Sally and Bobby from the drawing shed invited artists, critical theorists, architects, activists, public and mental health professionals and local people to collaborative in a day of dialogue – the small conversations – ‘exploring how artists may work collaboratively, with ‘local’ communities and in ‘public’ places, in the context of Now.’
The day was one close to my research area and the drawing shed is one of my PhD case studies so I had seen the social practice placemaking that they had been doing on the nearly Nine Elms estates, ideologically fuelled by this currently being the largest gentrification area in Europe. My role in the day was to act as a facilitator of the small conversations, an informal role that aimed to get talk started, pose questions, listen and respond. My colleagues in the same on the day were Lois Keidan, Live Art Development Agency; Jordan McKenzie, artist; Daniella Valz Gen, artist; Barby Asante, artist/curator/educator; Professor Adrian Renton, Public Health Physician, Professor, Institute for Health and Human Development, University of East London; Dr Debra Benita Shaw, Reader in Cultural Theory/Programme Leader, University of East London; Dr Chris Wood, Art Therapy Northern Programme, Sheffield; Shahed Saleem, architect/Make Space.
Our conversations were wide ranging as you would expect with such a diverse group of people, ranging from (and this is by far not an exhaustive list of topics): the social responsibility we feel as social practice artists; the nature of collaboration, participation and authorship; the politics surrounding this work and this sector; cultures of resilience, resistance and regeneration; and fed by thinking and questions developed in the drawing shed Facebook page over the previous week.
Comments from people of the day include:
What a really stimulating and fantastically curated.... conversations and ideas that will continue to resonate and percolate...I've also met some really new and interesting people today that I fell are going to be a part of my future thinking and art making....
It was the perfect antidote to the overwhelming anxiety I have been feeling in the current climate. Small conversations about huge things, and how to reclaim the meaning of 'human’.
It was a great day of conversation and really pushed the level of conversations about practice it's social effects and the political climate.
For me, it was an inspiring, meaningful and memorable day. It was lovely to see friends old and new. The day came for me at a time in my practice and research that has helped consolidate some thoughts, spark new thinking and open up new experiences and exchanges. Looking forward to seeing those unfold. The day reminded me of artist CPD from ‘the old days’, a day to explore, unfettered by having to follow an agenda, meet outcomes or create defined outputs, so, so needed and refreshing.
The SoapBox structures in this image were built with local residents and other members of the public in the three previous days.