Over the next three years, we will deliver a change programme that builds on the acknowledged successes of our recent work, focussing on hyper-local impacts, often made possible through national and international partnerships.
Whilst we all share a human appetite for creativity, and post-pandemic, more people value the arts as an enriching part of their lives [The Role of the Arts during the COVID-19 Pandemic. UCL (2021)], many find that the work of galleries bears little relevance to their lives. Our activities over the past five years have led us to better understand that we cannot expect those currently disengaged to adapt their habits to suit the agenda of an arts community that too often fails to reflect the diversity, tastes and lived experience of the audiences it hopes to serve. Programme philosophies and approaches must shift to allow a greater diversity of perspectives and voices.
Our programmes will be ambitious in their commitment to help communities address real-life challenges, find roles for artists as activists, and artworks as tools to bring meaning, to challenge presumptions and preconceptions. We will deliver a programme that expands on our track record of engaging previously unreached audiences, [our Community Curated programming], inviting them to become part of our team, and leading our programmes. We will address issues that our communities and specialist partners identify as urgent.
We also need to expand our existing work with communities that have limited physical access to contemporary art, such as our Think, Talk, Make Art programme on the Isles of Scilly, or are isolated in their own homes, with Tea, Cake & Art. Our new digital expertise and capacity will be key to achieving this.
Our work will be structured around 4 intersecting themes:
- HYPER LOCAL & INTERNATIONALLY CONNECTED
- ARTIST ACTIVISM
- CREATIVITY IN EDUCATION
As we emerge from the most extreme health, social and economic challenges to face our communities for generations, we enter a period of further uncertainty. Many commentators describe a new, looming social crisis, resulting from sharply rising inflation; rapidly increasing deprivation and a widening gulf between rich and poor; fatigued health and education systems; and a deterioration in peoples’ ability to interact socially with kindness. In addition, more people are feeling lonely and isolated in our communities, affecting not just limited groups, but anyone, at any stage in their lives. New, refugee communities are coming to Cornwall, who require safe spaces to meet and retain connections with their own culture and communities.
Whilst we can’t address all of these issues for everyone affected, our experiences, learning and new expertise gained over the past 5 years positions us well to support many in need.
- build on our Community Curated main gallery programmes, developed with the Arts Council Collection (ACC), making community-curated main gallery exhibitions a consistent strand of our next three year’s work, drawing on national collections. We have in place in principle agreements from ACC, Cornwall Schools Art Collection (CSAC) and The Roberts Institute of Art. Favourable discussions have also taken place with Artist Rooms. We propose to develop the model of working we established through our partnership with Arts Council Collection, but increasing the role that high-profile artists play in working directly with our communities, particularly intersectional groups.
- launch our new Community Studio, offering blended digital functionality, enabling us to simultaneously reach people in the space and those in remote locations, otherwise isolated or unable to travel. This facility will enable us to sustain tested programmes such as Tea, Cake & Art and launch new ones, co-designed with other communities, for example The Happiness Commissions, a three-year action research programme that aims to address wellbeing challenges that our community is currently manifesting, working with isolated older, and younger people, refugees and the vulnerably homed/homeless.
Our work with Social Prescribing Link Workers, has provided solid evidence of the impact of co-designed or community-led arts activities on the lives of people in crisis. We now also recognise the need to design-out dependency for participants in the programmes we shape. This suggests a shift in thinking, leading to us identifying and prioritising the needs of participants over our own, and building sustainable pathways for them in and out of our programmes, and those of other partner organisations. Those partners might be local arts providers – Newlyn Art School; Tate St Ives; Penlee House Gallery; National Trust; but as important are our networks with social prescribing service providers; the Intercom Trust; DisAbility Cornwall; WILD Young Parents, Growing Links – those that really understand the health and well-being needs of our participants.
- create legible pathways for those we engage, taking them in and out of our programmes in order to effectively address their individual needs.
2 HYPER LOCAL & INTERNATIONALLY CONNECTED
Our work will be characterised by deeper, more explicit relationships with our communities, many in our immediate locality. However, we recognise that the greatest impacts may often be achieved through existing and new national and international partnerships. Often our programmes will bring communities in Cornwall, into direct engagement with their peers across the world.
- work in Priority Places/Levelling Up For Culture Places, expanding our work on the Isles of Scilly, through our programme Archipelago. We will commission a socially-engaged artist from an international island community, to work with the communities on the islands, to identify and address their priorities, delivering programmes that support grass-roots creative practice and create new contacts and exchange. We also expect to commission a second off-site project for a location in Cornwall. We know off-site commissioning is an effective way of reaching audiences who are least likely to visit arts spaces.
- develop our programming as part of the Peer to Peer project, delivering annual outcomes, extending connections between artists, organisations and communities in Hong Kong and the UK.
3 ARTIST ACTIVISM
Our proximity to the sea and our work on the low-lying Isles of Scilly, highlight the urgency of our response to the climate crisis. The location of the Newlyn Tidal Observatory, within sight of the gallery, has fascinated artists and been the inspiration for commissions that explore climate change through the century of data captured there. We will launch a loud and visible three-year programme of artist’s action, as part of our commitment to social responsibility within our existing programme.
- deliver a three-year programme of artists’ activism as part of on-site and off-site programmes. This may include programmes that connect global island communities, with our partners on the Isles of Scilly, focussing on the climate emergency.
- Jerwood artist residents are working with the organisation to bring lived experience of neurodivergent and LGBTQIA+ people into our organisation.
4 CREATIVITY IN EDUCATION
We have prioritised addressing the crisis in creative education in schools, focussing on strategic impacts and achieving change, through interventions in schools, academy trusts and arts education boards, from the Truro Penwith Academy Trust to ENGAGE and Plus Tate Learning Working Group. As evidence from schools confirms growing pressures on teachers, as we emerge from the pandemic, we will redouble our efforts to support young peoples’ creative learning.
- complete our Paul Hamlyn Foundation-funded Think, Talk, Make Art programme, supporting CPDL for teachers in nine primary schools on Scilly and West Cornwall. Each has created an in-school gallery with artworks borrowed from Arts Council Collection and Cornwall Schools Art Collection. The project, aimed at non-specialist teachers, is supporting them to develop confidence and skills to teach art and in the use of art as a tool for exploring other subjects.
- in summer 2023 deliver a concluding gallery exhibition curated by pupils across the schools, drawing on the ACC and CSAC. Pupils from each school will come together to showcase their oracy learning.
- having assisted Newlyn School on their journey to achieving Platinum Artsmark, use the exhibition as a setting for debates around creativity in primary schools, for teachers and educationalists, inspiring other schools to follow suit.
- design a follow-on programme, based on Exeter Universities’ independent evaluation of Think, Talk, Make Art embedding project learning in other schools in our networks.
- develop our Teacher’s Collective to ensure we maintain up-to-date awareness of the challenges art teachers’ face, designing programmes of support, where they are most impactful.
WHAT SUCCESS WILL LOOK LIKE
Building on our previous successes, delivering Let’s Create for Arts Council Engalnd will mean communities not previously engaged with the arts will feel ownership of the gallery and part of our team.
- We will have inspired and equipped young people through access to creative education.
- Our programmes will centre diverse voices, particularly those reflecting intersectional protected characteristics, increasing their representation amongst staff and board.
- We will have reached more people, increasing the numbers we engage on-site, and bolstered by off-site programming, and through this work, provide vital support and access to creativity to those underserved in our local communities.
Most importantly, through intelligent data-driven targeting and evaluation, our work will be relevant to the lives of a much broader cross-section of people, providing material support and enriching lives. We will have continually challenged ourselves to think and act differently, to achieve this goal.