MY STORY The Liberty to reach out for Europe’s young artists

Lorna Fulton is the creative director of ArtReach, the Leicester-based contemporary arts development agency devoted to spreading creative engagement, which this week launches a new Europe-wide website to promote artists under 30, called Liberty EU 

What is Liberty EU?

Led by UK cultural development charity, ArtReach, Liberty EU is an exciting international arts programme which explores themes of freedom and democracy through culture and creativity from across the world. The programme focusses on the positive impact of creative integration through art and culture, helping to forge a new sense of identity and place (both locally and Europe-wide) with strong engagement from young people. We also aim to further develop and enhance artistic collaboration and audience development, with a commitment to engage a broad range of young artists and young audiences. The Liberty EU portfolio will feature up to 750 young artists from across Europe who can showcase their work through the platform. Selected artists from the portfolio will also be commissioned by Liberty EU partners, giving them the chance to create new work and tour it across the continent. The new website will also feature an area for artists’ development, in which you will find a series of development resources, allowing artists to gain tips on funding or evaluation, for example. The seminars and workshops created through the Liberty EU programme will also be available for any artists to use as a resource to learn from and develop with too.

Lorna Fulton is photographed here by Colin Davidson at a Lathe Revival recording session

What organisations are involved and how does ArtReach fit in?

Liberty brings together 12 cultural partners from ten countries: ArtReach (UK); Altonale GmbH (Germany); Museo dei Bambini (Italy); CESIE (Italy); Teatrul National Radu Stanca Sibiu (Romania); Aalborg Karneval (Denmark); Center E8, for promoting lifestyles (Serbia); CNC Danse (Nathalie Cornille Company) (France); Pionirski dom – Center za kulturo mladiih (Slovenia); Den Selvejende Institution Swinging Europe (Denmark); Trafo House of Contemporary Arts (Hungary); European Educational Exchanges – Youth for Understanding (Belgium).

ArtReach developed and led the funding bid to Creative Europe to establish this programme and is the lead organisation for Liberty EU, working in collaboration with partners across Europe. We will be developing and leading on further new commissions and touring work, created by these young artists, which will be seen across the different partner nations. We have led the development of the new website and the tools available with which to search for and find these exciting young artists. Finally, and particularly thrilling, ArtReach will be the final host of the Liberty EU programme celebrations, which in 2022, will see huge events across the city of Leicester showcasing some of the new work commissioned, by us, by partners and from across the wider programme.

 

How many young artists are involved, how have they been selected, and how many British artists are included?

There are around 180 young artists registered on the Liberty EU portfolio system or website to date, and visitors can see their work, download CVs and find links to the artists social media when the Liberty EU website is launched. This also allows other organisations to research and contact these artists for project work or commissions.

Artists on the portfolio have all been nominated and endorsed by one of the 12 Liberty EU partner organisations. To date, Liberty EU has commissioned 187 artists to support projects since September 2019 and ArtReach has directly commissioned 40 of these young artists, 25 of whom are residents in the UK.  These latest UK commissions were published as part of ArtReach’s Journeys Festival International programme in 2020, and you can see some of that work at www.journeysfestivals.com and also at www.liberty-eu.com

Altonale Hamburg (image by Thomas Panzau), part of Liberty EU

Is this a response to Brexit, and are the new trade arrangements an aid or a hindrance to Liberty EU?

The idea for Liberty EU is in response to many issues affecting the Europe, Brexit being just one of them. Liberty EU aims to explore the nature and meaning of freedom and independence in 21st century Europe; support the integration of refugees and migrants (given massive impetus in response to the European refugee crisis); come to terms with identity and sense of place in an era of mass movement of people, rapidly changing demographics and the impact of new technology; and provide new creative opportunities for artists and for least culturally engaged communities.

In terms of the practicalities of Brexit and its impact on the programme, Liberty EU was in place prior to Brexit, and all the partners are committed to the continuing the project until its funding conclusion in 2023. Like many others, we have been working our way through new regulations to ensure we continue to deliver, develop and programme the very best and most innovative work we can through Liberty across borders.

Liberty EU is funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union until 2023.

 

ArtReach is an Arts Council NPO. Does this project have ACE approval?

We were fortunate to be awarded NPO status by Arts Council in 2018. The funding from ACE contributes to all our programmes, including the Liberty EU programme, Journeys Festival International and the Night of Festivals, recently relaunched as Liberty UK Festival.

 

Are there specific strands of art that Liberty EU will be focussing on, and if so why were they chosen to the exclusion of others?

Liberty EU’s programme is to prioritise audience development and education/training, especially culturally diverse and disadvantaged communities, including refugees, those from deprived socio-economic backgrounds and disabled people. 

Liberty EU comprises six strands of artistic creation and presentation:

  • Inside – Out Performance: A performance taking place both outdoors and inside cultural or non-traditional venues bridging the two spaces.
  • Processional Theatre: A parade-like performance that engages passers-by.
  • Liberty Art: Provocative and place-making visual art, sculptural art, murals, street art and graffiti shown anywhere there is a suitable space.
  • Outdoor Digital Art: Presented outdoors, this work cuts across artforms and features significant digital elements in its creation.
  • Educational Workshops: Liberty EU workshops are practical, accessible, challenging and fun. They enable the co-creation and exploration of the project’s themes.
  • Seminars: These enable a deep-dive into the project’s themes, raising questions, seeking actions, and galvanising more interest and spin-off activity.

Inventiveness in contemporary art is not necessarily confined to the young. Might this be extended to artists over 30?   

Our partners believe a more significant cultural response is needed to profile and address the themes we will explore through Liberty EU. For the partnership, Liberty EU represents a more ambitious co-operation programme involving more partners, more activity, higher profile and especially an opportunity to fully connect, create, curate and collaborate together. The partners felt it was essential to deliver a programme with a focus on young people. Young people hold the future of Europe in their hands and their voices should be heard in terms of how they feel about Europe now and what it could be in future. Liberty EU’s themes will contribute to public discourse around today’s socio-political issues affecting the continent.

 

What difference will this make to ArtReach’s operation nationally and internationally, and how do you see Liberty EU developing?

Liberty EU builds on a substantial range of Europe-wide cultural projects that ArtReach has been involved in over the past 20 years. It enables us to showcase our work alongside 11 other partners throughout Europe, and offers a huge number of opportunities for young artists across ten countries. It is a fantastic opportunity to host, tour and make work that will enhance our activity and reach. We hope that, when the funding is concluded, we can continue these partnerships to develop our work and international collaborations.

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