Creating our Learning Policy with Jo Chandler from our Steering Group

As an arts-based education organisation, it was important for us to lay out our Creative Learning Policy and be able to share it with those we work with. We invited Jo to blog about her experience and how the CLP was devised.

I’m Jo Chandler, a member of Changing Relations’ Steering Group. I’m interested in socially engaged art, which is what initially got me involved with the organisation. I’ve been studying Modern and Contemporary Art Theory at Edinburgh College of Art for the past year and, as part of my dissertation, was able to do a work placement with Changing Relations contributing to my research into social practice. As part of this placement I wrote the new Creative Learning Policy, which looks at how and why Changing Relations uses creative learning methods.

The placement gave me the opportunity to talk to academics with links to Changing Relations – Stephen Burrell, Will McInerney and Ladan Cockshut – who helped to direct me in exploring what has been written about the intersection between arts, creativity and learning. It has been great to dig deeper into the concurrent trends from both the educational angle and the arts perspective: whilst educational fields are increasingly emphasising the importance of creativity in learning, the ‘social turn’ and ‘educational turn’ in contemporary art have brought the value of art being used as an educational tool into the mainstream. Pablo Helguera’s conceptualisation of the relationship between art and education was particularly helpful in articulating Changing Relations’ pedagogical approach: he uses the term transpedagogy to refer to practices which blend processes of art-making and learning. At the end of this post I’ve attached a list of sources which would be interesting to anyone keen to read around this area.

Working with Changing Relations has helped me to understand the processes and structure of a community interest arts company, and given me valuable insight into how Changing Relations have developed a model which meets its aims at the same time as maximising its resources and being sustainable. As part of developing the Learning Policy, I mapped out how learning is layered into Changing Relations’ processes, both in the projects that they carry out (see flow chart which shows the different stages of CR’s creative projects, each of which offers learning opportunities to different groups), but also within the organisation itself.

Changing Relations is doing really exciting work. It was great to be able to contextualise their use of creativity and art for attitude change through looking at the academic literature on the benefits of arts-based methodologies. This study offered a consideration of a broad range of projects using the arts to promote gender equality around the globe, and highlights the ways in which art can be used to encourage a deeper level of empathy and expression compared to other more didactic approaches to learning. These sorts of ideas, along with insights offered by a consideration of Paolo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, were helpful in developing my understanding of how arts-based practice can create meaningful spaces for dialogue and learning which have real impact on the challenges facing society and the problems which Changing Relations is addressing.

The Learning Model below shows the process that Changing Relations’ projects follow, with each stage offering its own creative learning opportunities.

Suggestions for further reading on education & socially engaged art:

* Felicity Allen, EDUCATION: Documents of Contemporary Learning, (London: MIT Press)

* Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, (London: Verso)

* Alain de Botton, Art as Therapy, (New York: Phaidon)

* Paolo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, (London: Penguin)

* Pablo Helguera, Education for Socially Engaged Art, (Jorge Pinto Books)

* Grant Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication, (London: University of California Press)

* Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics

* Nina Felshin, But is it art? The Spirit of Art Activism, (Seattle: Bay Press)

* Suzanne Lacy, Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, (Seattle: Bay Press)