Impact Arts started in 1994 as a Glasgow based community arts organisation. We do the same now as we have always done. We start with the interests of community groups, develop good projects they want to take part in, create support and work opportunities for freelance artists committed to working within a community context, and offer “value for money”, quality and accountability to those people employed to invest public money in work that would make a difference to communities and individuals. We work across all artforms, with a team of highly skilled tutors and technical staff, and we are proud of the outcomes we achieve, both in terms of artistic “product” and the changes we see in individuals as a result of engaging with us.
Two years ago we had 10 full time staff and one ramshackle but well loved factory as our base. Today we have 24 full time staff, 4 bases around the city (our factory is still ramshackle) and our projects map stretches from Aberdeen to Manchester. So far this year we have delivered over 170 projects, ranging from a mosaic with a local primary school, 300 shows of Big Bag, our play aimed at young children to promote their mental health and Urban Territories, a monthly multi arts event in the city centre bringing together local young people and asylum seekers.
In 2004 we were invited to enter a partnership with a national organization working within the field of employment support for people on incapacity benefit – one of the areas where we feel we make the most difference. This has resulted in the development of Creation Zone, a new centre for arts and employability programmes, and our second base in the south of the city. This has been a central element in our growth for a number of reasons. The scale of the investment (£360,000 over 2 years) was substantial, and what’s more from a new source – Department of Work and Pensions! Rather than being the risky (or is it innovative?) project which gets funded as an afterthought, our projects (Fab Pad – an interior design project for homeless young people in a new tenancy and Home – a creative furniture recycling social enterprise) have been given centre stage as part of a programme to change the culture of worklessness in the Gorbals. Importantly, we had the freedom and the resources to design and fit out our space, so we project managed architects, interior designers and builders to transform an empty business unit into a very creative space including a carpentry, an interior design studio and a recording studio.
Our profile changed overnight. Agencies such as JobCentrePlus and the enterprise companies who were vaguely aware of our work were now extremely interested in this “new” approach – one that we have been developing since 1994! Although we have always worked to social agendas, we are now invited to contribute to change and policy development, and we feel more valued as key partners in the city than we have at any stage in the last 12 years.
We are now using this newfound recognition to increase the awareness of the role arts organizations can play in the mainstream agenda at every opportunity. In Glasgow we have some big issues: 4000 people under 35 present as homeless every year; 67000 people are on incapacity benefit (the highest rate in the UK) and 20% of our young people leave school and seem to disappear into inactivity . What is interesting and exciting for us is that the doors are very much open, and we seem to have got past (although not with everyone) having to justify what the arts has to do with it in the first place. In the last two years or so arts and regeneration has crept up the agenda with the central government agencies, partly due to the flurry of interest around the Cultural Commission recommendations but also the growing body of work across Scotland which demonstrates just what the arts can bring to the regeneration of communities. We have played a key role in the latter.
The third change we perceive is related to profile and leadership, and this is our confidence and maturity as arts practitioners. We have survived for 12 years! We have delivered a vast body of creative work, achieving change in a variety of challenging settings. We are self critical and continuously look to be better at what we do – improving training and support for artists, our project management processes, our financial systems and so on. I believe that this is one of our key strengths and the reason we have not only survived but grown in what are precarious times in the community sector.
We aim to be leaders in our field and make things happen on the ground. We think we have many of the traits attributed to leaders – passionate, hard working, creative, imaginative, enterprising…. and awkward, impatient, outspoken and never satisfied! This does not always make us popular in the environment we work in. The public sector in Scotland is undergoing constant restructuring. Our work is almost exclusively funded from the public purse, so we try very hard to find those people within our partner organisations who do value enterprise, who see the value in getting the job done and seeing the results happen on the ground. This in itself is one of the key challenges we face in making arts projects happen.
In the last couple of years Impact Arts has become well known nationally for bringing the arts and the big social issues together, and coming up with creative solutions. We are now juggling more agendas than ever – keeping the artistic quality high, staying true to our values, ensuring we deliver a good service to our communities, keeping abreast of the political landscape and running a viable and ever growing business.
For more info`, contact:
Susan Aktemel (Director)
319 Craigpark Drive
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