Categories
Musings

What is the responsibility of art in times of crisis?

Insight
By Martin O’Neill, Stove Curatorial Team and Head of Programming

What is the responsibility of art in times of crisis? 

Things look very different now. 

My neighbor has washed the same tea towel, every two days, for the last three weeks. It’s Hokusai’s wave. 

I didn’t really want to notice this. I never really thought about my neighbor’s washing line, let alone her tea towel. Aside from the fact it seems a little bit much to wash it every two days, it’s in my life now and it’s past the point of familiarity. Like the traffic lights at the foot of the road I crossed every day, the ‘Clearance Sale’ vinyl on a shop on the High Street, the two grizzly dogs on the Mill Green; it’s ubiquitous. Maybe Irene has been washing her tea towel, hanging it on the washing line every two days for seventeen years. Or maybe it’s just her little routine in the lockdown. The tea towel waves heroically in the breeze, and I’ll get on with other things, cooking, reading, watching the television. And before the sun dips, it’s gone. 

Similarly, a friend of mine, on his daily walk observed new paths, termed ‘desire lines’, a consequence of footsteps eroding the earth, un-foiling a path across parks, fields, forest floors or gardens. These lines leading home have multiplied over these three weeks of lockdown. 

These observations of the mundane might represent a reacquainting, or revelation of the environments we thought we knew. Our neighbors, the paths leading home, the way time passes. Crisis, in this case, has given us pause and somehow focused our lives entirely on the in-between. But for all its meditative qualities, it is scored with a sadness as yet not understood. 

This reflection comes at the worst possible costs, not only of the very real threat of our health and our lives, but also the alienation of our lives from one another. This new perspective is weighted with an anxiety, needle-pointed in the reality of the weekly shop, or a visit to the chemists. We move in a heightened awareness of one another, yet for many, this is a privilege un-bestowed to key-workers, from the NHS to the supermarket cashier, their roles akin now to soldiers in warfare. Their responsibilities, particularly of those whose work has often been derogatively termed ‘un-skilled’ by governments, represent the fragility of socio-economic systems as well as the hypocrisy in the demonization of labor in our country.

The role of art, then through this, seems nearly un-definable. More often than not, definitions of its role in this time appear and disappear like mirages in a desert, and mostly its definitions return to the safety of ‘entertainment’, or the spectacle. The live-streamed play, the virtual tour…

Artists and creative freelancers are hit with a financial insecurity on a scale unseen since the financial crash of 2008, so for the most part, artists are now seeking to consolidate and revise their work so that it might ‘prove its worth’, an unfortunate consequence of the precariousness of our professions. Others are overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility to focus on new work, finish their novels, work on their next collection, underpinned by capitalistic notions of productivity, that we have somehow been given ‘free-time’, a sentiment in ignorance of the psychological ramifications of a national health pandemic.

Many may be thinking that art is facing a crisis in meaning. It’s understandable, given the anxieties of this time. Yet art, throughout history, has demonstrated its capacity to survive. Whether in its ambiguity as a social movement, its ties to the political landscape, its power in advocacy, its role in activism and its power to reflect our lives and emotions. At the root of this are its defining characteristics, that of survival and its role as a healer. 

The Stove’s driving force has been, throughout the years, the untapped power of conversation and creativity through the act of gathering, building and celebrating communities within a town ripe for acknowledgement, and change. We now are seeking to find ourselves once again, and perhaps through this, re-define our role as community artists, producers, and community members, as a team. Our power is in being embedded in the life of our town, yet our responsibilities are often taken for granted, both in government, local and national as well as internally, with such focuses on events to bring together the branches of our community, to one space, becoming familiar in the day-to-day motion of the organisation. The challenge now then is, without the physical space, how do we connect?

In Home Grown, these questions are at the forefront of our activity. Beneath it, values of solidarity, open-heartedness, insight and perseverance seek to illustrate the present as well as symbolize our hopes for the future. Similarly, these values represent our work up till this point. For now, they must hold their ground. 

Beneath the surface of all this, is a search for belonging. The Stove represents the questions of where art and creativity belong aside from the corridors of mansions, the museum or the free-market. In this search, art is not defined by product or spectacle but in essence its role in the make-up of Who We Are, not only as people, but as a community, threaded together by a common care for one another. This art then seeks to celebrate that which makes us human, in a place, and what that then means, and how it defines us.

Who we will be when we return, and who will be with us, we cannot know yet. Our community and our town must take time to heal, and this art will flow through these times with the community in conversation, in activity and in reflection to weave some new future, knowing its responsibility, to then ask of those in power where their responsibility lies. 

For now, we must acknowledge these moments in-between, the desire lines, the tea towel in the breeze, the slow flow of time, for whatever they may not mean to us now, they will be the backbone of some future as yet unwritten. 

Categories
Musings

Creative Repositioning for the New Normal

What makes a place? And what role does creativity have in times of crisis?
Katharine Wheeler of the Stove Curatorial Team and Lead Artist/Researcher for our Embers project, reflects on the role of ‘creative place-making’ in wake of the national lockdown.

As people pull together to face the collective challenges and strain at this time and without the usual noise of other ‘news’ it is the kindness, ingenuity and resilience of people that are centre stage. We can see more than ever the generosity and value local people, groups and organisations invest in supporting their communities.

Small businesses re-organise themselves to take food to our most vulnerable (often without payment), neighbours leave groceries on the doorsteps of those they barely know, people pledge all manner of support and money to those they have never met, we share creative ideas to keep us busy and explore ways of connecting when we cannot physically meet.

The Stove has always been many things for many people – a café, an events space, a space to gather and take part in activity, to have conversations about our place, to challenge ideas and perceptions, to grow projects and activity together. All of this expressed as seriously playful partnership with our community to support and grow a resilient, progressive and creative Dumfries and Galloway. 

We strive to be for, and of, our community and have been asking ourselves “How do we reposition our work at this time?” as a creative community-led organisation that uses creative practice at the heart of what it does.

We have taken time to think and are exploring two directions:

  • in our program – as we explore new ways to grow activity that engages local people in reflection and co-development of work and activity 
  • for our wider creative community – to reconnect and support this community at this time.

Through this we hope to support the building of a collective awareness and narrative of the ‘new normal’, one which helps the transition into the next stage of this new journey we are all on together. Our intention has not changed, this is an ethos and approach of Creative Placemaking. We have spent the last 10 months digging down into the grassroots practice of Creative Placemaking across Dumfries and Galloway through our Embers consultation talking to groups and organisations embedded in their communities about their work. Creative Placemaking is a collaborative practice that uses creative activity to connect and come together with other individuals, groups and organisations and respond to local needs with innovative solutions that focus on social wellbeing and inclusion in our communities.

Times such as this highlight the struggle in places that have had their local resource and ability to respond stripped in favour of centralised service provision. Our new reality is shining a spotlight on the value of our sometimes less recognised and smaller parts, our key workers, our local services and businesses, our sole traders and freelance workers, our community spaces and social relationships. We are seeing the value of our collective creativity to shape and adjust systems and support appropriate to our local need.

Where will we go from here? At the Stove we will continue to advocate for the value of our smaller community-focused parts and use activity to test and develop ways of working that invest and support the creativity and innovation around us to grow our local resilience.

A few related things to and look out for…

Embers report – to go live in a few weeks this report explores some of the fantastic work in our communities and proposes more considered understanding and support for Creative Placemaking work for the South of Scotland.

Don’t Forget the Self-Employed – talking about our responsibility to the region’s cultural, creative and community sectors. Of our 600+ members, we estimate that as many as half will be self-employed or freelancers.

Culture and Creative Industries consultation – add your voice to the role the new South of Scotland Agency can take in supporting our creative sector.

Homegrown – addressing this new normal by proposing four values that will frame our work: Insight, Perseverance, Open-heartedness & Solidarity.

Third Sector D&G Resilience Map – a page created in partnership with Dumfries and Galloway Council that displays information from local community groups and organisations offering support or looking for support in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Categories
Musings News

homegrown – an introduction

With the out-break of COVID-19, we face a shared reality that will live on in the minds of this and further generations in pictures, stories, songs and memories. We are faced with questions we never foresaw answering.

In this time of social distancing, The Stove’s field of operation for community, creativity, care and gathering within spaces both shared and public is now radically altered, without objection. Isolation, distance and confinement are the new normal.

The priorities have shifted. The Stove has always functioned in collaboration; collaboration with communities, with artists, with other arts and community organisations, with policy-makers and as a team. In addressing this new normal we propose four values that will frame our work:

Insight
Perseverance
Open-heartedness
& Solidarity

Over the coming weeks, we invite you to explore with us these values through a series of creative challenges, conversation, commissions and activities that can be done in isolation and through connecting with one another via the internet and in so doing, build and maintain resilience in the present, as well as build hope and strategies of change for the future.

We choose to acknowledge and ask the right questions, host the conversations and create the new spaces where these can happen, aside from the café, pub, High Street or studio.
As humanity has always done, we will attempt to record and archive these projects, and together with our community, inspire a new folklore so that we might retain and remember this time, however it may be, for the posterity of generations’ hereafter.

Homegrown is exactly what the Stove is all about, and what it continues to be. Responsive, locally initiated, developed and owned.

As always, we are open to every idea that comes through our inbox. So please do get in touch if you would like to contribute, in any form, place or style you would like.

Categories
News

National Culture Strategy

Last Friday, the Scottish Government published the new National Culture Strategy for Scotland, and we are delighted that the Stove has been featured as a case study! You can download and read the Culture Strategy in full online here, and comment on Twitter using #culturescot.

The strategy has three main aims:

  • to strengthen culture
  • transforming through culture
  • empowering through culture

We’ve been having a read of it over the weekend, and have picked out some of the key facts that we found particularly inspirational.

“Value, trust and support creative people – for their unique and vital contribution to society and the economy.”
“Encourage greater openness and diverse cultures to reflect a changing Scotland in the 21st century.”
“Foster international collaboration and build on Scotland’s reputation for cultural excellence.”
“Open up the potential of culture as a transformative opportunity across society.”
“Extend the view of culture to include the everyday and emerging, the established and more formal.”
“Extend opportunities that enable people to take part in culture throughout their lives.”
“Recognise each community’s own local cultures in generating a distinct sense of place, identity and confidence.”
“Everyone has the right to participate freely in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits (Article 27, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).”
Categories
Musings Project Updates

Glaciers in the Stove Cafe

FORTUNA | FOGGYDOG | CHILD’S | SOCKS | DENNISTOUN | ANT HILL | BYRD | LEONARDO | DECEPTION | CREVASSE | PINE ISLAND | POLAR TIMES | SHAMBLES | SHARK FIN | UTOPIA | ZEPHYR | ROSE VALLEY | MYKLEBUSTBREEN | KUTIAH LUNGMA | KING OSCAR | SUN | SALMON | SILVERTHRONE | RADIANT | CHAOS | CROWFOOT | FOX | GREY | HELHEIM

There are 178,000* glaciers currently around the world. How many of them can you name?

People name things for lots of reasons; to claim ownership, to map, to locate, to commemorate or congratulate, to know or mark a time, or a place or a landscape.

In the naming of things we gain familiarity. It is easier to image a glacier called Foggydog, than one without a name.

If we can’t name them, how will we miss them when they are gone?

At the moment, 10% of land area on Earth is covered with glacial ice, including glaicers, ice camps and ice sheets. Glacial ice store about 69% of the world’s fresh water, if all land ice melted, sea level would rise by approximately. 70 metres worldwide.

Glacial ice often appears blue when it becomes very dense. Years of compression gradually make the ice denser over time, forcing out the tine air pockets between crystals.

Since the early 20th Century, glaciers around the world have been retreating at unprecedented rates. Many are retreating so rapidly that they may vanish within a matter of decades. Glaciers are considered among the most sensitive indicators of climate change as they are so affected by long term climatic change such as precipitation, mean temperature and cloud cover.

In the Stove cafe as part of our Christmas decorations, we have christened over 80 of our festive baubles ceremoniously after some of our favourite glacier names, alongside the co-ordinates so you can look them up yourself. Pop in for a closer look.

Reel to Real: New Town Utopia

New Town Utopia | 2017 | 1 hr 20 | Christopher Ian Smith | Britain

For the final part of our Art in Public programme, our Reel to Real Cinema presents a documentary about utopian dreams and concrete realities; the challenging, funny, and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon, Essex.
A journey of memory, place and performance guided by the artists, musicians and poets of Basildon. Facing austerity, adversity and personal battles they are individuals driven by their creative spirit to improve their community through art, poetry, music… and some rather angry puppets.

Pre-film supper available in the Stove cafe, serving from 6pm. £5 per person.

Film starts at 7pm.

Presented as part of our Art in Public programme
What is the role of art in public space? Across Scotland, artists are increasingly working with a public focus: making works for public spaces, and working collaboratively with communities.

 

Reel to Real: New Town Utopia

New Town Utopia | 2017 | 1 hr 20 | Christopher Ian Smith | Britain
For the final part of our Art in Public programme, our Reel to Real Cinema presents a documentary about utopian dreams and concrete realities; the challenging, funny, and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon, Essex.
A journey of memory, place and performance guided by the artists, musicians and poets of Basildon. Facing austerity, adversity and personal battles they are individuals driven by their creative spirit to improve their community through art, poetry, music… and some rather angry puppets.
Pre-film supper available in the Stove cafe, serving from 6pm. £5 per person.
Film starts at 7pm.
Presented as part of our Art in Public programme
What is the role of art in public space? Across Scotland, artists are increasingly working with a public focus: making works for public spaces, and working collaboratively with communities.
 

Reel to Real: New Town Utopia

New Town Utopia | 2017 | 1 hr 20 | Christopher Ian Smith | Britain
For the final part of our Art in Public programme, our Reel to Real Cinema presents a documentary about utopian dreams and concrete realities; the challenging, funny, and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon, Essex.
A journey of memory, place and performance guided by the artists, musicians and poets of Basildon. Facing austerity, adversity and personal battles they are individuals driven by their creative spirit to improve their community through art, poetry, music… and some rather angry puppets.
Pre-film supper available in the Stove cafe, serving from 6pm. £5 per person.
Film starts at 7pm.
Presented as part of our Art in Public programme
What is the role of art in public space? Across Scotland, artists are increasingly working with a public focus: making works for public spaces, and working collaboratively with communities.
 

Reel to Real: New Town Utopia

New Town Utopia | 2017 | 1 hr 20 | Christopher Ian Smith | Britain
For the final part of our Art in Public programme, our Reel to Real Cinema presents a documentary about utopian dreams and concrete realities; the challenging, funny, and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon, Essex.
A journey of memory, place and performance guided by the artists, musicians and poets of Basildon. Facing austerity, adversity and personal battles they are individuals driven by their creative spirit to improve their community through art, poetry, music… and some rather angry puppets.
Pre-film supper available in the Stove cafe, serving from 6pm. £5 per person.
Film starts at 7pm.
Presented as part of our Art in Public programme
What is the role of art in public space? Across Scotland, artists are increasingly working with a public focus: making works for public spaces, and working collaboratively with communities.
 

Reel to Real: New Town Utopia

New Town Utopia | 2017 | 1 hr 20 | Christopher Ian Smith | Britain
For the final part of our Art in Public programme, our Reel to Real Cinema presents a documentary about utopian dreams and concrete realities; the challenging, funny, and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon, Essex.
A journey of memory, place and performance guided by the artists, musicians and poets of Basildon. Facing austerity, adversity and personal battles they are individuals driven by their creative spirit to improve their community through art, poetry, music… and some rather angry puppets.
Pre-film supper available in the Stove cafe, serving from 6pm. £5 per person.
Film starts at 7pm.
Presented as part of our Art in Public programme
What is the role of art in public space? Across Scotland, artists are increasingly working with a public focus: making works for public spaces, and working collaboratively with communities.