new public seminars, which grew, in turn, from our learning and mentorship program – the Jumblies Studio – and the realization that there is a lot of knowledge and experience to share.
There is a groundswell of community arts practice in Toronto, both as a result of the excellent work of several groups that have been creating wonderful work and community for years: Jumblies, Shadowlands, Clay & Paper, Red Pepper Spectacle, Sketch, ArtsStarts, Regent Park Focus, Storytelling Toronto, 1,001 Friday Nights of Storytelling, Carlos Bulosan Theatre and many more. For several years now York University has had a Certificate in Community Arts Practice (CAP), unique in Canada (here's their blog), and a joint program of the Faculties of Environmental Studies and Arts.

Michael Burtt, a friend of many years, in his article Community Art-Making: Where Heaven and Earth Meet shares his thinking and practice connecting his art with his explorations into spiritual contemplation. He shares a term from writer Alan Clements that i loved immediately: "the holy unexpected." Maggie Hutchison, a fellow community artist of many years, in her article The community artist in the Creative City Engaged citizen or‘regeneration bulldozer’? writes critically of the "creative city" phenomenon. She opens the article with what i consider quite the shocker:
[Joe] Berridge [a partner in Urban Strategies] encouraged conference attendees to revitalize our workplaces, our working practices and, ultimately, our cities; transforming them into exemplary hubs of creativity. And he had specific ideas as to how we should do it. In order to revitalize, Berridge suggested that we abolish meetings and other collective processes, and embrace the individuality and inductive thinking that he argued are essential to an artistic modality. “Beauty is not a collective product, it is an individual product...This runs completely counter to the way we have structured all of our institutions, in which the power of the collective suppresses the power of the individual”, Berridge insisted.
I find it rare that advocacy against collective creativity and for an individualistic notion of the artist and art is as brazen as this. I'm sure Joe has some goods ideas about art in the city. But this opinion that Maggie reports is one of those dominant notions that fits so nicely with a capitalist-individualist (even aynrandian) world. And it is one that i think is wrong - but that's a longer discussion than i have time for now.

Here's a few reports of community arts discussions that are worth reading:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A frightening line of thinking! I believe we are in the grip of an epidemic of Narcissism that has quite sinister outcomes. The first frightening thought for me is to separate any artist from the community of people and ideas that they spring from. The second, to expect the kind of sole journey of an artist to flourish in a workplace. The third, to think that corporate workplaces can flourish without appropriate forums and structures that support healthful dialogues that both engender awareness of many viewpoints in one's endeavors and reinforce the goals of the whole organization, as individuals contribute their own part to it. Always make space for beauty and creativity, but with in the messy chaotic web of social interaction. Niki