I’ve always enjoyed working in groups. After I left school at 16 I was surprised to discover that I was actually good at leading groups. I’ve no idea where that came from, it can’t all be down to the natural arrogance of my class or gender. Whatever the reason I’m still here, decades later, still leading groups, and still wondering why.
I’ve never been ambitious for myself. I look back on my childhood as an idyllic time spent playing in the garden or wandering the beautiful Mendip hills. I have memories of deep floods, massive snowdrifts and theatrical thunderstorms but mostly I remember it as a time of long days of lazy sunshine. I was acutely aware of how lucky I’d already been and how much this contrasts with the opportunities other people have. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that I was never really motivated to do much for myself and am much more comfortable supporting others. But I’ve never really known what someone like me can do about it. Until now.
I don’t belong to any minority group. I don’t think my claim to be part of the largest minority of all, as a man, cuts much ice with those who have experienced oppression first hand. So, if my personal experience doesn’t count for much and I’m not arrogant enough to believe I can know what is best for other people, I’ve not been quite sure what to do.
Fortunately, circumstances brought me to art + power. I’ll always been grateful to those who introduced me to the idea of art as empowerment. Art does indeed set people free and it’s set me free too.
I’ve always loved seeing others excel. Maybe I have helped people along the way but I claim no credit and why should I? The best part of my job is seeing people achieve things themselves, things they didn’t think possible. Besides, As with art, so with life, intervening in other people’s art is just not good art. I know people can do extraordinary things, I’ve seen it happen again and again. Yet, strangely, the less I have to do with it the more likely it is to happen. Perhaps it’s not so strange but most of my job seems to about getting out of the way and allowing people to be, extraordinary.
art + power was set up by people that have been empowered by art themselves and want art to empower everyone – for it to go all around the world. The last 15 years with art + power have been a lesson in how art empowers. Not that we’ve got everything right – the clearest lesson I’ve learned is how much easier it is to foster dependency than independence – but, at last, I think we’ve cracked it!
I’ve finally realised that art empowers by building capability. It builds social justice – places where everyone has the capability to fulfil their potential. The great thing for me is that social justice is something that we build together – simply by being the best we can be and supporting each other to do the same. It a universal process that is best done together – the best way to build your own capabilities is by providing opportunities for others to build theirs.
We’ve started this process, simply by setting a daily creative challenge – each challenge helps people build specific capabilities – and this is just the start! We’ll be using the things that people share in response to inspire others and to build collaborative arts projects. There will be a whole host of forums and events to support people to support each other and we’ll share everything we learn along the way and take every opportunity to build capability in the community.
Now we understand how art empowers we can begin to realise our long-held ambition for everyone, everywhere to be empowered by art, every day!
Let’s get creative!