Building Community Through Arts (BCA) can be regarded as a training and personal development programme, using listening and facilitation skills to celebrate our common humanity, creativity and diversity.
BCA was developed as part of Kew Studio’s outreach work in a series of projects from 1993 – 2002. We’ve made available on this site, a set of free resources for use by anyone wanting to develop their own community through arts. Do get in touch if you want to share your projects or ask a question.
The concept can be summarised as:
- BUILDING COMMUNITY – bringing people together, sharing our diverse experience, insights and skills, and celebrating our collaboration
- THROUGH ARTS – playing with materials and ideas, working together as equals, experiencing ourselves and each other as creators
- USING SHARED INQUIRY – together exploring ways to develop and improve how we live and work together, in a continuing cycle of shared ideas, actions, and review
The downloadable documents on this site will give you processes for developing authentic connection with other members of a group, which improves the quality of life for all those involved in living and working together.
Building Community through Arts
is a process that has been developed over nine years by a multi-disciplinary team to address issues of isolation and fragmentation in our society. It became the outreach programme of Kew Studio, an arts educational charity, and specialised in using the arts media to build community.
Scott Peck in The Different Drum describes his own experience of the ‘isolation and fragmentation that have become the order of the day.’ The aim of the BCA approach is to combat the forces that separate people from each other, and disintegrate society. The methods seeks to enable people from differing backgrounds to communicate more effectively, to release their innate creative gifts and enable others, in turn, to find greater enjoyment. In order to cross boundaries with awareness and skill, a multi-disciplinary team came together.
The team drew on professional experience in the community and the arts, facilitation, social psychology, documentation, education, the voluntary sector and business consultancy. They were a group of individuals involved in action research, building on their own experience with clients, while drawing on a wide range of consultants and authorities.
We worked in partnerships with social welfare organisations, education and business community volunteers, using the BCA process to bring people together to confront issues of isolation and disempowerment within their communities.
With all participants the team explored and sought to enhance their working and social relationships. They used the arts as a medium to validate each person’s contribution and helped the groups to relate to each unique story.
“I see Co-operative Inquirers as deeply engaged with the human condition, living and choosing with awareness” John Heron
BCA developed within its process a version of Co-operative Inquiry, which entails a cycle of Idea, Action and Review.
One of the BCA team had been working with John Heron, co-author of the cooperative inquiry model, and early in the development of our work offered a framework of shared enquiry which enables groups to move from the implicit to the explicit, allowing all involved to take part, to question and to be creative.
The method is simple: You frame an issue or an area of enquiry, you experiment, you review your progress and results and you move on to the next agreed area/idea.
All participants set their own goals – from management to individual staff and students. The BCA team’s goal was to pass on the knowledge and practice of this inquiry process through participants:
- Identifying their own goals
- Learning how to set about achieving them
- Constantly reviewing their development
- Where needed modifying initial goals
- Compiling group best practice guide as a basis for future work and further enquiry
Collaborative Learning Culture
“To live a creative life – we must lose our fear of being wrong” Joseph Chilton Pearce
The team, with each new client group, set about creating a collaborative learning culture, in which people could relate to each other on a personal level and support each other to take risks trying out new ideas and behaviour.
The team encouraged participants to use the arts as a way of:
- Letting go of the inner critic and the assumption that there is a ‘right way’
- Giving themselves permission to experiment
- Getting in touch with what each participant had to offer
- Acknowledging what they could create together
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” Martha Graham
The team used the arts as their medium since the arts allow and encourage us to:
- Challenge our underlying assumptions
- Express ourselves
- Explore what we think
- Create something new from it
- Do it together
Within each session, participants worked in threes, taking turns in the roles of Artist, Facilitator and Observer. This opens each up to the different aspects of art making and of living.
Benefits to Participants
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction both are transformed.” Carl Gustave Jung
The BCA team met considerable interest in their pilot work from social welfare, business and educational organisations. Clients worked in partnership with BCA, undertaking pilot programmes:
- To raise morale and motivation
- To enhance skills development: communication, working with others, improving own learning and performance, adaptability, problem solving, creative thinking and innovation
- To expand horizons in thinking and experience
- To work with people from different parts of the community, making new contacts, learning from each other and valuing differences