Tips and thoughts about community art method by Jekaterina Lavrinec
Interview with an urban researcher, social designer and curator of community art initiatives Jekaterina Lavrinec
Briefly, what is community art to your point of view?
Community art is all kinds of collective initiatives, which bring residents together for creative actions and foster the local networks of mutual trust. Community art is a tool to promote participatory processes in the neighbourhoods and public spaces, which usually result in the regeneration of urban areas. Participation (the active involvement of the residents in the creative process) is an essential element, which makes community art different from public art and urban art.
What are the most important things to keep in mind before organising community art event?
It is important to be aware of living conditions and local stories of the place you are going to work with. A preparatory part usually includes observation of local life and informal meetings with local people. The development of inner communication network with participants is an essential part of any community art initiative. Explore history of the place. As community art initiative not only builds a community, but also forms the identity of the neighbourhood, it is important to develop the initiative, which would fit (multi)cultural, social and historical context, and will contribute to the unique identity of the place. The community art initiative can be a pretext to raise local and global burning issues, so in many cases it is important to bring public awareness to them.
To your point of view, why community art is important and useful?
Community art is very instrumental in developing networks of residents with different cultural and social background. It is able to create interconnections between different age groups. In addition, it is a way to build a deep connection with the place (a street, a neighbourhood, a district, a town). People usually start take care for the place, which they have created, and this emerging responsibility can have a positive impact on the neighbourhood. Community art is a very effective form of non-formal learning: participants share and learn craft skills, improve communication skills, learn more about each other and about place they live. In my practice, the participants of the community art initiatives usually start proposing new ideas for common actions, and for me it is the main criteria for successful initiative. After all, the main goal of any community art action is to inspire people and to promote positive changes.
What is the difference between community art event and cultural event?
While community art initiative brings the residents together for a collective creative process and results in collective artwork, cultural event is instrumental in attracting various cultural actors and wider audience for promoting various activities and products. In my practice, long-term community art initiatives and cultural events are complementary to each other.
Community art initiative can create a content for cultural event, while cultural event can promote the community art initiative. All kinds of street art festivals and craft festivals are suitable frameworks for promoting local creative initiatives.
What are the main difficulties people meet while using community art method. How to overcome it?
While working with long-term community art initiatives, I find that the main difficulty can be a lack of time and energy, as the initiator (curator) of the community art initiative must be physically present in the neighbourhood and get in contact with many people. So, it is always good to start the initiative in a company of likeminded enthusiastic people. However, the trickiest moment is delegating the role of the initiator to the participants. Shared responsibilities will ensure the sustainability of the network of participants, which developed on the base of the community art initiative. There are no universal rules, how to arrange it, but as a rule, children and elderly people are great helpers.
Blogs, forums, people who follow and what is inspiring you for community art activism?
It is actual places, theirs residents and theirs stories, which are a starting point, then anything can inspire. For example, 15 years ago, my friend sent me a postcard with the image of La Maison Picassiette, several years after I went to Chartres and found that place – it is a mosaic house, which was decorated by the ordinary man, from 30’s till 60’s. Many years after, this image of the mosaic house brought me to the idea to initiate a street mosaic initiative in the neighbourhood, which used to be famous for its ceramic workshops back in 17-18th century. We never know what detail or episode will become a source of inspiration years after. Attention to the details and travels help a lot in creative work. Also, the interest in folklore and traditional crafts can be a huge source of inspiration for community art.