The Power of Participation and Collaboration in Arts and Culture
“Participate! Yes, but in what, how, and for what purpose? What does participation mean, imply, and entail? Do we know what participating means?”
Collaborating with a group of people in the arts can be an immensely fulfilling experience, as it harnesses the collective power of diverse strengths and experiences. However, in many cases, collaboration is limited to individual contributions, disregarding the potential for identifying and addressing everyone’s needs. Conversely, collaborative practices recognise differences and disagreements, which can lead to innovative solutions and approaches for promoting inclusivity and commitment among participants.
Such participatory and collaborative practices are increasingly popular in the creative field, transforming the relationship between artists and their audiences. With the evolving role of artists and the emergence of new collaborative practices, the arts are becoming a powerful instrument for social change, fostering greater understanding and empathy among diverse communities.
The emergence of new collaborative methods in the arts has brought up significant questions regarding the creative process, authorship, and moral accountability. These issues may differ depending on the context in which the work is produced, and as a result, the status of the artist is evolving. In contemporary society, artists are increasingly being viewed as conductors who conceive, organise, assemble, and direct collaborative projects. This metaphor suggests that artists are taking on a more collaborative and community-oriented role, harnessing the collective power of diverse perspectives and skills to create transformative works. This shift in the relationship between artists and their communities provides new avenues for philanthropic support to drive positive social change.
The arts and culture field can be a powerful tool for promoting social change and advancing social justice. Artists can inspire, provoke, and challenge social norms, and philanthropic support for their work can amplify their voices and messages. By supporting arts organisations, and artists who focus on issues related to social justice, philanthropists can help to drive positive change and create a more just and equitable society. Therefore, investing in the arts can be a strategic approach to addressing social issues and creating a better world for all.
To emphasise the value,[ii] of collaboration and participation in arts and culture philanthropy, we must acknowledge the potential of participatory art practices. Participation and collaboration are crucial elements of art and culture projects because they provide opportunities for people to engage with and contribute to the creative process. Involving individuals in arts and culture projects can lead to a sense of ownership and investment in the outcome, which can increase their level of engagement and appreciation for the project. These practices involve individuals in the creative process, enabling them to collaborate with artists and co-create works that are significant to their lives and communities. One of the main benefits of participation and collaboration in art projects is that they can promote social cohesion and community development by fostering cross-cultural understanding and empathy.[iii] By investing in the arts, philanthropists can support artists who focus on social justice issues and contribute to creating a more equitable society. This aligns with the principles of participatory philanthropy, increasing engagement and investment in the project and generating greater social impact. Connecting participatory art practices with philanthropic efforts in the arts and culture field creates more inclusive and empowering projects that foster community development and drive positive change. Additionally, it is important to recognise the environmental impact of the arts and culture sector. Supporting sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in this sector can contribute to a more sustainable future and address pressing environmental challenges.
Throughout history, arts and culture have held a significant place in society, and their relevance persists today. As interest in the arts has expanded, a broader audience has gained access to their diverse benefits. The arts provide more than just aesthetic pleasure and entertainment; they also play a vital role in times of crisis. Whether through music, visual arts, theatre, dance, literature, or any other form of expression, the arts can bring people together, inspire creativity, provide comfort, and offer hope.
During times of crisis, such as natural disasters, economic downturns, political instability, or pandemics, the arts have played an essential function in helping people cope and find meaning. Artistic expression can offer a way to process difficult emotions, communicate complex ideas, and find a sense of community and shared experience. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many musicians, dancers, and other artists turned to online platforms to continue their work and provide a sense of connection and comfort to audiences who were isolated at home.
At the Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso, we firmly believe that art is an essential aspect of human expression that has accompanied us since the beginning of time. Art satisfies our basic needs to comprehend the world around us, establish significance and social connections, envision different realities, and encounter our emotions. Through our « Art in the community » programme, we aim to support artists, scientists, cultural institutions, and civil society initiatives that leverage the power of art to promote citizenship, develop a sensitive and critical perspective of the world, and strengthen social cohesion while embracing diversity. For us, « art in the community » means actively contributing to a sustainable and equitable future that values the needs of all human beings while also acknowledging the fragility of our environment. It cultivates empathy, fosters democracy, and promotes eco-responsibility. We firmly believe that art plays a pivotal role in constructing and sustaining a sense of citizenship and acts as a catalyst for change in tackling the current challenges that our world faces.[iv]
Philea’s Arts and Culture Thematic Network has provided an opportunity to collaborate and discuss art and culture to identify opportunities to positively impact society. The second edition of “Arts & Culture at the Core of Philanthropy” demonstrates the breadth and diversity of organisations engaged in various themes related to arts and culture philanthropy. The publication also highlights the importance of collaboration, participation, and inclusivity in the field.
In conclusion, philanthropy plays a pivotal role in supporting the arts and culture, which advance individual and community well-being. Philanthropists can contribute to economic growth, education, community development, social cohesion, and social justice by supporting the arts. It is vital to recognize and support the value of arts and culture in the face of modern world challenges.
[i] Essai sur les formes démocratiques de la participation, J. Zask, Le Bord de l’eau, Lormont, 2011, 200 p.
[ii] According to a 2018 report by the European Union, the cultural and creative sectors contribute €509 billion to the EU’s economy, representing 4.2% of the EU’s GDP. The report also found that these sectors provide employment for more than 12 million people in the EU, representing 7.5% of total employment in the EU. Furthermore, a study by the European Commission found that cultural and creative activities can enhance social inclusion, improve health and well-being, and foster creativity and innovation. These statistics demonstrate the significant economic and social benefits that the arts can provide in Europe.
[iii] To learn more about the impact of arts and culture on social issues and well-being, additional information can be found in various reports. The European Parliament published a report titled “Culture as a Driver for EU Integration and Cohesion” on May 4, 2016. The European Union also published a report on the impact of cultural participation, titled “Cultural Participation and Inclusive Societies,” in 2019. Furthermore, the Arts Council England conducted a study on the impact of arts on health and well-being, published in 2018 under the title “Evidence Review: The Impact of Arts on Health and Wellbeing.”
[iv] Some examples of projects supported by the Fondation Carasso related to participation and cultural democracy include “Council” (2017), which emphasizes continuous deliberation to examine modes of production and the hierarchy of knowledge; “Dulala” (2022), an initiative dedicated to asserting the equal value of all languages; the “Les Blés d’or” art center project, spearheaded by Valérie Mréjen and Mohamed El Khatib, fostering artistic and cultural collaboration; and Barthélémy Toguo’s Bandjoun Station, which serves as a third place for art and community engagement.