Artists and arts organizations can be involved in any and all stages of collaborative projects from conception right through to planning and delivery. They can be primary partners, or they can be utilized as a resource during specific stages of a project.
All too often, artists are used to bring attention to the particular cause of an organization by either performing at an event or donating their art to a fundraiser. The artists are often expected to give while receiving little in return other than knowing that they have made a contribution to the greater good and gained some exposure.
We can go so much further in creating meaningful opportunities for these professionals to be involved in our projects. We need to think beyond just asking artists and arts organizations for donations and move to a place where we recognize and honour them for their true value. This might mean that we pay them for their time, expertise and products, or further explore ways to create & collaborate together.
Artists have a high regard for “process.” They understand the value of taking their time with something, looking at it from all angles. They have a high tolerance for the long range, the unpredictable. The creative process does not fit well into predetermined, rigid time frames; however, most artists and arts organizations are also accustomed to the reality of having to meet deadlines.
Artists and the arts have the potential to take a project beyond just getting people out to attend your event or to listen to your cause. Artists can collaboratively make art with your audience and help them express how they feel about an issue, cause, concern or activity that you are promoting and celebrating. They have the ability to animate an audience, to be the catalyst that shifts a passive audience to being an active participant or creative collaborator.
When artists are involved in a project where the subject matter may be dry, heavy, confrontational or overwhelming, they can bring the “FUN-FACTOR” to it without minimizing the importance of the issue or message. This also makes the experience much more memorable.
Richard Deasey, Director of the American Alliance for Arts Education, while speaking in Winnipeg, shared that recent brain studies have shown that the highest number of neurons are created when we are engaged in an activity that is:
If you have only two out of the three, the brain produces far fewer neurons and neuropathways, making the experience less engaging and fulfilling, and as a result less learning occurs. This is true for people of all ages.
Artists understand the importance of documenting process and outcomes. For most of them, documentation is a fundamental aspect of their practice and crucial to their own learning and growth. It is also necessary when seeking out grants funding or when responding to submission calls and entering competitions. Artists are often experts at documenting.
You can also consider engaging other professionals within the arts and cultural sector in your projects. For example, producers/presenters, marketers, technicians, etc., can make strong contributions to your project.
In traditional collectivist cultures, making art is an activity that is part of every aspect of society. In North Americaís individualist society the creation of art has become separate from most people’s daily lives.
Some people don’t get an opportunity to find their inner artist as they are growing up due to limited access to arts education and experiences, or they might have had some exposure but choose not to follow that path because it is perceived as a life of great sacrifice. Even in Canada, professional working artists have one of the lowest standards of living and wage levels when compared to professionals in other areas (see studies and reports on Hill Strategies Arts Research Monitor’s website).
Finally, integrating art into our culture can have an effect on our populationís health, which is a major issue facing our society. When people express themselves through making art, their stress levels (various indicators) improve. We can reap some of these benefits as audience members, but they are amplified when we ourselves are the makers and creators.
“All people are born artists. The problem is remaining one when we become adults.”