Reflections on the COVID-19 Crisis
Kim Wide, Director of Take A Part, looks at how we can remain present in new ways that supports people to take part in art.
I was in the pub in Cheltenham with the We Create Arts Action Group on Monday when Boris gave the first COVID-19 speech. When it happened, we all looked at each other and said goodbye, it felt necessary to get back home to see our families and be grounded.
Since then, we have been on a very rushed trajectory that seems to not know where it's going to settle. At first it was worrying about our funding and sustainability (but some great funders and supporters have stepped in to support us with that) then it was our immediate projects and commissions, then our longer term ones. Worrying and worrying and trying to fight a fire that no-one can see.
But more recently, as the bans came into effect, I stopped worrying about Take A Part and started to think about communities. The community on my street has become more important that ever to me, and I started to think about what matters most- connection, support, sharing and kindness.
I have been watching the swift move in the sector to digitise content to retain audiences during this self isolation period. And it concerned me. We work on the ground with diverse groups of people with multiple stressors in their lives. Is digitising collections and performances relevant? Is it helpful or useful? Who are the arts organisations really doing it for?
People aren't searching for digital content when they don't have access to services and healthy food in their local community. Or when their zero hours contract work is being pulled from under them. They also don't know about these cultural offers because the organisations themselves have not been present in their lives prior to lockdown. Community care about the art and culture that they have directly around them, their community, and what is relevant for them.
So we need to be careful as organisations. We need to be relevant and to do that, we need to care - not just show our collections. We need to remain present in new ways that support people to not just be presented with art, but to take part in it.
How can we keep our programme, our audience, our relevance and be able to pick them back up after this time of crisis? And the answer, I feel, is to keep it relevant, local and responsive. We are doing that. We are currently reframing our upcoming Coxside Carnival commission to respond to communities in isolation RIGHT NOW. Our Coxside Cartographies project is launching with mapping heritage walks for those taking daily exercise RIGHT NOW. We are making virtual studio visits with socially engaged artists to share their practise and give them advice and support RIGHT NOW. We are working with artists to help communities connect and celebrate NOW. When people need it.
Let's keep making art. Not just re-presenting it. Do it. Be relevant.
"We need to be relevant, we need to care"