Greetings readers and thanks so much for taking an interest in Kickstart Arts enough to read a blog from me!
I have been asked by my team to put into writing the ideas behind Kickstart Arts in the form of a blog. Here goes – this is my first go at a blog post – I hope to do this regularly for a while, so you’ll have to let me know how it’s going and I’ll try to keep it interesting.
Here I outline some of the work we do as well as the ideas behind it …
It's complex and it crosses into many areas. Kickstart Arts is and arts and cultural organisation, and we work across sectors. We produce projects that bring together agencies and communities from different places and sectors, to work on collaborative creative projects that positively impact on all involved.
Lifelong learning, placemaking and project production
Established in 1992, our practice has evolved over 26 years from being producers working in other people’s places, to establishing a place of our own. The St Johns Creative Living Park is our initiative to provide a place that can be a stable point of connection - where people can make friends, make art and make a difference.
Some of the great things happening currently at the St Johns Creative Living Park include creative workshops in a whole range of creative, cultural and life skills; a youth dance company; a choir; Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi workshops; community garden; community venues with accessible spaces for groups to hold their special events; a community kitchen, a photo lab and dark room; outdoor and indoor concerts; all ages dancing; spaces for bands to practice and record; Forums for discussion about philosophy, politics and science; heritage buildings and a history group; mentorships for emerging musicians and artists; a safe space for people with mental health issues to make and learn about art; a 100 seat theatre/cinema.
As well as this we do projects where people can engage with an artist led project for a year at a time, with a public outcome to be proud of, such as a suite of short films, an installation or a new live performance work.
To lead our projects Kickstart Arts employs Teaching Artists, who are practicing artists with the extra skills and sensibilities of a teacher. They can facilitate, curate, plan and evaluate and sensitively lead and support the work of other people to make art. In some cases Kickstart Arts trains artists to become Teaching Artists by providing them with mentors and on the job training.
Towards Treaty – putting first people first.
We recognise that the land we live and work on has never been ceded and there has been no treaty. We think a Treaty is essential if we are to genuinely acknowledge the horrible aspects of our colonial past and work together to create a better future. A concept of reconciliation doesn’t make any sense if there has never been a treaty. Every day we walk on the land of the pakana, first people of lutruwita (Tasmania). This is not to be taken lightly or taken for granted. We want to embody the spirit of treaty in all that we do, so we respect and consult pakana representatives on all key decisions and hold space for them to practice culture and lead healing at the Kickstart Arts Centre as they see fit.
There is a widening gap between the highest and lowest income earners and this gap has been widening over the past twenty to thirty years in Australia. People in the top 20% of income earners have been pulling away from the majority of us at an increasing rate since the Global Financial Crisis in 2007. Excessive inequality is a problem for any society. It means that people have unequal ability to take part in social and economic opportunities, and it undermines the cohesiveness of that society. We believe creative collective action can provide part of the antidote to inequality.
The future does not look like the past.
We need to be ready for a future where we live differently. The future is in the space between the silo'd sectors where there can be joined up thinking and collaborative action. Kickstart Arts projects help people embrace imaginative problem solving and work with others to access resources that hopefully will enable them to spring into action and bring their creative ideas into form.
Re-purposing heritage buildings
Kickstart Arts is saving a set of iconic heritage buildings from dereliction, converting them into a new hub for community arts and cultural development. Once repaired, a diverse range of artists and cultural organisations will take up residence, sharing resources, exchanging ideas and creating new opportunities for Tasmanians to engage culturally.
This is an extraordinary opportunity to reclaim a piece of Tasmania’s history, turning it into a place for living arts and culture to promote health and wellbeing. It is also an opportunity to use the colonial history as a focal point for examining the past to create a better future. We have a partnership with the Crown and the Department of Health to create a new and inclusive place for arts and health.
Moving from an industrial to a networked society
The world we are emerging from was industrial and the new world is digital. Industrial/mechanical systems required people to be fitted, however roughly, into the cogs of an industrial machine. People have not fared well under this model, which has bred great inequality and forced people to endure great hardships. The Colonial paradigm was an industrial paradigm that did not value life, or spirit, or culture.
The St Johns Creative Living Park is intended to be a place where people can change and grow together. A place to discuss, to dream, to learn and share. We are changing and growing together. Growing community, growing capacity, growing artists and art, growing music, growing ideas, growing food – infact growing our own abilities to grow.
Kickstart Arts are network weavers.
We are an agency for a networked economy. The new world is digital, networked and based on relationships. It values connection, collaboration, life and spirit. It is not necessarily predictable and certainly not mechanical, but rather it is evolving, creative and nuanced. Some call it chaos - but it's not quite chaos – there’s just has another logic to it - a logic of cause and effect, webbed together in endlessly changing relationship networks of action and reaction and interaction.
Gearing up for some vital changes
Economic change: the new paradigm requires different sensibilities about some key drivers in economic thinking. We are gearing up for some vital changes to how we do things.
Rethinking belief in competition. We need a new economics that respects people. We need to move on from the paradigm of old word economics that has no conscience, is not values driven and relies on the triumph of winners over losers. And then blames the losers for not winning an essentially rigged game.
We need to find win-win relationships to move forward in a positive direction, to slow climate breakdown and impact on the so called ‘wicked problems’ of world hunger, poverty, poor health and environmental disaster.
The question that remains is - will we make the changes in time?
People often reconcile with their life’s wrongdoing at that essential moment before death, when on their death bed they review their life, let go of their fears and give and seek forgiveness. We don’t want to leave it to that last minute, when change comes too late to mitigate against the human suffering that comes with total climate breakdown.
The answers may lie in network weaving. Communities are built on connections. Better connections usually provide better opportunities.
Rethinking the profit motive.
Money is just one answer to the question, “Why do we work?” we do need money to live and provide for our basic needs. However beyond a certain point it get less important, and people are motivated by something else. Usually it is to provide something meaningful that we can believe in. The ‘open source’ movement, sparked by the internet, is a perfect example of people sharing their work because it’s fun and meaningful for them. It’s not always financially lucrative. We’ve spent too much time listening to people who think the world is mostly about the monetary value of things. If profit was the most important thing we wouldn’t spend time walking in the forest or playing musical instruments or doing anything that didn’t translate into a money for us. A sharing economy is on the rise.
A Sense of Our Place. If nothing else, the bushfires closely followed by COVID-19 have taught us that great suffering brings out great altruism and creativity in most ordinary people. This is the road forward for humans on earth. We believed for too long in an arrogant and false idea that earth was here for the humans - but its simply not so. Earth will be fine without us – it’s human survival we need to work on.
The industrial paradigm took us away from a proper sense of our place in the ecosystem. It’s a kind of narcissistic magical thinking that would have us believe that we are any more than Earth’s gardeners, or that we are basically entitled to be here no matter what we do or how we behave. The garden is dying, human activity has caused that, and we must act collectively and collaboratively to regenerate it.
Resilience. We can't bounce back from COVID-19 because the old ways are the ones that got us into this mess. The noun resilience stems from the Latin resiliens "to rebound, recoil." As a character trait, resilience is a person's mental ability to recover quickly from misfortune, illness or depression. Adaptability on the other hand refers to a person’s ability to change their actions, course or approach to doing things in order to suit a new situation.
We need to bounce forward into a new paradigm. A networked paradigm. One where there is more kindness, less ego, more love, more connection, more respect for natural systems, and more respect for life.
Sustainability. Sustainability likewise is old hat. Sustainability is out and regeneration is in. We don’t need to sustain what we have, we need to heal it. Regenerative cultures are grounded in adaptation, health and facilitating the conditions for societies, individuals and planet Earth to flourish in an evolving way.
The Notion of Scarcity. Our current system is based in a false belief in scarcity. When people have unequal access and the story is that there can never be enough to go around, and the concept is to punish the poor - we have a closed loop rooted in a concept of lack.
I think if we change the concept of where zero is, we might be able to have abundance. Australians left without an income due to coronavirus now have access to increased social security payments. This was brought in to protect the economy. With deskilling technology, and a recession on the doorstep, increased levels of unemployment are inevitable. We can’t afford not to rethink the way we deliver welfare and how we function as an economy. Why not re-calibrate zero to being $1500 per fortnight? People will get active and involved in regenerative enterprises and other creative things – in a myriad different ways - the majority wont retire to the couch.
Kickstart Arts provides workshops, forums and creative projects that promote community action and support ordinary people to usher in a new paradigm.
Change is political: Local Decision Making is part of the agenda to establish a new relationship between Aboriginal communities and government agencies to support self-determination in the Northern Territory. I’m a fan. It seems to me that anything that can be decided at the local level should be. The idea of ‘nothing about it without us’ is intuitive to me. If people organise at the local level to make key decisions that affect us and the ones we live with and love, surely it will result in better decisions. Especially if we move away from short term profit motive thinking only and embrace long, long and longer term planning that considers the needs of our great-grand children’s great-grand children.
Change is cultural: Kickstart Arts has been heralding in the new story. We have created a place at St Johns Creative Living Park that embodies the change to come as old systems fail. This involves not only working across sectors but taking cultural action and telling a new story that we can all embrace.
We are storytellers. We are network weavers. We are teachers and facilitators. We are artists and arts workers. Our projects are helping people to change together.
Change is personal. Largely as a consequence of the old paradigms of industrial and colonial thinking, we have become disconnected from ourselves in a sense, as much as we have become disconnected from our communities and our land.
Becoming WELL involves bringing together the internal elements within each human being. These elements include our innate physicality as well as our intellectual, imaginative, creative, intuitive, altruistic, compassionate, practical, scientific and spiritual inner selves all wrapped up into one.
The departure from seeing ourselves as the whole package has led us to experiencing escalating mental illness including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide.
Kickstart Arts offers wellbeing strategies to support people to become more whole and more healthy. Joining the dots inside and out. The Kickstart Arts Centre and St Johns Creative Living Park are essentially a warm hearted place for connecting with others to participate in investigating, learning, growing and practicing being the change we want to see.
In my next blog post I will explore how ARTS AND CULTURE fit into all this!
Friday, 8 May 2020