What is Community Arts?

Mural Workshop

So what exactly is Community Arts?

Defining, clarifying and reflecting on what we do is essential and something we do all the time at Valley and Vale Community Arts, to inform our practice and make sure we are offering the best process we can to everyone we have the privilege to work with. The Community Arts sector is a sector of change, a sector about change; we are transforming lives, and this dynamic means we need to be especially clear about what we are aiming to do.

Our thoughts about our work are all over this web site, so we thought you might like to read some other thoughts and definitions about Community Arts.

Alex Bowen, Director, Valley and Vale,
Chair, Wales Association of Community Arts

Webster Med.; 1997; Finding Voices, Making Choices

Community Arts is a way of describing creative activities that bring people together in their communities and that give people the opportunity to gain new skills and new opportunities. Community Arts works to nurture the potential that exists in all communities to be creative and to find a voice to express their concerns through and using the Arts.

Community Arts is a term embracing all those activities which involve groups of people doing creative things together. What differentiates Community Arts, say, from amateur arts or the professional or commercial arts, is that:

  • It promotes participation, regardless of the existing level of skill or talent
  • It is undertaken by a group who either have the same collective identity, or a goal greater than the art form itself, or both
  • It is developed primarily to provide opportunities for people who through economic or social circumstance have little access to the means to participate in the Arts

CAF (Community Arts Forum):

‘Community Arts is a specific practice within a field of allied work, singularly concerned with the original collective creative expression of a community. The core values of Community Arts practice inform the development and delivery of training and education for that practice. Learning can take place in a range of ways; it should be undertaken by those who may think they don’t need it, and accessible to those who think they can’t aspire to it, to raise the quality and the impact of the work.’

Fegan T (2003) Learning and Community Arts Leicester, NIACE:

‘Community Arts is an activity rooted in a specific community in which participants decide, organise and practise the arts in response to their own ideas and lives.’

essays & articles

Chasing the Dragon: creative community responses to the crisis in the South Wales coalfield.

Creating Meaning: a book about culture and democracy, edited by Jerry Rothwell

Counselling Skills at Work: Katja Stiller

Person-Centred Creativity – A Learning Curve by Nick Clements, Katja Stiller, Alex Bowen and Rhys Hughes, Valley and Vale Community Arts, October 2005