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WI(L)DER COLLABORATIONS : reflections on community engaged arts practices

©Beth Carruthers 2005

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What 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.