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

©Beth Carruthers 2005

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The question of recognition and support

There is an abundance of projects and organisations doing phenomenal work with/in communities. I mention five below – three UK based and two Canadian. I have chosen these five because I am familiar with the work – its scope, its complexity and the ability of the project/organisation to fulfill its goals.

This way of working requires tremendous commitment and energy at any time, in any place. In Canada, I have found successes to be due primarily to a level of personal commitment on the part of the artist not matched by the level of “official” recognition and support – yet great successes occur despite this situation. When one considers prevailing conditions, the work taking place is astonishing. Yet I also see people burn out and face great difficulty as they struggle to follow through with absolutely vital and brilliant work in the face of significant constraints. An important question is: to what extent is project success and scope dependent upon the amount of support and acknowledgement the artist(s), the work and/or the project/organisation receives? A friend of mine once said: artists don’t starve any better than electricians or stockbrokers. If this amazing and necessary cultural work is to thrive as well here as it does elsewhere, then the dearth of acknowledgement and support must stop.