This is the final part of a three-part series about "opportunity areas". The first two blog posts in the series, Unearthing socially engaged art’s complicity in the gentrification of Elephant & Castle nd 'There for the taking', focused on three artists who I suggested were complicit in gentrification by working for state-funded initiatives like Creative People and Places and with property developers Delancey in the soon-to-be-demolished shopping centre at Elephant and Castle. I know quite a few people felt I had been unfair, aggressive, vitriolic, indignant and cynical. I was at pains to explain that the tale I told was not unique nor unusual. Socially engaged art is commonly used as a form of placemaking. The examples I described in the work of Eva Sajovic, Rebecca Davies and Sarah Butler were mundane. A perhaps crass attempt to illustrate much bigger problems in our lives that are mirrored in art practices.
This is part two of a three-part series of posts about Opportunity Areas. Part one is here.
Part two explores Sarah Butler’s work in a little more detail. Creative consultations, writing stories for Creative People and Places, advocacy of socially engaged writing as part of regeneration agendas, poetry hoardings ‘covering’ demolished social housing sites whilst new builds spring up and working for the New Deal for Communities. It reveals, perhaps, how artists can be increasingly drawn into complicit relationships with local councils, the state, funders, charities, schools and property developers.
Everyone loves an opportunity don’t they? What about a whole area of opportunities: an Opportunity Area? Investors love them. Property developers love them. Local councils love them. The State loves them. Even (some) artists love them. Opportunities for all! (Well, not people living in social housing … Oh, and not homeless people … Erm, and not market stall holders … Low income families who bought their own council home? No!)
This blog post explores the art world equivalent of MI5 – the socially engaged artists – the creative secret service for third wave gentrification, who, unlike the pioneering, colonial foot soldiers of first and second wave gentrification, do not necessarily live in gentrifying areas and are paid to infiltrate soon-to-be-decanted communities of social housing tenants, low income home owners, market stall holders and small shopkeepers, even, on occasion, homeless people.
This is a little part of a draft section of my PhD thesis. It examines Creative People and Places, particularly, their People, Place, Power: Increasing Arts Engagement conference, suggesting empowerment may not be all it's cracked up to be, especially when 'delivered' by state-sanctioned, instrumentalising arts organisations and artists - the foot soldiers of state social art provision...
This is a short response to my experience of taking part in Tabloid for the Oppressed, an invite-only event that was part of the Hidden Civil War programme at the Newbridge Project in Newcastle upon Tyne. A critical reflection not about the aims of the event but rather about the strange feeling I got when I realised I was at an arts event about 'the oppressed' at which the participants were almost 100% white, where there were more men than women, where the presenters were all men, where most people there were from a certain class and possessed higher-than-normal levels of cultural capital.