The role of art and culture is increasingly being explored as a tool to resolve broader community issues. For the work to affect positive change, it's crucial that communities are at the centre of planning, strategic and creative decisions.
From artist-led housing developments to a project that explores exchange between urban and rural environments, here are 5 projects that inspire our thinking:
Project Row Houses. Houston, USA.
'We empower and enrich communities through engagement, art and direction action'.
Non-profit organisation, Project Row Houses encourage artists to expand outside the studio and into the social context. The work is led by seven African-American visionaries, including Rick Lowe, who want to change the way people look at Black history. The group saw derelict buildings in the neighbourhood and began to explore how they could be a resource to the community and how art might be an engine for social transformation. They believed that where others saw poverty, artists would see a future site to transform and create positive experiences.
From a public art programme that encourages artists to take risks to community programmes that support the development of local residents, young mothers and small businesses, Project Row Houses is invested in highlighting the culture and history of the neighbourhood though creative means.
Dorchester Projects, Chicago, USA.
"We have an opportunity to either live wherever we want—somewhere else—or make an amazing fresh, robust community here".- Theaster Gates.
Combining his background in urban planning and sculpture, Chicago based artist, Theaster Gates transformed a house derelict in Chicago into an art work open to the community. The conceptual artist, whose practice spans object and performance making, space development and critical public engagement, uses his creativity with Dorchester Projects to redevelop buildings, creating a celebration of the culture and people of South Side Chicago.
Through the Rebuild Foundation, Gates is able to extend his practice to include The Stony Island Arts Bank, Black Cinema House and more, thus demonstrating the impact of innovative, ambitious and entrepreneurial arts and cultural initiatives. The Foundation's work is informed by three core values: black people matter, black spaces matter, and black objects matter.
Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), Bristol, UK.
KWMC is an arts centre and charity based in South Bristol. Since 1996 they have been supporting individuals and communities in making the best out of digital technologies and providing projects to involve the community in activism, education, employment and the arts.
'At Knowle West Media Centre, we believe that the arts have the power to make a difference to our lives and communities'.
With over 40 volunteers supporting programming and 57 artists being commissioned in the last financial year; KWMC are constantly developing new projects for the community.
'A new housing initiative that supports communities to create the homes they want and need'.
Led by visionary Melissa Mean and in partnership with White Design, KWMC have worked with the local community to build affordable and sustainable housing for the public in Bristol. Since 2016, artists, academics, designers, architects and policy makers have been putting together ideas for housing solutions, including gap spaces and micro-plots, digital fabrication and adaptable architecture.
The Factory offers laser and CNC cutting facilities, product design and prototyping services, and opportunities for training and business support, designed to make these techniques as accessible as possible. From making furniture, signage, installations and exhibitions to creating prototypes and new designs, The Factory also offers a programme of residencies, training courses and volunteer opportunities.
Mother House Studios. London, Stroud & Dagenham, UK.
Launched in 2016 at the IKLECTIK Art Lab in London; Mother House's aim is to allow mothers to work independently alongside their children, with an integrated childcare model. The intimate, open studio space is designed for artists working in different mediums and forms to comfortably curate their practice.
Mother House observed that the field of childcare is typically under-funded, inflexible and expensive for flexible-working/low-income mothers. They have created interconnected spaces that both include in-house activities organised specifically for children, as well as bespoke professional support for artists, provided to nurture, including networking with industry contacts, opportunities to lead workshops/talks and more.
Inland, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Scotland.
'INLAND is an Arts collective dedicated to agricultural, social and cultural production - and a collaborative agency'. It confronts the problems of a system that is collapsing at its environmental, financial and cultural levels which as a result, affecting both the planet and individuals.
INLAND is a project that examines the role of territories, geopolitics, culture and identity in the relationship between the city and the countryside today. It's aim is to introduce the possibility of contemporary art practice in relation to the rural.
INLAND started launching a cultural strategy in support of rural life over a period of three years (2010-2013), specifically made up of an international conference, artistic production with 22 artists in residence in villages across the country, and exhibitions and presentations.
Today INLAND functions as a group to open space for land-based collaborations, economies and communities-of-practice as a substrate for post-Contemporary Art cultural forms. Appearing in different forms in different countries, whilst dissolving individual agency in the collective, INLAND Europa publishes books, produces shows, and makes cheese. It also advises as a consultant for the European Union Commission on the use of art for rural development policies, facilitates shepherds movements, and is promoting access to land in different locations for collective artistic and agricultural production.
With various locations, Inland is based on three words- manifesto, art-agriculture-territory. They propose collective encouragement to reclaim means of livelihood through training, art festivals knowledge workshops, economical support and more throughout Europe.