Participatory Artist

Richard Jeffery - photo courtesy of Nick Baxter

photo courtesy of Nick Baxter

I have been running participatory arts projects for over a decade now, and still find this an exhilarating aspect of my working practice – part education, part exploration, part celebration.  I am also a member of ZooFish Arts CIC, a social enterprise company set up in 2012 with two other Dorset artists to offer arts projects for local communities, including mental health service user groups.

All workshops are intended to develop communication and interpersonal skills in addition to any creative growth; other aspects – independence, community development, self image, etc – can be built in.  We always spend some time talking about the art form we use, looking at how it affects us in our daily lives and trying to work out what works, what doesn't.  As an example, in community and housing estate based photography projects we explore how we respond to images in the media, and perhaps how we can use those same skills to promote a more positive image.

Wherever possible I like a project to end in some celebratory event, preferably a public exhibition of the work.  Planning and running such an event provides more opportunities for developing a broader range of skills and experience, of course…  Recent projects have had work exhibited in 'proper' gallery spaces such as Bournemouth Library and Russell Cotes Museum, and has figured in an Arts Council roadshow of good practice.  I also plan where possible for projects to continue after my involvement – an early project in Christchurch gave rise to a camera club within the drop-in centre which ran for five years or so.

I like to think that anything is possible, given the right amount of support.  The first projects I ran in Bristol developed a way for wheelchair users with upper body mobility issues to use cameras on tripods, as well as identifying types of adaptations that could be worked up if needed.  I'm keen to put into practice some ideas I have been developing for a photography project for individuals with severe visual impairment….

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