New co|Create manager Kate O’Malley is enthusiastic about the power of an artists’ community to connect and support creativity.
Sometimes, in our search for innovation and new trends, it’s easy to gloss over the simple things in life and work – the things that make us feel part of something meaningful.
I was reminded of this at the end of January when I felt the buzz from observing 13 artists, creatives and wellbeing workers meet up, get to know each other and share ideas.
It was all about the C words – community, connections, conversation, creativity (and coffee).
All it took was a space (kindly offered to us by Chapel Arts Café and the willingness of creative thinkers to be open to each other and share.
It resulted in what felt like an affirmation of the power of togetherness. There was an air of excitement as people made new contacts, rediscovered people or projects in common, and opened up to new possibilities.
The event, Creative Coffee, was the first in a series of monthly get togethers for artists in Bath and North East Somerset and surrounding areas organised by Creativity Works’ co|Create programme. The co|Create programme, which I work on, supports socially engaged artists, and those who want to be. It does this by building a supportive community of like minded artists and organisations, organising a programme of training workshops, stimulating debate and learning about tried and tested and also new approaches, and by nurturing individual artists to develop their skills.
The idea is to build a base of highly skilled artists who are able to initiate, lead and take part in projects with communities. Socially engaged art is about a process whereby artists and non artists co-create and learn from each other, and ‘co-produce’ a journey that involves personal or community change.
Creative Coffee was the start of the process of bringing together artists and well being activists with shared interests. Artist and art therapist Nat Burgess broke the ice by bringing out bundles of pink fluorescent netting and mustard and white cloth strips. Together we played with these strips of cloth – exchanging ideas on things we liked and didn’t like, then tying and connecting our cloth strips to each other. In the resultant sculpture maze of material, I learnt that most of us hated Valentine’s Day and that only a few random creatives joined me in enjoying curry for breakfast. Most of all, I learnt that despite our different ages, backgrounds, professions and appearances, we had a lot of fundamental passions and beliefs in common, binding us together.
Participants then met in pairs to interview each other with a paper and drawing pen, with the interviewer drawing symbols for their partner’s response to the three questions: Who are you? Why did you choose to come today? What do you want from creative get togethers?
Networking, connections, support, opportunities and ideas were some of the key things people mentioned and drew.
I came away feeling cheered and elevated by people’s enthusiasm to work together and by the sense of possibility when we all work together.
Kate O’Malley, co|Create Programme Manager
The next Creative Coffee will take place on: Thursday 5 March, 10.15am-12noon, 44AD Artspace, 4 Abbey Street, Bath BA1 1NN
Anyone who’s interested in the idea of socially engaged art, whether you’re an artist or not, is welcome to attend.
We are looking forward to relaunching our co|Create programme this spring. Watch this space for more details.