I find myself doing is considering the community engaged projects and
practices I know best, seeking commonality in what they bring forward,
and in what and how they practice. Most often the “how”
is more important that the “what”. Process takes a front
seat. My own working territory is Socially and Politically engaged EcoARTS
practice, so my observations are slightly skewed in this direction.
The first defining aspect that comes to mind is collaboration. In this
case, collaboration does not specifically involve other arts professionals
(although it may do), but other community members. These collaboration
relationships, it seems to me, are mutually respectful, equal in the
sense of valuing the particular qualities and skills brought to the
collaboration. This brings forward another aspect – the interdisciplinary.
The disciplines and experiences in collaboration within community may
be multiple and in some cases hardly recognized as disciplines in any
traditional sense. For example, when I am working with a biologist,
this is easily recognized; when I am also working with a naturalist,
several salmon fishers and a coastal village, this more difficult to
define. What is easier to explain, is that each of these collaborators
is an expert, or a specialist; in the way that these fishers know these
seas, these fish, these seasons, this place; as the farmer knows farming
– specifically, farming on this land, in this particular place.
This is expert knowledge and intimate relationship. Collaboration means
respectfully listening, or attending, to these others.