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Demanding Conversations

This two day conference, held on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd September 2010, provided an opportunity for a range of policy makers, practitioners and academics from the visual arts sector to exchange views and reflect on contemporary issues facing Socially Engaged Arts Practice, particularly within the context of the changing political climate following the 2010 general election.

The three central questions that the conference sought to explore were:

1. Who believes that “Great Art for Everyone” is problematic?

Funders and policymakers aspire to engage more people in the arts, and yet socially engaged practice is perceived by many to be marginalised within the Visual Arts sector. Why is there a real or perceived hierarchy of value between work which sits in a gallery context and socially engaged practice?

2. What is at stake? 

Who is seriously critiquing socially engaged arts practice? Are debates about process versus product still relevant? If a piece of work delivers on social outcomes, is that enough? What academic discourse is taking place in relation to Socially Engaged Arts Practice (SEAP) and how can this have an impact on the sector?

3. Who defines quality?

Most SEAP is realised through a complex series of relationships between funders, commissioners, arts organisations, artists and the public. How do you navigate these partnerships? Can you satisfy the demands for risk-taking high quality visual arts practice against the need to deliver against social agendas, and keeping participants feeling safe?

During the conference there were ten different workshops on offer, exploring themes linked to socially engaged practice. Conference speakers included:

  • Suzanne Lacy, internationally-renowned artist
  • Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)
  • Baroness Young of Hornsey
  • François Matarasso
  • Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the South Bank Centre
  • Claire Doherty, Situations, University of the West of England
  • Neville Gabie, artist
  • Tom Trevor, Arnolfini

Demanding Conversations: Day One

Demanding Conversations: Day Two

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Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
+44 (0) 117 903 0444

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