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These days there are many wonderful and informal ways in which we can learn about the things we love to do. At Voluntary Arts Ireland we are seeing the value of peer-to-peer arts based approaches to learning and the sharing of skills, ideas and resources.
From the beginning of 2016 we have helped set up a number of creative clusters across Northern Ireland; #artsNI (based in Belfast), #DERRYcreatives (based in Derry-Londonderry) and #lovetoSEW. These are un-funded, open source and collaborative groups for creative people who want to contribute to the future of their area and/or artform and showcase their talents to the world. The purpose of the groups is to enable a 'from the bottom up' approach to the arts in NI to give even the smallest grass roots individual a voice, to enable creative entrepreneurs to develop their businesses and enable all involved to showcase what they do.
Learning has been a strong feature of these groups. Members want to learn about the art form they are interested in but also in how to organise and promote events, develop their sales and marketing skills and fundraise. The groups meet on a monthly basis and share ideas via closed facebook groups with the needs of the group being supported through the available resources within the group and its connections.
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A perfect example of this was the Createathon that took place in the Ulster Museum Belfast as part of BBC Get Creative Day on 2nd April 2016. Members of #artsNI attended a meeting in the BBC to discuss Get Creative Day and from there committed to putting on an event collectively. Also in the room was the Ulster Museum who offered to host the event and from there everyone worked together to develop the Createathon at which 15 creative artists and groups put on activities for over 2500 members of the public.
As well as being a vehicle to promote what they do an event such as the Createathon also provides a focal point for people to learn how to do things. Everyone has to get involved in organising aspects of the event and working alongside others who have knowledge and expertise. This learning alongside happened as part of the regular monthly meetings and within smaller groups who took on specific tasks.
Perhaps the biggest learning curve for many of the members of #artsNI was with the media. BBC NI had got behind the Createathon and as well as broadcasting one of their radio shows live from the event as well as streaming it on their facebook page they trailed the activities each night in the week running up. That meant local artists from #artsNI going on to BBC Radio Ulster’s The Arts Show to demonstrate what they did and talk about their passion for their art form. For many this was one of their first media appearances.
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In addition another company, Makematic, specialising in online educational content for young people got involved and as well as running an event as part of the day took the opportunity to film ‘how to’ craft videos with a number of the members of the group to put up on their site. Not only was this a crash course in video presentation for those giving the demonstrations but their skills and expertise reached a new audience of young people through Makematic’s subscribers.
To see the video presentation skills the #artsNI members learned in a few hours at the end of a busy day of public participation you can view the three ‘how to’ videos below:
How to embroider using cool techniques with Emma Whitehead
How to make an origami dove with Kate Smeltzer
How to make a quilting pattern with hexagon patchwork with Pamela Emerson
Learning through the arts is relational and wonderfully disguised as play - the ultimate learn by doing approach integrating motivation, skill development and social connection. The approach taken by #artsNI also highlights its collaborative and project based nature providing an open space for everyone’s expertise to be valued.
Article by Kevin Murphy
Chief Officer Voluntary Arts Ireland