Today’s blog has been written by Deirdre Figueiredo, director of Craftspace, Community Co-Investigator in the Maker-Centric project.
She reflects on her experience leading a small research project through our Catalyst Fund grants:
I became a first time PI through a successful application to conduct a small research project for AHRC Connected Communities Community Futures and Utopias festival 2016. When presenting our research at the Utopia Fair at Somerset House, I found two other arts-led Utopia projects that had synergy but also interesting differences. Talking to the PI’s we thought it would be valuable to conduct a thought, methodology and artistic exchange – comparing and contrasting creative/artistic methodologies and tools as a means for engaging communities, thinking about the particularity of the hyper-local and urban locality, place and place-making in each geographic context (Bow London, Handsworth Birmingham & Bristol). I applied for a Catalyst grant to enable our exchange which culminated in a learning lab day at Soho House Museum in Birmingham.
The most productive part of the exchange for me was the interdisciplinary co-reflection through the different lenses of craft, heritage, design and social sciences but all commonly using the arts as the method of engagement in research. Interacting with a mix of academics, artists and participants through active listening, talking, making and doing was thought provoking and illuminating. I also benefited from learning about how different theories – utopia as method, affect theory, worlding and bloomspace – had been enacted by different elements of our projects.
Those taking part said they had gained deeper insight and understanding of what characterised these arts-led research projects where creative methods of engagement were deployed. Characteristics included ‘embodied’, ‘situated in place’, ‘safety’, ‘self-realisation’, ‘empathy’, ‘holding space’ and ‘creative disruption’, ‘making and talking’. A difficult concept ‘utopia’ was made more accessible and community participants were able to engage in future thinking.
Deirdre Figueiredo, Director of Craftspace