Using the Arts to Support the Arts: A Creative, Community-University Partnership Approach to Building Arts Inclusivity in Economically-Deprived Communities
There is robust evidence supporting the positive impacts of the arts on health and wellbeing; however, researchers suggest that the poorest in society are significantly less likely to engage with the arts than the wealthy. In this article, we describe a creative, community-university partnership between the Hangleton & Knoll Project and the University of Brighton, where we aimed to investigate and tackle this "participation gap." Using the participatory arts-based method of collaborative poetics, we found that, contrary to claims in the literature, local residents valued and engaged with a wide range of art forms; however, their access to the arts was limited by issues including money, travel and illness. By communicating these findings creatively to a broad range of stakeholders, we were able to stimulate greater investment in the arts locally, with steps taken towards the establishment of a dedicated community arts venue. In this article we reproduce some of the arts-based outputs we created, using these to criticize the reductionist understanding of the arts that lies beneath "participation gap" claims and to demonstrate the enormous potential that can be unlocked when universities and local communities collaborate creatively as equal partners.
Copyright (c) 2021 Helen Johnson, Nicole Monney
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