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Artists of Change: Re-imagining what a 21st century arts centre should look like

Artists of Change gives local people in Stockton and South East London the opportunity to work directly with inspirational artists and co-create new programmes for their local arts centres.

Tangled Feet with Stockton Community Cast.jpg

Image: Tangled Feet Theatre Company with the community cast of Half Life on the stage of ARC's theatre - January 2020

At ARC we’ve always been community-first - presenting, programming and developing work that reflects our local area. However, with so much upheaval over the last few months it feels right to examine what ‘community first’ really means and how we can truly deliver on this promise. At a time when we all need creativity and community more than ever, we’re thrilled to finally announce our biggest shift towards a democratic model of making and creating as part of our ongoing partnership with the Albany.

Artists of Change signals a new model that will give local people and artists a bigger say in what they see within arts centres, as well as transforming how they are run, by co-creating work directly with and for communities. By embedding artists within Stockton and Deptford over several months and with no set outcome required, Artists of Change bridges the gap between venues, artists and residents to transform the traditional ‘top-down’ programming model. As well as radically reshaping what is presented, it also represents a change in how decisions are made in each venue and a step-change towards further democratising the way each arts centre is run.

Artists will be recruited via an open call out to curate, create or lead activity directly in collaboration with the community in both Stockton & Deptford over the course of two years. Chosen by a panel who are actively engaged with each centre, they will spend time in the location for at least three months, receiving a fee of £10,000 with a further budget to spend on new ideas. The first artist commissioned from ARC will be from a working-class background and the first from the Albany will be of a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background.

We’re deliberately keeping the brief open and so the end result could include performances, exhibitions, a series of workshops, a film, a party, a carnival… anything! By not requiring a specific output or result, we’re directly handing over creative control to communities and artists.

It signals a commitment by us to give local people a bigger say in what they see here and bridge the gap between communities, artists and venues. These include projects such as: Pizza and Pitches, which invites local people to submit their own creative ideas for funding at both venues; and the Here and Now project, a Future Arts Centres initiative led by us and the Albany, where communities co-create work to reflect their local areas in 40 arts centres across the country. Artists of Change is set to further redress the balance of power and will increase engagement and participation amongst local people as well as provide employment and development opportunities for artists.

Along the way we’ll seek to answer questions including:

What role should arts centres play in the 21st century?
What do our audiences respond to? What do they see ARC providing?
How can we support artists to develop their practice whilst putting people at the centre of it?
How can we make all of the work we present locally relevant, engaging and accessible?
How can we encourage local communities to find a creative home at ARC?

All that’s left to say is – watch this space! We look forward to sharing more, including details on how to apply to become an Artist of Change at ARC soon.