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

©Beth Carruthers 2005

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Having worked for many years as a visual artist and for several more on community collaborative projects, I feel I can say that community engaged work asks far more of us. Embarking on a community engaged project often asks us to do several jobs. We must continue to engage creatively with our discipline while being a project developer, coordinator, manager, fundraiser, media strategist, bookkeeper – and at times, a mediator. We invest great amounts of time and hard work in order to convince funders of the value of the work – which can require significant resources. Infrastructure must be developed according to the specific needs of each project. It is easily seen how some projects become organisations, as projects may last anywhere from a year to ten years.

The danger of working on these projects without sufficient resources is that the artist can become full-time fundraiser and administrator, while creative work takes a back seat. The message here is that yes, a great deal can be accomplished without funding support and acknowledgement – but this accomplishment comes with a price.

In the UK, where it receives significant support and recognition, community engaged arts work has an eloquent history of productivity and success. Very little research reveals that support produces an embarrassment of riches. When it comes to longevity, complexity and success, the following UK based groups provide excellent examples.