Increasing awareness of civic duty is a core aim of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation report, Rethinking Relationships: Phase One of the Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations.
Society has become fragmented – a lot of the things that used to bring us together don’t exist anymore. We have reached a point in society where our relationship with our phones and technology often subsume our personal relationships, both with each other and within our communities.
But human beings are social creatures. We are hardwired to interact socially with one another, and looking at recent political and societal events, we can all see an upsurge of people coming together. This was clearly demonstrated by the outreach of community support following the London and Manchester terror attacks, and after the fire at Grenfell Tower where we bore witness to the touching efforts of people reaching out in solidarity. People are not waiting for those in positions of authority to take appropriate action, instead they are using their own initiative to carry out their personal civic role.
Gulbenkian is conducting an Inquiry into the civic role of arts organisations. Their new report was developed alongside a panel of leaders, mostly from arts organisations, who provided recommendations as to how social and arts organisations can work together to understand the civic role arts organisations play, and what more is possible.
I am a member of this panel - I joined to add a voice from the social sector, particularly given that the Inquiry is largely focused on arts organisations. There are clear synchronicities in the work of arts and social organisations, but I wanted to understand what more could be done to create a common voice and unify cross-purpose initiatives between and beyond our respective sectors.
I say this because I feel that arts organisations, particularly the publicly funded ones, can do more to support the people in society who need it most. Arts organisations have a vast foothold across the UK in the form of community centres, theatres, libraries, museums, galleries and more, and this gives us amazing opportunities to heal the broken parts of our social fabric. Clearly they can’t do it alone, and collaborations with social leaders are vital. Thank you Gulbenkian, for highlighting some great examples, but let's not believe that these partnerships are common.
The social sector exists to create a fairer society, promote equality and fight social injustice. Yet as evidenced by the aforementioned recent events which brought communities together, what we stand for is not the preserve of the social sector, or any other sector.
It is incumbent upon us all to create deeper connections with one another on personal, organisational, cross-sector and a community-wide level, and this includes debating the issues that really matter.
So today I am asking all Clore fellows and interested parties, from the arts and social sector, to join in the debate. Let us know what you think. How do we get more arts organisations to engage with local charities to maximise our reach, particularly within disadvantaged and poorly served communities? And how do we get more social leaders to offer support, and also challenge other sectors to work together?
Let’s find multiple ways to collaborate, harness solidarity and become more unified in our civic role.
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