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2020: A Year Like No Other
Director of Create, Dr Ailbhe Murphy, speaks at the Arts Council launch of the Tuam Creative Places Ireland programme, January 2020. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure

2020: A Year Like No Other



As 2020 draws to a close, we take this moment to reflect on a year unlike any other. To all our colleagues – artists, community activists, key stakeholders and project partners – we say a sincere thank you for your work with us this year. Despite such challenging times, which saw many projects interrupted, plans halted, and many personal and professional hurdles to overcome, we were heartened daily by the imagination, determination and collegiality of the artists, arts organisations and community members and networks to connect, to create and to make change. The restrictions and changed working practices brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic, meant that 2020 has been a very busy year, full of steep learning curves and realigned plans for Create and our partners, funded artists and wider community. We are thankful for the work done by committed, enthusiastic socially engaged and collaborative artists and community members, who we are proud to support. We saw how collaborative and socially engaged arts practitioners oriented themselves to work in creative solidarity with social movements and agents of change to imagine alternative formulations and ways through and beyond the crisis.



2020 got off to an exciting start when Create was awarded the tender to manage the pilot programme of Creative Places Ireland, to take place in Tuam, Co Galway. Creative Places Ireland is a three-year pilot programme, led by the Arts Council, for communities around the country that have not previously had opportunities to benefit from sustained public arts investment. We were delighted to begin to meet the people of Tuam, and introduce them to our new colleague Carolann Courtney, Creative Places Tuam Coordinator.



In February, we welcomed leading artist Jeanne Van Heeswijk to Dublin. Jeanne led an Artists and the City Masterclass, delivered in partnership with Fire Station Artists’ Studios. Following this workshop, we delivered the Create and Common Ground Criticial Conversation, featuring Jeanne and close to 30 community activists and artists concerned with spatial justice, in Studio 468, Rialto.


During 2020 Create supported A4 Sounds to facilitate a programme of socially-engaged arts activities under the theme We Only Want the Earth. One of the artist residencies Create offered support on (with additional partner TENI) was awarded to artist Cris Hinojosa. Cris conducted a number of artists’ talks, and offered a closing exhibition, Liturgia.


In March, with our partners and colleagues, we were faced with the question: What does socially engaged arts practice look like at a time of social distancing? We chose to alter the language, focusing on physical distancing and social solidarity. In that spirit we worked to reimagine opportunities and supports for collaborative artists and community partners in these unprecedented times; reflecting our need more than ever to Connect, Create and Change. Much of our programming moved online, and we were able to develop further supports initiatives that build cultural and social solidarity.



April saw the first of our online events with leading thinkers, practitioners and writers. In Archipelagic Imaginaries: A world-centred art education at the end of the world, artist and academic Glenn Loughran presented his recent research on art, education and archipelagic thinking.


Our professional development programme is aimed at artists working in all artforms at all stages of their careers. In April and May 2020 we offered Space, Place and Multiple Selves: Performing the relational field in socially engaged theatre by Outlandish Theatre Platform. This professional development workshop served to illuminate the hidden and embodied nature of the kind of intersubjective exchange, which is central to collaborative practice, through three online sessions.



As part of Create’s Conversations for Change series, in May we hosted a conversation between Irish artist, writer and educator Fiona Whelan and Australian based academic Gretchen Coombs. This online conversation explored writing both as a form of practice and encounter in collaborative work and writing as a form of advancing the analysis of practice and its critical coordinates in the diverse contexts in which socially engaged art occurs.  This In Conversation is part of a series of online conversations which Create feels are particularly relevant and timely in the current situation as we consider what socially engaged arts practice looks like in a time of physical distancing and a need for ever greater social solidarity. The video of this conversation, already viewed by 180 people, can be found in the Resources section of our website.



We were delighted to host curator and artist Megs Morley and New York based artist, activist and writer Gregory Sholette in the third of our Conversations for Change series in June.  Drawing from historical and recent examples of civil resistance and artistic disobedience, in Survival is Not Enough!, Morley and Sholette reflected on what moments from the archive act as potential disruptors to our understanding of the now, whilst considering the role that artists might play in the radical reimagination of the world. This video, watched by over 200 attendees can be viewed in the Resources section of our website.


June saw the publication of Create News #28, Utilising Political Imaginaries to Radicalise the Local, which was based on the presentation given by Jeanne Van Heeswijk in Common Ground’s Studio 468 in February. We took this opportunity to announce the successful recipients of Artist in the Community Scheme awards, Round One.


Also in June, we partnered with Artsandhealth.ie to offer Sustaining the Self. This online workshop, led by artist Marie Brett, and attended by 68 practitioners was designed to support self-care among those working in arts and health, particularly in the context of the seismic shift in practice since the introduction of Covid 19-related restrictions.


June was a busy month, in which we also offered a workshop series with folklorist and film-maker Michael Fortune, entitled “Tuam logged in”. This series of workshops, designed for community groups and artists in the Tuam area, showed how to work with familiar tools (from phones to online video platforms and social media sites) to connect and stay connected during and beyond the pandemic.



We announced Jennifer Cunningham, Jacqueline Glynn, and Jojo Hynes and Midie Corcoran as the recipients of the Creative Places Tuam Artist Bursary Awards: Community Solidarity through Collaborative Practices in July. The purpose of this bursary was to support and nurture professional socially engaged artists’ practice within the Tuam town and hinterland area that has been disrupted during this time of crisis.



In July and August we offered QuaranZine: a series of workshops on online publishing and ‘zine making, with Chicago based artist Marc Fischer. We were delighted to welcome  eleven artists and community workers to the three workshops, including from Tuam.


We also published Field Notes II, which documents the second Summer School on Cultural Diversity and Collaborative Practice, held in July 2019. This publication features writings from Summer School participants and facilitators, as well as from Dr Ailbhe Murphy, director of Create and Dr Áine O’Brien, Curator of Learning and Research at Counterpoints Arts, who frame the publication in light of the significant challenges to collaborative, socially engaged art presented by Covid 19.

Field Notes II: Summer School on Cultural Diversity and Collaborative Practice



Creative Places Tuam launched the inaugural Thinking on Tuam residency, awarded to author and educator Oein De Bhardúin. The residency was launched on Culture Night 2020, with a pre-recorded conversation between Oein and Michael Fortune, film-maker and folklorist, on folklore and stories. And, available to download and listen any time, join Oein for “Walking Whid/ Walking Story” a journey through the physical space of Tuam Town. Oein will guide the listener through the town, narrating the stories, folklore, legends and history of Tuam, the Traveller Community and its relationship with Tuam.


September also saw Rita Marcalo begin her Create and Sirius Arts Centre Artist Residency, funded through the Artist in the Community Scheme. The residency took place across both Sirius Arts Centre and The Guesthouse Project in Cork city and provided opportunities for research, exchange, networking, and learning, with additional curatorial advice from Sirius Arts Centre.



We partnered with Counterpoints Arts, Open University, Plymouth College of Art, Ettijahat, Coculture, and Mozilla Festival to develop ‘Beyond the Now’ a syndicated social practice platform, which aims to open new creative, cultural and political affinities for a post-pandemic world.  The first season launched in October, contains nine submissions from artists, arts professionals and community activists, reflecting on the Covid-19 situation. ‘Beyond the Now’ features personal reflections alongside those that are theoretical; interviews and discussions as well as artworks.


Creative Places Tuam granted 20 Seeding Fund awards to individuals and community groups, to fund research or projects that will happen in and benefit the people of Tuam. Community is at the heart of Creative Places, so all successful projects will involve local people’s input.


For a third year, Create and Counterpoints Arts hosted the School on Cultural Diversity and Collaborative Practice . Due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the School took place virtually over four days in October  with 15 participants. It took a ‘think and do’ collaborative approach, utilising creative workshops, critical and comparative case studies, one-to-one mentoring, international guest artists including curators, policymakers and activists.



We partnered with Sligo Arts office to offer a workshop on Authorship and Representation in Collaborative Filmmaking with artist and lecturer Anthony Haughey in November.


The Creative Places Tuam website launched in November. Bringing together information, news, events and opportunities from the three year cultural programme, the site aims to amplify collaborative arts practice in the town and its hinterlands, connecting artists, business people, young people, and the wider community.


November also saw the publishing of Create News #29: Land Walks: A Conversation on Identity, Belonging and the Irish Landscape. Land Walks is a collaborative sound and visual art project by artist William Bock and residents of West Cork, that maps experiences of belonging and uprooting in the West Cork landscape through walking, storytelling and collaborative field recording. This issue of Create News is based on a conversation between the collaborators on this project.


Congratulations to the fourteen recipients of Round Two of the Artist in the Community Scheme awards. These awards are testament to the incredible work by collaborative and socially engaged artists and community members throughout this year of change.



Create’s Networking Day 2020 (9th and 10th December) sought to take stock of collaborative and socially engaged arts practice in a year unlike any other. The Networking Day brought some 200 artists and community and cultural practitioners together to share practice and to exchange in the context of the unique challenges this year has presented for individual arts and community practitioners, collectives and for the arts sector more generally. We were delighted to partner with Heart of Glass, Creative Places Tuam and Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre on this year’s Networking Day.

On day one, close to two hundred delegates came together in a facilitated interactive session, entitled “Connect” which offered a chance to meet, talk, share, and strategise together. We collectively built a resource pack for the sector; talks, books, projects that have inspired, kept us going and which encourage our work as collaborative artists and cultural and/or community practitioners. This resource, made up of everyone’s recommendations and co-produced by Create and Heart of Glass, is reflective of a sense of collective wisdom, provocation and support by our field of practice at this time.

Collaborative Arts Resource Pack


Throughout the year, we have continued to offer information sessions on applying for the Artist in the Community Scheme. We offered in person sessions in Blanchardstown and Cavan in early 2020, before switching online to offer four more.


Our virtual Reading Group, coordinated by Create’s Cultural Diversity Researcher Evgeny Shtorn met fortnightly during 2020, to discuss articles, films, and online exhibitions related to different aspects of collaborative, socially engaged arts practice and other relevant social issues.


We published four new Case Studies this year, based on the experiences of previous recipients of Artist in the Community Scheme awards, managed by Create.


We continue to work with publishing partners both national and international, including colleagues in the Centre for Socially Engaged, Practice-Based Research at Technological University Dublin, and Fire Station Artists’ Studios, on Contested Narratives, Places and Futures: Socially Engaged Art Practice in Ireland.  This timely publication will bring together a dynamic mix of established and emergent socially engaged artists/practitioners, collectively reflecting an interdisciplinary range of collaborative, participatory, mediated and curatorial practices in Ireland.


2020 marks ten years since the Artist in the Community (AIC) Scheme Bursary award was inaugurated. This year, we have offered two AIC Scheme bursary awards.

The first, in partnership with the Irish Refugee Council, focused on the theme of Collaborative Arts and Cultural Diversity, and was awarded to Amir Abu Alrob, an actor and theatre-maker originally from Palestine. The second bursary to be offered in 2020 took as its focus Collaborative Arts and Human Rights, and was offered in partnership with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. This bursary was awarded to Tobi Balogun, an artist based in Dublin and Carlow, working across Dance, Theatre, Fashion and Design.

What is the Artist in the Community Scheme?


Despite the restrictions and changed working practices brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic, 2020 has been a busy and rewarding, though challenging, year for Create. Our work would not be possible without the support of our funders, the Arts Council, Dublin City Council, and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. We also wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to all partners who have worked with us during the year and our dedicated board members, as well, of course, as the committed, enthusiastic socially engaged and collaborative artists and community members, who we are proud to support and work with on a daily basis.

We wish you all a safe and restful Christmas, and a happy and healthy New Year.