EDDC seeks views for arts and culture strategy

Details of EDDC’s arts and culture strategy can be found here, including invitation to tender for strategy process with 18 January closing date – Owl

John Astley, local author and facilitator of Exmouth community in this week’s Exmouth Journal writes:

Readers of this column will be familiar with my pieces on art and culture. For example, ‘Problems with Art’ (June), ‘Champions of art and culture help connect communities’ (October) and ‘Art and Nature’ (November).

All of these pieces were linked to my role of Education Champion for Arts and Culture East Devon (ACED) which has made a good start in bringing together artists in the widest sense. to discuss their own practice, and crucially their role and how it is played in the everyday life of East Devon. You may know that EDDC has now taken this Arts & Culture initiative a step further by inviting responses to a call for tenders for the new East Devon Culture Strategy (go to the EDDC or Thelma Hulbert Gallery (Honiton) websites for details. The tender documents reiterate the aims. aspirations and priorities of the East Devon Culture Strategy:

I. Better homes and communities for all

2. Greener East Devon

3. A resilient economy

The documents, with quotes from Councillor Nick Hookway EDDC portfolio holder for tourism, sport. leisure and culture. emphasise the social and economic value of the arts and heritage industries to East Devon. This whole initiative raises many key questions about the nature of arts and culture, or perhaps that should be culture and the arts, in East Devon. There are some institutional arts and culture agents already established in that locality. but there are also a very large and diverse number of artists of many practices across our communities. Many of these individuals, and small scale organisations, are actively engaged in creating and promoting the arts within our communities. The diversity of artists who are currently members of the ACED network is impressive, and they bring a great deal to this new cultural strategy They are also looking forward to the successful implementation of the Arts & Culture strategy to help them to continue. and develop as practising artists.

At our most recent Network Forum meeting a good deal was said about the Creative Industries, which is a term that covers a range of economic activities which are concerned with the generation and exploitation of knowledge. information. and artistic endeavour across a wide spectrum. This approach reflects the idea that human creativity is the ultimate economic resource, on a personal and social scale. This seems to be at the heart of the EDDC strategy.

However. we also need to consider the idea of the Culture Industries: a more focussed generalisation of the way artists work within a range of everyday conditions that affect their practice. Are with talking about the solo painter or illustrator, the musician, the filmmaker, the dancer or singer, local galleries, the cinema, the local theatre groups and so on? They are all economically active, it is their labour and livelihood; but it is also their vocation, the way in which their aesthetic values drive them to do what they do.

So, the motives of those engaged with art and culture are inevitably diverse, with some practitioners and organisations being much more profit-driven than others. Many artists in East Devon have created a CIC or Social Enterprise. through which to do their work in a not-for-profit manner. Many artists are very wary of the manner in which the profit motive often trumps aesthetic values. The idea of Culture is also central to this arts and culture strategy because I would argue that ‘culture is ordinary’: it is the lived culture of a particular time and place, our everyday lives which includes our creative and artistic labour ‘Our’ culture also has a history to it, and usually with most artists. ideas about what a future social life should be like, could be like, given more leadership and encouragement. More opportunities. support and access to resources, and less bureaucracy!

So, all of these issues, ideas and arguments about aims, motives and the like, will need to be discussed, and decisions made in the most democratic way possible. Don’t be left out of this discussion!