Organisations working in the areas of visual arts, literature, dance and music have come together to form a new body for participatory arts. ArtWorks Alliance will act as the UK umbrella for those with strategic or developmental interests in any branch of participatory arts, including education, community arts, socially-engaged practice and the voluntary arts.

Founding members of ArtWorks Alliance include a-n, Artquest, engage [for visual artists], People Dancing, Sound Sense and the National Association of Writers in Education. Membership of the body is open to organisations working in all artforms, and includes the many and varied ways of working across the participatory arts.

A statement introducing the new body said: “ArtWorks Alliance is needed because of the fragmentary nature of the participatory arts sector. As a result, the work is undervalued by funders and policy makers, activity is less well developed than it should be, and practice can be inefficient with much reinvention of the wheel.”

New and exciting phase

Speaking about a-n’s involvement, director Jeanie Scott said: “a-n has contributed over the last four years to an exploratory Artworks consortia group, expertly led by Chris Stenton of People Dancing, and it’s fantastic to see ArtWorks Alliance building on that work and entering this new, exciting phase.

“We’re looking forward to bringing the benefits of our membership of the Alliance back to our own visual artist members who are involved in participatory practice – it will help us better support their specific professional development needs, share best practice learning from all the artforms represented by the Alliance, and help grow the market for artists working in participatory settings.”

The creation of the Alliance follows a recommendation by ArtWorks, a Paul Hamlyn Foundation initiative, that the participatory arts sector needed to find ways to better share each other’s knowledge and experience. The Foundation has backed ArtWorks Alliance with seed funding of £75,000 for 2015-17.

Work that ArtWorks Alliance intends to do over the next two years includes research into policy and delivery issues; the development of shareable, quality tools across the sector; and organising a participatory arts convention in 2016-17.

As part of its plans, ArtWorks Alliance is in the process of recruiting a Project Manager to support the development of the body.

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