Friday 2nd March 2018

New project announcement: FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS

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HEART OF GLASS, AN AGENCY FOR SOCIAL AND COLLABORATIVE ARTS PRACTICE, ANNOUNCES NEW INTERNATIONAL TRIENNIAL FOR ST HELENS

Today (2 March 2018), Heart of Glass has announced the launch of FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS: The First International Triennial of Social and Collaborative Arts Practice, taking place in Autumn 2021 In St Helens, Merseyside.

FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS will be a convening of work, debate, resources and publications for those who make, watch, research, study, teach, produce, present, write about and archive collaborative and social arts practice. This Triennial will consider how to present dialogical and relational work, create opportunities for the debate of the fierce and urgent questions of the day and move beyond rhetoric to create opportunities for action.

Heart of Glass, founded through the Creative People and Places programme in 2014 and an Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation from 1 April 2018, has established itself as an agency for collaborative and social arts practice. It is the first organisation in England dedicated to the development and support of this practice across all art forms and leads on this with St Helens Council to support the Borough in its wider cultural ambitions to be a centre of excellence in this area.

This April 2018, Heart of Glass hosts its annual WITH FOR ABOUT conference to discuss and reflect on the questions facing collaborative and social art today, and more broadly reflect on the role of art and artists in society, and the nature and potential of collaborative art with and within community and social contexts. The conference will be the first in a series of action research tasks over the coming years with the aim of shaping and developing the Triennial.

For more information about WITH FOR ABOUT 2018, click HERE

Heart of Glass’ programme of events and commissions has brought International artists such as Mark Storor, Studio Morison, ANU Productions, Scottee and idle women to work with communities across the Borough, creating ambitious, radical and exciting art, whilst also nurturing and supporting local talent. With an internationally significant artistic programme, and a soon be launched criticality programme, Heart of Glass is acknowledged as a leader in this field – a potent catalyst for positive collaboration, a pro-active innovator and a pioneer in brokering the reciprocal relationship between contemporary arts and modern society, a champion for interdisciplinary, cross art-form and cross-sector collaborative practice, and a powerful and provocative conduit for new ideas.

Over the past four years, Heart of Glass, its partners and the people of St Helens have collectively accomplished a transformative step-change in the depth and quality of art and opportunities for artistic and cultural involvement across the borough of St Helens. This has led to a dramatic re-engagement of arts and culture in the civic life of St Helens, in its self-definition and its identity, as well as in its public realm and physical fabric, such that the civic leadership has publicly acknowledged – and is currently working with Heart of Glass to realise – the re-positioning of arts and culture as front and centre to its vision for the borough, to its regeneration and investment strategy, and to its plans for future growth.

For FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS Heart of Glass are partnering with Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts in Ireland. Both organisations recognise that while collaborative ways of working are not new, it is the depth of relationship and connection which frames the new practice. The recent proliferation in this type of work has been influenced by the impact of globalisation, digitalisation, the economic crisis, austerity, increased pressure on local budgets and services, and the groundswell of grassroots movements and local activism.

FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS sets out to present and critically examine how arts and cultural practice operating across multiple fields of knowledge and experience can influence and help shape our collective futures.

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England: “Heart of Glass has done amazing work in attracting artists, communities and audiences to St Helens as one of our Creative People and Places projects and I’m delighted that it is joining our national portfolio in April. And it is great to see the Triennial being launched in St Helens – I’m sure it will attract artists and collaborations which will continue the excellent artistic and cultural offer in the region.”

Patrick Fox, Heart of Glass Director: “We’re delighted to be announcing this initiative, and as with all our projects, this will be artist, producer and community led, and will resonate across art form. Partners such as Create Ireland, Axisweb, idle women, Liverpool Biennial, Super Slow Way, Arnolfini, Open Eye Gallery and In Situ and colleagues across the Creative People and Places Network nationally and the Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme internationally (an EU funded initiative of which Heart of Glass is a member) will be critical to shaping this project. This is a collaborative undertaking, the door is open and we are keen to hear from other interested parties. As well as the partners listed, we will be widening this network and building momentum over the coming months and years to ensure we are diverse, representative and well placed to have fierce and urgent conversations. We believe some of the most exciting work in contemporary art exists within this field of practice, creating people and place driven work that is uniquely positioned to respond to the politics of our times.  We look forward to the collaborative process in crafting an essential and vital platform within the International collaborative and social arts practice landscape, and cementing St Helens as a destination at the forefront of critical practice and thinking.”

Ailbhe Murphy, Director of Create: “As Ireland’s development agency for collaborative arts, we are delighted to partner with Heart of Glass to realise this exciting and timely initiative. FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS will generate necessary debate about the contemporary field of collaborative arts practice and will begin by asking, “what could a Triennial for collaborative and socially engaged arts practice look like?” As artists and arts and civil society organisations working in this field, how can we create the conditions to engage with multiple forms of cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary and embodied local and regional knowledge? How can we best consider, animate and legitimise those knowledge’s through meaningful exchange and practice? We look forward to working with Heart of Glass and additional partners including the Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme network on FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS, which will act as a barometer for the compelling questions that animate our contemporary socio-political and cultural antagonisms.”

Heather Peak from Studio Morison (Artist): “I am delighted to be part of the Heart of Glass team and their future-plans. Something extraordinary is happening in St Helens, art and creativity is central, urgent and important to the health and well-being of this place and its people. It is becoming not only about what we make, but how we behave and ultimately how we can survive, process our increasingly difficult lives and ultimately prosper. Art is the most powerful action we can make, it speaks directly to us of our lives, our anxieties, our joy and our potential power. Artist’s know that the best way to solve a problem is just to begin, and here in St Helens we have begun a journey that will touch our personal, civic, work and home life, and ultimately allow us be in control of our futures.”

Councillor Gill Neal, St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health & Wellbeing: “Artistic and social collaboration on this scale is certainly something we have been interested in supporting especially with Heart of Glass’ continuing ambition to create exciting and unique art with, of and for our local communities in St Helens. This announcement cements St Helens’ position as a national centre for collaborative and social arts practice.”

Claire McColgan, Director of Culture Liverpool: “We are delighted to support Heart of Glass and St Helens in this exciting new development. Our work together across the City-Region over the coming years will further re-inforce the vital role that art and culture can play across our communities, and the work by Heart of Glass in St Helens over the past number of years has shown real leadership and vision, offering something unique to the region. This is a welcome and ambitious development and we look forward to working together to make it a huge success for the region.”

Rachel Anderson and Cis O’Boyle, Caretakers, idle women: “For years now socially engaged practitioners have spoken of the need to consolidate our knowledge and expertise, to articulate our practice from the ground where we work and to challenge the mis-understanding and mis-representation that leads to instrumentalisation by the Institution. Heart of Glass has been established to listen and activate these discussions here in the UK. What better place to create a new centre of practice than the North West and what better town than St Helens. FIERCE & URGENT CONVERSATIONS is the critical emergence of body of practitioners who create with passion, skill and rigour, we have been talking for many years, now is the time for our action. These are exciting times.”

Claire Doherty, Director, Arnolfini and former Director, Situations: “This new initiative represents a significant moment for contemporary culture in the UK which demonstrates that it’s time for a new generation of socially progressive and civically-dedicated arts organisations and initiatives to take the lead. Grown out of a complex and rich history of social practice, community arts, gallery education and place-based producing, such initiatives are offering an alternative to the cathedrals of culture. To say that we are working with Heart of Glass and Situations on the development of “Fierce and Urgent Questions” feels like exactly what an arts organisation should be committing its time to. That St. Helens presents such an exemplary mode of posing those questions – through locally impactful and internationally resonant new work is all the more thrilling. We can’t wait to get started.”

Sarah Fisher, Director of Open Eye Gallery: “Partnering Heart Of Glass in this significant and timely programme is a natural fit for Open Eye Gallery. Photography has become the most pervasive medium through which individuals and communities share their lives on a daily basis through social media. Open Eye Gallery is developing a national network on Socially Engaged Photography practice, building upon it’s recent 2 year Culture Shifts programme – which Heart of Glass partnered – which saw 10 photographers working with communities to co-author new cultural programmes across the city region. We will shortly announce a new MA Socially Engaged Photography Practice with University of Salford starting September 2018 and look forward to exploring our shared agenda through the ambitions of the Triennial programme.”

Dr. Alastair Roy and Professor Lynn Froggett, Psychosocial Research Unit, University of Central Lancashire: “Globally, collaborative social arts is a practice whose time has come – but one with an emergent knowledge base. In St Helens, the 10 year vision set out by Heart of Glass makes it ideally placed to lead research in this area and as a key academic partner, the University of Central Lancashire is working with them to build an open research platform that aims to build on the experience of the programme itself and an international network of practitioners and researchers. It addresses the pressing questions raised by art that engages with an expansive canvas of questions that have both local and international significance: on cultural citizenship, social justice, civic space and sustainability as well as the finer grained issues of well-being, relationship and intimacy. Heart of Glass is a thinking organisation ‘without walls’, strongly located in place. This paradox shapes its curiosity and its promise.”

Chrissie Tiller – Thinker, writer and teacher on social arts practice and Heart of Glass Associate: “In the four years I have worked with Heart of Glass I have been immeasurably impressed by their commitment to a more collaborative and social arts practice and its potential to ‘shift our sense of what is possible, unleash imaginations and model and experiment with new ways of being in the world.’  They have done this, not only by commissioning leading artists in the field to make exciting, challenging and brave work with the people of St Helens but also by creating important spaces for critical reflection.  Spaces that embrace difficult conversations, share new and different knowledges and welcome dissent in the struggle for greater social justice and cultural democracy.  I am delighted to be working with them on FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS and can think of no better arts organisation than Heart of Glass or town than St Helens to be leading this exciting and timely initiative.”

Heart of Glass is an agency for collaborative and social arts practice based in St Helens, Merseyside. Made possible by an initial investment of £1.5 million from Arts Council England through the Creative People and Places programme, it is supported by a consortium of partners and collaborators.

Heart of Glass is made with, of and for St Helens. Its programme is rooted in collaborative practice and embodies the principle of partnership. Its core values, philosophy and approach as a project are founded on co- production with the community and the active participation of the collaborator, non-artist, audience and viewer in the creation of great art. People, both individually and within communities of place or interest, are central to both their thinking and practice.

FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS: The First International Triennial of Social and Collaborative Arts Practice will take place in St Helens in Autumn 2021. While collaborative ways of working are not new, it is the depth of relationship and connection which frames a new practice.   In collaborative arts, non-arts participants can become both co-creator and new audience in an exciting area of practice that cuts across art-form and cuts across context, a practice with infinite potential. The recent proliferation in this type of work has been influenced by the impact of globalisation, digitalisation, the economic crisis, austerity, increased pressure on local budgets and services, and the groundswell of grassroots movements and local activism. Increasingly, artists are routinely working in a variety of settings, including health, education, regeneration, prison, science and tech contexts, with people of all age ranges, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and presented in increasingly innovative public realm and ‘non-arts’ civic spaces, such as hospitals, prisons, schools and older people’s homes.

For further press information please contact Catharine Braithwaite on +44 (0)7947 644 110 or cat@we-r-lethal.com