Surprising community art at IHME Days

The first triennial of the community art, RECEPTION was opened on 1 April 2016 during the IHME Days and the Taike Day organised by the Arts Promotion Centre Finland. The event consisted of speeches and discussions on the status of the community art, and of networking with the actors in the field of
Photo: Veera Schrey

The first triennial of the community art, RECEPTION was opened on 1 April 2016 during the IHME Days and the Taike Day organised by the Arts Promotion Centre Finland. As well as the opening of the triennial, the day’s events included speeches and discussions covering the aspects of the field of arts, education, research, and diverse collaboration.

The common theme in the speeches was the marginal status of the community art in the field of arts. Once again, the presentations raised the question of how clear the definition of community art is in the first place. And even with the recognition of an art form, the definitions of community art may still remain slightly mystical.

Head of Arts Support at the Arts Promotion Centre, Esa Rantanen pointed out that from the sponsor’s point of view, the key is to create art that can be evaluated. In the community art, the artistic end result is just as important as in traditional art forms. However, the evaluation must also take other aspects into consideration: the core of the community art is the process. The creation of a piece of work is not up to the artist, the participating community is at least as important. Looking from the outside, the instrumental benefits of art are often emphasised in the projects; the community art is (almost too) deep in the heart of the well-being impacts of cultural policy. It is interesting to think about the funding opportunities for the community art outside the well-being rhetoric.

Community art actors such as Arkipelag Workshop association of community art, artist-in-residence programme RaumArs, artist duo Tärähtäneet Ämmät, and artist Timo Tähkänen were there to talk about their work and the difficulties in securing funding. Many actors talked about the fragmented funding of community art projects, most of which are funded by the participants. They also felt that the time spent on applying for grants is out of proportion to the amount of money granted. In their addresses, the artists longed for a producer who would enable them to concentrate on the actual artistic work.

The continuation of funding is also a huge challenge faced by many. Individual projects and the requirement to constantly develop and innovate something new are inconsistent with the nature of the community art. The depth of the artists’ work with the communities would benefit from continuity. Continuity would make it possible to have encounters and long-term interaction, and to aim for equality; all characteristics of the community art.

In her address, Anna Talasniemi, Executive Director at Kone Foundation, said that the significance of continuous interaction between a community and a collaborative artist was demonstrated by the Foundation’s appointment of collaborative artists – first Nina Rantala and then Pia Bartsch – to the Saari Residence. The collaborative artists have increased the role of the community art in the work specification of Kone Foundation. Examples of this include the Community art Summer Well organised in 2013 and the RECEPTION triennial. Ms Talasniemi also said that naming an issue makes it visible in the world. Thus, the Community Art – Taike Day and the RECEPTION triennial can be considered parts of the naming process, contributing to the increased visibility of the community art this spring.

In fact, the purpose of the community art triennial RECEPTION is to generate visibility for the community art as an art form rather than as a marginal phenomenon connected to the instrumental value of arts. In her address, Pia Bartsch questioned the one-way instrumental reasoning for the community art. Ms Bartsch stated that there is not enough discussion within the community art about the rewards for an artist of working with a community. The community matures the artist as a person and as an artist. In community art, the end-result is never foreseeable – or even certain. In the words of the powerhouse of the community art from Pori, Pia Hovi-Assad: Community art will always surprise you!

The Community Art – Taike Day continued at a Meet & Mingle event of the RECEPTION Community art triennial, where actors in the community art and the field of arts were able to meet and get to know each other and take a peek behind the scenes at the triennial. After this event, the evening continued with the IHME Festival’s Art and Communities discussion.