On 28 and 29 March 2017, split across two venues in Manchester HOME and Hull Truck Theatre, this year’s No Boundaries conference hosted a diverse range of contributors from the UK arts and culture sector to examine important questions around the role of arts in society.
Supported by Arts Council England and the British Council, the two-day conference combined live and live-streamed presentations across five different panels, touching upon a range of issues including inclusivity and accessibility in the arts, collaborative practices and cross-sector partnerships, as well as shifting pathways to audience development, loyalty, and engagement.
Counterpoints Arts Co-directors, Áine O’Brien and Almir Koldzic, were amongst the invited speakers, addressing the transformative potential of art as a catalyst for social change, focusing on the importance of “unusual alliances” and cross-sectoral partnerships in dialogue with communities and artists, in order to create a more sustainable and democratic environment for social change to take place.
“Art is not a salve, or a band aid for political situations, but artists can, and have successfully stepped into this void” in order to instigate change, raise awareness and render visible what is frequently being excluded. Drawing from examples from Counterpoints Arts‘ latest collaborative six-day initiative, Who Are We? at Tate Exchange, including Alketa Xhafa Mripa’s Refugees Welcome Luton tail lift van installation, which engaged audience members in conversations around refugees and welcoming, over a cup of tea; Richard DeDomenici’s ‘Shed your Fears’ booth, which invited participants to confess their innermost fears to a complete stranger; and Gill Mualem- Doron’s The New Union Flag project, which re-imagined a multicultural sense of belonging through an alternative flag, O’Brien and Koldzic, explored the role of art as “a non-threatening framework for audiences to come together, learn more, participate, appreciate, deepen sympathy and find new ways to connect” in an increasingly diverse social space.
O’Brien and Koldzic highlighted the importance of embedding agency and democratic participation within the final artwork, and in particular as part of the process of artistic engagement between audiences and artist, to truly facilitate meaningful dialogue. The ‘Who Are We?’ multi-platform event was invested in the creation a shared, collective space where the boundaries between viewers and artists became blurred, through the collaborative pursuit of answers to the question ‘Who Are We?’.
No Boundaries offered the opportunity for practitioners, artists, community groups and organisations to engage with some of the major issues currently facing the arts as well as served as a testimony of the “breadth, ambition and innovation of work being made by practitioners and organisations of all scales”, as described by a-n The Artists Information Company.
For more information about the conference, including video recordings of speakers, you can visit the No Boundaries website.