Community Arts Projects | Liverpool | Merseyside | UK
Community Arts Projects Introduction
As a creative therapist, I organise community arts projects and community arts in health projects in the Liverpool, Merseyside area. I use art therapy, drama therapy, creative writing and other creative therapy techniques to work within communities to help express themselves creatively.
What is a Community Art Project?
A community Art Project is a project where projects facilitators and artists collaborate with community members in a community setting to design and create work that reflects a dialogue about a shared theme or issue that is relevant to that community. In Community Arts in Health projects creativity may be used purely as a therapeutic activity to relieve stress and improve well-being or it may address a specific health or well-being issue.
How do You Approach Setting up a Community Arts in Health Project?
The aim of community arts in health projects is to engage communities in making art or engaging in creative practices as a way to explore their personal responses to a theme or an issue. Community arts in health project themes are in response to community issues highlighted as an interest or a concern. Community arts projects are flexible and organic. They start with a loose idea or structure. Enrolment takes place for interested people. The project will ultimately bend and twist itself to the demands of the group. I love the challenge of accommodating spontaneity within community arts projects and allow participants to shape their projects. The group may decide which creative formats to use for communicating or showcasing information generated around a topic. This information might be a summary of the communities lived experiences, perspectives and insights related to the topic. It is rewarding to engage the public in designing and making artwork. I enjoy working alongside artists in the community, recruited to share their skills within the projects.
How do You Manage a Community Art Project?
Community art projects are flexible and organic. Ideas for community art projects start with a loose theme structure. Enrollment takes place for interested people. The project will ultimately bend and twist itself to the demands of the group. I love the challenge of accommodating this spontaneity. As with many collaborative community art projects, the creative process or the journey towards the finished product is a priority. The outcome testifies this engagement.
Why do we Need Community Art Projects?
People are incredible resources for knowledge, wisdom and creativity. Community engagement art projects provide platforms. These resources can be harnessed and shared. Through community art projects people work together to process their experiences and to give expression to their individual and group perspectives. I enjoy working with people from all sections of society and listening to their views and learning about their lives. Community arts projects are an opportunity to build community resilience and cohesion. They are an avenue for creative expression.
Benefits of Community Arts Projects
The benefits of community arts projects range from raising awareness of, or addressing a specific community, health or well-being issue, to creating a dedicated space for therapeutic engagement in art practice. I have used community arts in health projects as a way to explore challenging issues that affect people’s lives. It’s amazing to witness the life-affirming solutions people can find in difficult situations. Projects are evaluated on the basis of the impact they have on the participants and the community. The criteria used may include indicators of a number of factors e.g personal/emotional development, behaviour changes that are evidence of increased orientation towards a healthier lifestyle, improved problem-solving skills, increased creative skills, increased resilience and greater community integration.
Examples of Community Art Projects
In this section, I will introduce you to some of the community arts projects that I have done with The Art Clinic Liverpool.
Creative Writing, Art and Drama Project – The Bigger Picture
Peoples ‘relationship to’ food has been a theme that I have worked with on many occassions. Talking about food is a route to many areas of life. It can take you to body image, childhood memories, travel, social occasions, nature, health, family life, treats, being alone etc. The Bigger Picture healthy eating project was a community arts in health project about food, which covered all of these areas.
This project worked with a group of pensioners who lived in a supported living complex. Although they all lived within close proximity to each other, many lived alone and were lonely. This project which ran for 12 weeks gave these people a chance to engage in a range of creative art practices. They use art and drama to express their thoughts and to work together. The group shared their skills, ideas and laughter.
The conversations that took place during these sessions were recorded verbatim and then used to form a script. The group enjoyed reading the script together, discussing their contributions and laughing at their jokes and innuendos!
After the creative workshops were completed The Art Clinic arranged for the group to continue meeting for exercise classes with Healthiness Ltd. The group also made plans to continue meeting together for shared meals.
Further funding was received from Sanctuary Housing Association to make a video recording of a reading of the script. Volunteers from Third Age Acting Company/ Collective Encounters joined the project. We invited the original group to assist in the production.
You can view the produced film via this link –
Contemporary Dance Project – Fluid Structures
Every individual has, what we refer to as, masculine and feminine energies. Known as yin and yang in Chinese philosophy and in Hindu, Shiva and Shakti. Each individual is challenged with co-ordinating these energies within themselves so that the energies work together co-operatively rather than in conflict. The dynamic between our masculine and feminine energies is integral to how we process experience. It is a significant factor within the therapeutic process. This concept is covered by Carl Jung in his work on Anima and Animus. (find a link)
The Fluid Structures Project was set up to creatively explore the interplay between masculine and feminine energies. The project began with the following piece of creative writing which was used as a stimulus to begin a conversation. The piece was originally titled Gender Agenda but it was agreed that this title was misleading as the concept being discussed is not about gender. It is about a set of energies that each individual possesses regardless of their gender.
Polarity creates a dynamic, and without it there would be, only inertia. If not for the game of masculine versus feminine there would be no life, only inertia.
Here, the masculine is represented by form and restriction and the feminine by formlessness and expansion.
A challenge to form is deconstruction
A challenge to formlessness is restriction
When the feminine force acts upon the male, she tests the bonds that hold in place the components of his structure.
Any weak links will be revealed.
He may choose to defend the form that he has created.
Or he may allow restructure to take place and seek to improve any weak links.
I mean, when faced with the prospect of evolution do you welcome it or reject it?
When the masculine force acts upon the female, he attempts to capture her and transform her into a structure.
The feminine may allow herself to be momentarily represented as form, flowing from formlessness to form to formlessness to form.
Or she may just become frozen.
I mean, in the face of unending possibilities do you seek to create restrictions?
Within Grace both form and formlessness coexist.
The masculine acting as spirit assumes that form is empowerment.
The feminine acting as soul assumes that fluidity is progress.
In our thoughts, we can make connections and break connections until the truest truth emerges.
As we rectify our weak links we increase efficiency.
As we create forms from the combination of spirit and soul we are gracious.
This project began with an open discussion about the poem. We decided to work using movement because the dynamic of the theme was about shifts and movement between potential polarities. Contemporary dance movement workshops expressed the narrative of the poem. We introduced musicians to the project. Each one working independently with dancers, translating their movements into sound. We mixed a single soundscape comprising folk, jazz and classical sounds, collected from the musician’s scores.
We made a film about the dance at Bay TV studios in Liverpool. The film was shown on Bay TV channel and in the Liverpool Threshold Festival.
This was an interesting theme to work with. I enjoyed the order of artistic collaboration. Using movement to interpret the concepts within the poem, watching and listening to musicians interpreting movement independently. Merging their sounds together was fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the philosophical conversations that evolved around the themes e.g
“When we learn how to integrate our masculine and feminine energies we become fluid structures. We have the strength to flow or adapt to constant changes. We are free to listen and hear. Free to be in touch with our instincts and ideas. We outgrow forms no longer fit for purpose.”
“It’s interesting how we used to have stereotypes of the female ‘nag’ and the male ego. Yet, we’ve never heard anyone say the male nag or the female ego.”
“Those gendered stereotypes or caricatures might represent how these energies function when they are not working in a synchronised or cooperative way.”
“The feminine demands change and becomes frustrated by what she sees as masculine short-sighted resistance. The masculine pride sees the request for him to change as criticism and sees the feminine request as persecution.”
This work was an invitation to consider the dynamic between our own interpretations of our masculine and feminine energies. It encourages us to question how co-operative or resistant they are in us and how this impacts our behaviour and our ability to flow with change. If you were to imagine how your feminine energy would move in dance and how your masculine energy would move in dance, would there be any differences between them? How would they move together?
Here is a link to the Fluid Structures film
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