Together We Will: The Blueprints of Our Collective Future
Together We Will is Visual Arts South West’s 6‑month pilot programme of sector support launching in January 2021.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have emphasised that small organisations, independent artworkers, young people, and primarily Black, People of Colour, disabled and neurodiverse art workers are at the highest risk of losing their livelihoods and over-represented in precarious employment. These circumstances constitute the strategic priorities of our sector recovery plan.
Various arts sector bodies are conducting research to estimate the financial impact of the pandemic upon our professional community whilst also tracing the structure of the sector, how it is funded and who makes up its workforce. We have also seen an impactful surge of antiracist activism within the Black Lives Matter movement internationally, and the light that it has shone upon the arts sector and its systemic problems that affect Black and POC cultural workers.
It is crucial that our sector comes together now with a strong collective voice that equally represents all of our colleagues and partners as well as sector newcomers, to protect the future of our art form, to improve our working practices, and to advocate for the impact that visual arts can have on our social, political and daily lives. This is the ambition of the next phase of work for VASW, working alongside the national Contemporary Visual Arts Network.
Our long-term aspirations
In 2019/2020 we undertook extensive research into what our sector needs in the South West. Five key areas surfaced as the top priorities for development, all of which are increasingly pressing as we navigate through COVID-19:
- Sustainability and resilience to thrive instead of just surviving
- Developing connections within a dispersed region that lacks infrastructure
- Talent development and retention
- Equal access to all levels of the visual arts sector across all demographics
- Supporting entrepreneurial attitudes and building connections with business
VASW's long-term aspiration is to see the sector become interconnected, supportive, equally accessible to all, and able to respond to the economic challenges ahead. We also want to make contemporary art more relatable to the multiple publics across our local and regional communities, and connected to other art forms. Collaboration is critical, and diverse local knowledge is essential to achieve these goals.
The 6-month Pilot
The pandemic has further brought to light how the visual arts sector continues to marginalise many with ingrained working practices that create inhospitable and exclusive work environments. The core aim of Together We Will is to ensure that values of care and collaboration lead us in the future.
Contributing to our two-to-five-year plan, this 6-month pilot is rooted in establishing specialised groups as part of our region-wide professional network to collectively develop an action plan to increase equal access to the arts. This sector-led approach will test new ideas and bring an array of voices, lived experience and knowledge to the forefront of our work, calling for all arts organisations and practitioners in the region to establish new standards for best practice.
- Developing Intersectional Practices: New Artworker Advisory Groups will established for Black and non-Black Artworkers of Colour, LGBTQI+ artworkers, disabled and neurodivergent artworkers and young artworkers. Each advisory group will be invited to discuss a set of recommendations for best practice addressing specific barriers in the visual arts sector.
- Mapping Local Sector Needs: We will arrange nine public online meetings, each dedicated to specific localities of the South West, to hear about our colleagues and peers’ priorities for sector support across urban and rural areas.
- Talent & Career Development: A cohort of Associate Programmes from across the region will be brought together to activate a joint programme that offers strategic development for artists and independent art workers.
- Building Sector Audiences: A regional network of organisations will be brought together to support and increase the visibility of the visual arts.
- Intersectional Governance: National experts will support our work to establish policies that increase inclusivity and access to regional workforce and leadership positions.
- National Advocacy: We are working with our umbrella organisation Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN) and its other regional networks to advocate for our sector nationally.
Together We Will will launch in January 2021.