As you might be aware of from previous posts, after our third meeting in November we’ve decided to divide into 4 sub-groups of interest to focus on specific aspects of our broad research.

We will now be introducing the contents and materials produced by the 4 sub-groups :

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 economic 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.

We began by making the argument that creativity, arts and culture first need to be included in the centre of the existing Doughnut Economics diagram, on equal footing and equal valuation with other sectors and factors in a progressive and holistic economy and society.

Once creativity, arts and culture is added in as a section into the centre of the main diagram, we can understand that much like a fractal, there is actually a creative doughnut ecology for the arts sector itself, with encouraging and limiting factors, as well as a sustainable ‘sweet spot’ in the middle. Further mini-doughnuts related to zooming in further to examine the requirements for a specifically artist-led network/group/project to thrive, as well as artists/creatives as individuals themselves, were also devised.

We began our thinking by considering the ‘Artist’s Dilemma’ generally, which conceptualises the main factors of time, space, and money that artists constantly have to balance and juggle, in order to support and optimise creativity and their creative practice.

Then we began thinking more specifically about how artist-led initiatives can support these factors ideally, as they aim to produce a specifically creativity-centred and artist supporting, holistic arts ecology.

Artist-led initiatives are unique as they are entirely peer-to-peer with a DIY ethos, and thus mirror TEAL organisational structure, in that they are characterised by flat hierarchies, prioritise the wholeness of the individual by valuing and encouraging each member to bring forward their unique talents, gifts and skills, are self-managing, and have an evolutionary purpose at their heart, which serves as a guide for all actions.

Drawing on years of lived experience creating, working, and managing artist-led initiatives, our group created a visual ‘Artist-Led Mind Map’, capturing thinking around the factors which help and encourage the success and thriving of artist-led activities and organisations, and those which are harmful.

In the end, we combined the content and understanding from the Artist-Led Mind Map with the doughnut economics structure and produced a hybrid ‘Doughnut Economics for Artist-Led Projects’ diagram. This diagram places the supporting factors for artist-led initiatives as the foundational centre, which are often in shortfall, while the ‘creative ceiling’ factors are in the outside ring. This latter, limiting factors, if present in excess, have a destructive influence on creativity, collaboration and engagement, and thus mirror the understanding of the ecological and planetary boundaries in the original doughnut economics diagram.

A balanced middle between undershooting the inner factors and overshooting the outer factors paints the picture of an inclusive and sustainable creative environment and begins to map out what a creative and supportive developmental situation for artists might look like.

Additionally, one of our group members also produced a written, personal report of his decades of experience generating artist-led initiatives and organisations in Bristol, which we might be interested to assist in creating a more detailed case study and written guide of best practices in the future.

Images Credit: Tim Knowles