Beyond Community Engagement: Transforming Dialogues in Art, Education and the Cultural Sphere

In 2016 I was approached by Dr Kim Snepvangers at UNSW Art & Design and invited to contribute a chapter to Beyond Community Engagement: Transforming Dialogues in Art, Education and the Cultural Sphere, part of the UNSW Curated Series: Transformative Pedagogies in the Visual Domain.

With a focus on peer-led learning and institutional partnerships, I approached my former South London Gallery colleague Sarah Coffils, now SLG Head of Education, to co-write the chapter with me, which we titled “Collaboration or Cooperation: Peer-led Learning and Institutional Partnerships through Two Case Studies.”

We took a dialogic approach to framing the chapter and called on past project collaborators and several key academics in the field of peer-led learning to contribute their reflections, which they did generously and openly.

That was 2016. And then edits and re-writes and publishing hold-ups meant nothing… until now. Finally: it’s here.

I’m really proud of what Sarah and I wrote and am so grateful to Kim for the opportunity to take on this challenge and for her critical, constructive, encouraging feedback along the way.

The book can be purchased here (if some light academic reading is your thing) but the Abstract to Sarah’s and my chapter is copied below.

ABSTRACT:

 This chapter explores from a practitioner-based perspective, two recent arts projects, that employed peer-led and project based models of learning to engage with a specific audience of young people aged 13-25. While distinct in their organisational structure, duration and delivery, both projects were conceived as part of unique institutional partnerships that engaged artists, creative industry practitioners and curatorial and educational peers as central to each projects’ realisation.

The two case studies include a UK project called the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Project (LVYAP) that was conceived by the South London Gallery and ran from September 2009 –  March 2013 in partnership with the Tate (across both Tate Modern and Tate Britain), Whitechapel Gallery, the Hayward Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts. Both authors worked on this project. The second case study is from Australia and is the Kaldor Public Art Projects Pilot Regional Engagement Project, which in contrast with the LVYAP, ran for a shorter period of just 12 weeks, from May to July 2015. The project was part of the educational program for Project 30 – Marina Abramović: In Residence . It was delivered in partnership with the Western Plains Cultural Centre in Dubbo in central western NSW with support from regional arts board Orana Arts. One of the authors, Jo Higgins, worked on this project.

Using a dialogic conversational format to reflect on what worked and what didn’t in these two projects, the authors’  explore the institutional nature of collaboration, as something distinct from cooperation, and considers the role of agency and outcomes for both facilitators and participants in understanding what may constitute success. The relative successes of each project are considered in light of Australian and International evaluative reports on peer-led learning and shifting cultural agendas as well as key academic texts on collaboration and models of museum-based learning.

Ultimately, we attempt to draw some conclusions about best practice models of working in regards to institutional partnership projects and innovative engagement programs that target a specific audience of young people; an audience that necessarily needs to be nurtured if cultural institutions are to have vital and engaged future audiences.

 

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