Dear a-n blog readers. As the Artists Make Change – Peer Learning Group (PLG) Bursary comes to an end, it is time for the Bristol Artist-Led Forum (BA-LF) to resume and reflect upon this extremely valuable opportunity we are grateful to have received.
Inspired by Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’ and Frederic Laloux’s ‘Reinventing Organisations’, our group’s research aimed to familiarise ourselves with new economic and business organisational paradigms to be applied to an artist network and beyond. Our research took us through loads of thinking, sharing and realisations.
We started the peer learning with looking at Doughnut Economics, the ‘new economic model that is regeneration & distributive by design’ – Kate Raworth, as it felt a very open and playful ground, to begin with. We soon realised that:
- The Artist-Led sector suffers from the same worldly societal struggles (injustice, power games, competition, elitism, scarcity, feelings of anxiety, fear, resentment and judgment), with little energy left to connect with the environment, the people and ourselves. There are also very positive qualities too, otherwise we wouldn’t be here talking about all this.
- Arts isn’t included in the Doughnut as a basic need and part of the Social Foundation. (Really?) I have to confess I was very surprised at first, but looking at how arts (especially the DIY sector) is considered, how public funds are distributed, and the way arts is valued in education, it actually makes sense…
One great way to think about the Doughnut Economics Model, amongst many others, is that in order to realise a regenerative and distributive society, bridges, collaboration, communication, infra-sectors and cross-pollination needs to happen, in order to open up to new, exciting and colourful possibilities and collaborate towards the creation of a fairer world. It’s time for artists to claim their role of bringing their creative thinking out into society. Creativity is a means to see and navigate the world around us in ever new and innovative ways and is as valid as Cartesian/Newtonian thinking. Actually, even more so in the unpredictable and rapidly changing world we currently live in! Let’s forget about ‘Imposter Syndrome’ once for all!
Our 4 Sub-Groups – A Recap:
Considering the vastness of our research, our group split up very organically into 4 sub-groups, each looking at various aspects inspired by Doughnut Economics thinking. Below is a summary of the four pieces of research: The Doughnut analysed through the lens of the Artist-Led sector; The Doughnut analysed through the lens of Socially Engaged Artists, The Doughnut analysed through the lens of Arts Academics & Artists; The Doughnut analysed through the lens of a Holistic Perspective.
1. A Doughnut for Artist-Led Projects and Initiatives: How Doughnut Holistic Thinking Can Offer a Framework for Optimising Creative Innovation and Development – Sub-Group by Laura Bottin, Lisa Friedberg, Tim Knowles, John O’Connor.
In this subgroup, we were looking at how to apply Doughnut Economics thinking and modelling to understand and map our members’ lived experience in creating, being part of, and working within artist-led organisations, and in the arts and creative sector generally.
2. How Artists Networks Can Connect with Society and Support Each Other in a Wider Context to Facilitate Social and Systemic Change – Sub-Group by Anna Haydock-Wilson, Dan Petley, Fraisia Dunn.
Our research has led us to consider the many needs artists and the wider community have and how Artists’ Networks and the community as a whole can combine their forces to help create the ‘safe and just space’ of the inner ring. Our research so far has led us to focus in some distinct areas.
We kicked off our Doughnut Economics sub-group by meeting in Hotwells Piazza on one cold December afternoon. In the fading light, we mapped out how an ‘Art Doughnut’ might look.
3. Value Shift – Sub-Group by Katy Connor, Alyson Minkley, Deborah Weinreb.
Value Shift looks at a value of art which is not capitalist. In education, there’s a lack of depth of thinking which art practice nurtures. We have been considering the investigative aspects of art and their value to society, and focussed our enquiry around these questions: How does art enable different ways to explore, embracing further creative conclusions?; How can we use art as a practice and a way of thinking to challenge values?; How can we encourage this
exploratory practice of art, to support society to thrive?
“We may see the overall meaning of art change profoundly – from being an end to being a means, from holding out a promise of perfection in some other realm to demonstrating a way of living meaningfully in this one.” – Imagining the art of the future, Allan Kaprow
4. Holistic Perspectives on a Three Dimensional Doughnut: How the Artist-led and Creative Network Experience Offers a Way to Understand Foundational and Evolutionary Dimensions of the Doughnut – Sub-Group by Laura Bottin, Lisa Friedberg, Caroline Vitzthum.
Recognizing creativity as a fundamental aspect of the human being, and the force and urge which drives individual and societal progress (as well as biological evolution itself), this subgroup examined how artistic and creative perspectives can offer new ways to approach problems and potential solutions, differing from current rationalistic economic and socially prescriptive thinking. As inherently embodying creative ways of working and organising, we believe that artist-led structures and creative networks can offer models and case studies in which to examine and explore the core processes and practices of innovation.
“But creativity is not just about an end result. Creativity is the process itself: a way of thinking and problem-solving ‘outside the box’, finding innovative solutions. It is the application of the thought… I wonder what would happen if… onto the material world. At its heart, creativity requires and engenders changing perspectives.” – Lucy H. Pearce, Creatrix
The Peer Learning Group (PLG) decided to keep going with its current momentum, even though the Research Bursary came to an end. The themes of our research and the collaboration process, allowed rich and multi-faceted content to emerge, and we are very interested to keep exploring. We are in the process of changing the format for the group from a PLG to a Co-Creative Space as a place to test out ideas and get actively creative, as well as to keep each other company once a week and share thoughts. In the back of our minds, there is a growing desire to present our research in the form of a/several public event/s, when the pandemic allows…
Also, as we didn’t have time to formally look into Frederic Laloux’s Teal Organisational theory, which examines ‘self-organization and self-management as an independent force with its own purpose’, we are very interested to research and test Laloux’s paradigm as perhaps the structure for the second incarnation of our group. In this way, we will be looking into new ways in which we can empower our peers and share responsibilities while supporting each other, and sharing resources, skills and knowledge. Loads of work to be done, but it definitely feels worth it!
BA-LF is currently taking part in RADMIN: A Festival of Administration, and we are working on a couple of funding applications. Also, thanks to Daniel Russel from the Social Art Network for sharing the 8th International Degrowth Conference. We are looking into it…
To keep up to date with what we are up to watch these spaces:
We are so grateful to Rachel Dobbs and Glen Stoker for believing in our research and advocating that, ‘We know that artists & do make change – within their local communities, within organisations, and by linking up with others to take part in or lead local, regional, national campaigns, activism and direct action’. Airspace Gallery – Artists Make Change
THE ARTIST-LED SECTOR NEEDS MORE OF THESE KINDS OF OPPORTUNITIES. WE CAN SUPPORT SOCIETY IN MAKING SUCH NEEDED CHANGE THROUGH OUR CREATIVE THINKING AND OUR SENSITIVE PROCESS OF LOOKING AT THE WORLD.
THE GRASS-ROOTS ARTS CULTURE HAS GOT A LOT TO OFFER IF IT IS JUST TRUSTED AND SUPPORTED.
WE ARE THE VIBRANT, EVER EMERGING, FLOWING ENERGY OF CHANGE.