– by Elizabeth Fitzgerald
The Record Store
Thursday March 19
Bringing about social change through art is an ambitious goal and one that was at the heart of Art for Our Sake, a workshop run by Belconnen Arts Centre and Big hART Inc. Around two dozen participants of varying ages settled themselves on couches in The Record Store to network, share skills and unpack Community Arts and Cultural Development.
Scale was a problem for this workshop in a number of ways. The most immediately obvious was the size of the venue. The MC, Robyn Frances, had a timid voice that tended to be swallowed up by the large space and ambient noise from the street.
A problem less immediately obvious was the scale of the workshop itself. It attempted to fit both a theoretical discussion and a practical approach to the material into two hours. The result didn’t do justice to either element.
After the facilitators had introduced themselves, participants were asked to use small pieces of coloured paper to create a “real business card” containing their contact details, roles and skills. Participants exchanged cards as an icebreaker. Afterward, the cards were gathered up by the facilitators.
A short discussion was devoted to unpacking the nature of community arts and cultural development, but it was limited due to the time constraints that were already making themselves apparent. Participants were then split into groups based on the interests and skills stated on the business cards created earlier. Each group was asked to identify an issue they would like to engage with that was relevant to the Canberra community. Again, the time pressures worked to the detriment of organisers, whose instructions were ambiguous as to whether the exercise was a purely hypothetical way of learning or something that could be realistically achieved.
The large venue proved a benefit for this part of proceedings, as the groups had more than enough space to spread out around picnic blankets and on milk crates. The informal setting made for a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. However, hearing the presenters from each group remained a problem.
Once each group had finished sharing their results, more theoretical discussion was skipped in favour of allowing groups enough time to formulate a specific project. While this might have short-changed participants in one respect, it did allow for some exciting brainstorming. Without limitations set for the exercise, the projects varied from practically achievable social media campaigns promoting portrayals of healthy relationships to wildly ambitious designs for hot air balloons. These final presentations were also hampered by a lack of time in which to ask questions and delve into the specifics of each project.
Art for Our Sake was an interesting networking opportunity but one that needed more time and focus to meet its other goals.
(Image credit: Adam Thomas)
Elizabeth Fitzgerald is a freelance editor and owner of Earl Grey Editing. She is a committee member of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild and served as Secretary in 2011 and 2012. She also previously ran their novel critiquing circle. Her short stories have been published in Burley, Issue #2and the CSFG anthology Next, and she has had poetry published in FIRST in 2005, 2006 and 2008. Her weaknesses are books, loose-leaf tea and silly dogs. She tweets @elizabeth_fitz