The Monthly discusses Community Arts post pandemic with Philip Campbell from Down Community Arts – Part 2

What about the artists. How do they feel about this new situation?

One of the big problems was that during the pandemic many artists either stopped working or they found other jobs. We now have a much smaller pool of artists we can work with. It has been important to allow the artists to have a more engagement with the communities they are working with and also to allow the artists to feel like they can make a contribution as well.

We are getting a few more artists coming back into the fold, so to speak, but it is nowhere near the levels it was pre-pandemic.

How do these larger projects impact the community?

I was speaking to a man the other day who delivers medication to people in the community. He was telling me that he sees the art works every day when he is stopped at traffic lights or driving around, and this puts him in a good mood. It gives him a lift during his day and I think that is something that we might show up in smaller projects.

That idea that art impacts the community in good way through these larger more substantial public facing projects, it is sometimes hard to quantify, but we know from the feedback we have been getting that our work has had an impact on the community as a whole.

Obviously we get feedback from participants on our smaller, face to face, 6-8 week projects but this wider impact is something we have come to understand more broadly. I think it is worth saying that the quality of the work, the presentation, the skills we needed to develop, have all improved and are now at a higher level than they were previously and that has improved the capacity of the organisation as well.

Where to now?

We do need to look at the number of artists we have access to and that might mean looking at recruiting and training younger artists, it might also mean looking at new forms of artistic skills and working with those artists more frequently.

Generally, our funders have been very supportive and that matters when you are trying to make changes. I think there are still some discussions to be had.

Any final thoughts?

One final thing that really does matter is that for us it was very difficult to move towards digital working, partly because we work with older people and the skills and the access to good broadband just don’t exist in rural areas and we also work with people with disabilities and again digital methods don’t always work with that group of people. These are issues that need immediate attention.

With our two pronged approach we see rising levels of participation both in our face to face work and with our community level projects. We have actually increased our uptake, increased our workload, and we are oversubscribed for the projects we are delivering and all of that sees us looking into a future that feels very positive.

After all the difficulties we are very excited about what the future for our organisation holds.

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.