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Image credit: Stephen King Photography.
Image by Stephen King from Bliss Park Project, Studio Morison (2018)

Create and Heart Of Glass launch New International Triennial

Create are delighted to partner with Heart of Glass to announce the launch of FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS: The First International Triennial of Social and Collaborative Arts Practice, taking place in Autumn 2021 In St Helens, Merseyside, United Kingdom.

FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS will be a convening of work, debate, resources and publications for those who make, watch, research, study, teach, produce, present, write about and archive collaborative and social arts practice. Both Create and Heart of Glass recognise that while collaborative ways of working are not new, it is the depth of relationship and connection which frames the new practice. The recent proliferation in this type of work has been influenced by the impact of globalisation, digitalisation, the economic crisis, austerity, increased pressure on local budgets and services, and the groundswell of grassroots movements and local activism. FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS sets out to present and critically examine how arts and cultural practice operating across multiple fields of knowledge and experience can influence and help shape our collective futures.

Founded through the Creative People and Places programme in 2014 and an Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation from 1 April 2018, Heart of Glass has established itself as an agency for collaborative and social arts practice. It is the first organisation in England dedicated to the development and support of this practice across all art forms and leads on this with St Helens Council to support the Borough in its wider cultural ambitions to be a centre of excellence in this area. Heart of Glass is made with, of and for St Helens. Its programme is rooted in collaborative practice and embodies the principle of partnership. Its core values, philosophy and approach as a project are founded on co- production with the community and the active participation of the collaborator, non-artist, audience and viewer in the creation of great art. People, both individually and within communities of place or interest, are central to both their thinking and practice.

Ailbhe Murphy, Director of Create: “As Ireland’s development agency for collaborative arts, we are delighted to partner with Heart of Glass to realise this exciting and timely initiative. FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS will generate necessary debate about the contemporary field of collaborative arts practice and will begin by asking, “what could a Triennial for collaborative and socially engaged arts practice look like?” As artists and arts and civil society organisations working in this field, how can we create the conditions to engage with multiple forms of cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary and embodied local and regional knowledge? How can we best consider, animate and legitimise those knowledge’s through meaningful exchange and practice? We look forward to working with Heart of Glass and additional partners including the Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme network on FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS, which will act as a barometer for the compelling questions that animate our contemporary socio-political and cultural antagonisms.”

Patrick Fox, Heart of Glass Director: “We’re delighted to be announcing this initiative, and as with all our projects, this will be artist, producer and community led, and will resonate across art form. Partners such as Create Ireland, Axisweb, idle women, Liverpool Biennial, Super Slow Way, Arnolfini, Open Eye Gallery and In Situ and colleagues across the Creative People and Places Network nationally and the Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme internationally (an EU funded initiative of which Heart of Glass is a member) will be critical to shaping this project. This is a collaborative undertaking, the door is open and we are keen to hear from other interested parties. As well as the partners listed, we will be widening this network and building momentum over the coming months and years to ensure we are diverse, representative and well placed to have fierce and urgent conversations. We believe some of the most exciting work in contemporary art exists within this field of practice, creating people and place driven work that is uniquely positioned to respond to the politics of our times. We look forward to the collaborative process in crafting an essential and vital platform within the International collaborative and social arts practice landscape, and cementing St Helens as a destination at the forefront of critical practice and thinking.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England: “Heart of Glass has done amazing work in attracting artists, communities and audiences to St Helens as one of our Creative People and Places projects and I’m delighted that it is joining our national portfolio in April. And it is great to see the Triennial being launched in St Helens – I’m sure it will attract artists and collaborations which will continue the excellent artistic and cultural offer in the region.”

Heather Peak from Studio Morison (Artist): “I am delighted to be part of the Heart of Glass team and their future plans. Something extraordinary is happening in St Helens, art and creativity is central, urgent and important to the health and well-being of this place and its people. It is becoming not only about what we make, but how we behave and ultimately how we can survive, process our increasingly difficult lives and ultimately prosper. Art is the most powerful action we can make, it speaks directly to us of our lives, our anxieties, our joy and our potential power. Artists know that the best way to solve a problem is just to begin, and here in St Helens we have begun a journey that will touch our personal, civic, work and home life, and ultimately allow us be in control of our futures.”

Rachel Anderson and Cis O’Boyle, Caretakers, idle women: “For years now, socially engaged practitioners have spoken of the need to consolidate our knowledge and expertise, to articulate our practice from the ground where we work and to challenge the mis-understanding and mis-representation that leads to instrumentalisation by the Institution. Heart of Glass has been established to listen and activate these discussions here in the UK. What better place to create a new centre of practice than the North West and what better town than St Helens. FIERCE & URGENT CONVERSATIONS is the critical emergence of body of practitioners who create with passion, skill and rigour, we have been talking for many years, now is the time for our action. These are exciting times.”

Claire Doherty, Director, Arnolfini and former Director, Situations: “This new initiative represents a significant moment for contemporary culture in the UK which demonstrates that it’s time for a new generation of socially progressive and civically-dedicated arts organisations and initiatives to take the lead. Grown out of a complex and rich history of social practice, community arts, gallery education and place-based producing, such initiatives are offering an alternative to the cathedrals of culture. To say that we are working with Heart of Glass and Situations on the development of “Fierce and Urgent Questions” feels like exactly what an arts organisation should be committing its time to. That St. Helens presents such an exemplary mode of posing those questions – through locally impactful and internationally resonant new work is all the more thrilling. We can’t wait to get started.”

Chrissie Tiller – Thinker, writer and teacher on social arts practice and Heart of Glass Associate: “In the four years I have worked with Heart of Glass I have been immeasurably impressed by their commitment to a more collaborative and social arts practice and its potential to ‘shift our sense of what is possible, unleash imaginations and model and experiment with new ways of being in the world.’ They have done this, not only by commissioning leading artists in the field to make exciting, challenging and brave work with the people of St Helens but also by creating important spaces for critical reflection. Spaces that embrace difficult conversations, share new and different knowledges and welcome dissent in the struggle for greater social justice and cultural democracy. I am delighted to be working with them on FIERCE AND URGENT CONVERSATIONS and can think of no better arts organisation than Heart of Glass or town than St Helens to be leading this exciting and timely initiative.”

Further information can be found on the Heart of Glass website

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