Art and Social Activism

There’s been a huge increase in events, exhibitions and engagement projects around art and activism in visual arts galleries, major institutions and independent spaces.  In fact there is now a new phrase; Activism, or Socially Engaged Practice, have replaced the term Community Arts, but for me the work is still very similar –it’s just a different name. Using arts as a tool to bring about change in communities, explore an issue or just simply to express yourself. Combining art and activism in fact has existed throughout the history of political movements and resistance. 

In my opinion this is a very positive step as undoubtedly there is a real urgency and social responsibility for the visual arts to respond to the current global climate, economic uncertainty and rise in racism.  I think this is really important as long as this is programmed in an ethical way and provides a platform to those actually ‘doing the work’ and directly affected by issues faced within their communities, neighbourhoods and cities.

I joined Threshold Studios in 2017 as their Creative Engagement Manager and what really struck me about the organisation are their guiding principles – that of creative media for social change and widening participation, particularly those from underrepresented voices.  This ethos is fully embedded in all Threshold’s participation and engagement projects such as NN5: Below the Radar a documentary film produced/directed by local residents from a housing estate in Northampton; a 4 year programme in Daventry designed in collaboration with young people in a deprived area without access to creative projects; We are the Flame, four films about the ethos of the Olympics – with one film shown during the 2012 Olympics!

I share the same ethos as Threshold and am really excited to be continuing this work – developing the Creative Engagement programme that responds to a place and collaboration with communities. The first phase of this programme  This Is Us – has been created in consultation with local residents, community organisations, support services for young people and heritage organisations in Sincil Bank and Lincoln.  Participants have been exploring history of migration and industry in the area through digital photography, storytelling, and film. This is history for the people and by the people!

In the great words of pioneering Artist (US) Suzanne Lacey

“Art has a lot to do with solving problems. Art affirms identity. Art gives voice. Art expresses difference, and it expresses consensus. Art brings up issues.”