Tuesday, 24 March 2015


117 Upper Meadow Street, Belfast. For map see



How can you explain the complexities of collaboration...?

Community as artist- with whom, for what?

Fiona Whelan, Gillian O Connor

Ends 24 March 2014

As part of the UK wide series 'ARTWORKS Conversation' by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, PS² is organising an informal, open talk about art in and with the community. With our main theme of 'community as artist' for 2015/16, this discussion purposely leaves the art-space and takes place in a youth centre in North Belfast.
Community arts has a long tradition in Northern Ireland. Initially as a radical social inclusion movement in the arts - amplified by the troubles and their impact on communities- it is now an established and institutionalised form of social engagement and vehicle of transformation.
Or has been.
With severe cuts in arts funding and social infrastructure, the question of 'public benefit' is a means to justify closures of programmes and organisations, eliminating professional knowledge and skills. It also pre-empts efforts of new approaches of a creative industry in need of re-orientation, both in terms of social intervention and artistic spark.
Nevertheless, in a climate of frustration and anxiety, the need and urgency of the arts in and with the community should be critically reassessed from various positions:

Why do artists engage in neighbourhoods and communities?
What role and benefit is there for participants?
Where is it placed- between street, community centre and gallery?

PS² invited artist Fiona Whelan and community youth worker Gillian O Connor to stimulate and ground the debate with their experiences in Dublin: unearthing issues related to power, representation and cross sectoral relationships. As diverse practitioners, they will explore many of the critical issues and tensions that face this field of collaborative practice; opening the conversation for everyone interested to contribute. This 'ARTWORKS Conversation' is open for everyone who is interested in the wider issue of arts in the community, be it as participant, community worker, passer-by, artist, cultural hipster or simply as curious citizen.

To see a list of all 'ARTWORKS Conversation' see pdf
To see a list of all 'ARTWORKS Conversation' in Northern Ireland see pdf.
No need to book a place at this event, but please check date, place and availability for all others before you go.
You can connect to all the conversations on twitter #ArtWorksConversations

Fiona Whelan is an artist and joint course coordinator of the MA Socially Engaged Art at NCAD, Dublin. She recently published a 'critical memoir': TEN. Territory, Encounter & Negotiation, exploring her socially engaged art practice in Dublin, operating between art, youth work, critical pedagogy and activism. For more info about TEN. Territory, Encounter & Negotiation see.

Gillian O Connor is a community youth worker based in Rialto Youth Project since 2004. She is committed in her practice to exploring issues that face young people in a working class urban context. Her practice is collaborative, working with young people and other practitioners with a particular focus on music. She is currently doing the MA Socially Engaged Art in NCAD.

Venue- Interface area


During a research period in November 2014 in preparation of our programme, we invited artist

s, cultural organisers and researchers to a forum: Instrumental or Radical?- a panel discussion on socially engaged arts
It was a packed event, demonstrating the interest and relevance of the subject. However, it was also an 'insider' conversation in an art-space, exclusive towards a wider community. How can you explain the complexities of collaboration...? tries to be non-exclusive and open in a neighbourhood context of the New Lodge Youth Centre, North Belfast

Paul Hamlyn document: How to describe ArtWorks Conversations: ArtWorks Conversations: celebrating the practice of artists who work in participatory settings.
16 - 26 March 2015
10 days, 100 conversations, 1000 people
As a culmination of the dialogue ArtWorks began, we are presenting a series of conversations across the UK between the 16 and 26 March 2015. These events aim to celebrate the practice and generate valuable networking opportunities for artists as ArtWorks moves into the next phase.

Conversation- New Lodge Arts Youth Centre

Film screening- Fiona Whelan

Why Conversations?
Pablo Helguera in Education for Socially Engaged Art (2011) stated: ‘Conversation is the center of sociality, of collective understanding and organisation. Organised talks allow people to engage with others, create community, learn together, or simply share experiences without going any further.’
Grant Kester also underlined the importance of conversation in Conversation Pieces (2004). This contribution to the recognition of a dialogical art has been significant to the practices ArtWorks has been concerned with.
It is therefore no surprise what artists appear to have valued within the ArtWorks initiative. The opportunities to have well-structured conversations have enabled mutual understanding and learning to evolve for artists.
It therefore seems appropriate to culminate the dialogue of ArtWorks with a challenge!

ArtWorks Conversations is a series of at least 100 conversations across a 10 day period connecting conversations of over 1000 people celebrating the practice of artists who work in participatory settings.
Connect to these conversations on twitter #ArtWorksConversations and look out for details.

2. Strapline for partners use to link a conversation to the wider series
This event is part of ArtWorks Conversations, a series of at least 100 conversations across a 10 day period connecting conversations of over 1000 people celebrating the practice of artists who work in participatory settings.

3. Details about ArtWorks and Paul Hamlyn Foundation

ArtWorks: Developing Practice in Participatory Settings is a £2.05m, four-year initiative to improve participatory practice in the arts. It focuses on workforce development, seeking to improve training and development infrastructure for artists at different stages of their careers. The initiative began in 2011 and finishes in its current format in 2015.
ArtWorks is a Paul Hamlyn initiative which has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Creativity, Culture & Education (through support from Arts Council England) and the Cultural Leadership Programme
@artworksphf Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Paul Hamlyn Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-making organisations in the UK. Its mission is to maximise opportunities for individuals to realise their potential and to experience and enjoy a better quality of life.
Image top: Fiona Whelan, wall drawing, 2005.