Participation in arts activities expands networks, strengthens social bonds and brings communities closer together, which are the foundations for mental wellbeing.
A community-based arts project is where an artist works with a community to facilitate a creative process that enables participants to express their needs, aspirations, inspirations, identity or sense of place.
Such activities are sometimes referred to as community arts, artists in the community or community cultural development (CCD). These terms originated at different times and are often associated with different forms of engagement and practice. Like most terminology, their meaning has changed over time and is dependent on the people who use them. A search on the internet using these terms will display the enormous range of projects included in the field. The Links and Resources section at the end of this chapter has many examples of interesting sites.
Community-based arts projects are increasingly being used by organisations and groups in areas such as youth, health and community development because they are able to reach people and have a meaningful impact on their lives. Artists and arts organisations have been working with communities for many years. This publication brings together some of their knowledge and experience to assist people who want to undertake community-based arts projects, but may have limited experience. It has been developed to inspire, inform and support both artists and community members.
Although the range of projects undertaken in community contexts is diverse, the most successful projects place emphasis on the participants’ development, the creative processes and the artistic outcomes. Making art with people requires an honest exchange and a safe space where people can challenge ideas, fearlessly experiment, learn new skills, speak their minds and be respected.
No two projects will be the same. Each community is different, artists work in different ways, and the aims and outcomes will vary. The common ground, however, is a shared belief in the creativity of all people and their inherent right to express what is important to them in a manner that is relevant, challenging and fun.
The following chapters look at how to work with communities and artists to develop, implement and manage community-based arts projects that will benefit all those involved. Each chapter ends with Links and Resources you can access to find out more about the topics covered.