Cultivating Creativity

Investigative and experimental artistic project addressed to communities in rural environments

Cultivating Creativity was an investigative and experimental artistic project, addressed to communities in rural environments with the aim of creating artwork meaningful to them. Using artistic techniques and practical arts projects as a means of exploring, discussing and understanding issues of change relevant to rural communities, Cultivating Creativity specifically focused on areas with a ‘weak community infrastructure’.

The communities were not alone in exploring unknown territory. Each of the artists leading the projects—John Baucher in the Birches, Co Armagh; Alan Cargo in Kilrea, Co Londonderry; Amanda Montgomery in Fox Park, Co Tyrone; and Eleanor Wheeler in Kilkeel, Co Down—had extensive experience of working alongside local communities in artistic and creative projects. But at this early stage the artists took on an unfamiliar role akin to that of a midwife, in this case at the birth of an idea meaningful to the community.

For many of the artists this was an arduous part of the project, and their commitment and tenacity during this exploratory stage became a key factor in each project’s success. The artists and groups built a trust that gave rise to a high level of motivation and increased expectations among group members. This enabled the ideas generated to spread far and wide in a ripple effect, gaining credibility and support within the wider communities.The ideas that emerged belonged firmly to the community groups and arose from their own experiences and desires.

The making of art within a group context takes individuals outside their daily routine. It demands enquiry, questioning, challenge and engagement with others in new ways. This allows new patterns of thinking and relating to others to emerge, and offers space for their exploration. If the making of art engages one in an emotional experience, making art with others engages one in a shared experience. The unlocking of physical creativity demonstrated during Cultivating Creativity was surely matched by the unlocking of creative ideas, insights and new understanding.

The Cultivating Creativity project was devised and managed by Northern Ireland Environmental Link and was funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

© Cultivating Creativity 2004