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Acting on the Margins: Arts as Social Sculpture

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AMASS (Acting on the Margins: Arts as Social Sculpture)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-03-31

AMASS is important for society as it addresses societal challenges in Europe and proposes an innovative approach to address many of these challenges through arts education that can impact on and mitigate this. AMASS brings together societies in Europe that are often considered peripheral but may contribute valuable experiences of education through arts and culture. The project will learn from, invest and celebrate the diversity of cultures in Europe by creating new bonds through arts and cultural actions and activities between regional communities, cultures and localities in Europe - with a focus on reaching the unreached: socially disadvantaged and culturally marginalised communities. Through face-to-face and digital cross-border collaborations within Europe and globally, arts and cultural practices of Europe’s peripheral societies will be exchanged, represented and valued, whilst policy issues investigated, discussed, reconsidered, innovated and disseminated to reinforce the social, cultural and economic benefits the digital age has to offer. The overall objective of AMASS is to address the marginal positioning of some European societies, groups and communities, the under-representation and power imbalances that exist for arts and arts activities in the peripheries. AMASS will address societal challenges, such as various forms of exclusion and poverty (cultural poverty through lack of cultural capital, material, educational and skills poverty, as well as poor networks), whilst promoting resilience and inclusion in European regions through the strengthening of insights in ways that will be inclusive of peripheral communities, their specificities and the societal impact of arts and culture practiced by vulnerable groups. This will not only lead to a more equitable distribution of the benefits of innovation but also to access to arts and the fight against exclusion.
The literature reviews and policy analysis (D1.1 D1.2 D1.3) undertaken in WP1 provided a framework and set of evaluation tools and parameters (D1.4) with the aim to provide the AMASS testbed of experiments with insights for guiding and developing the experiments within the AMASS frame. WP2 authored a report (D2.2) based on assessment methods in art education that reviews contemporary methods of assessment in art education and identified authentic methods for socially engaged arts-based interventions. WP2 initiated a nation-wide overview of arts-based social interventions in the seven partner countries of AMASS and compiled a rich, structured dataset (D1.2). Following the kick-off of the AMASS European Testbed of experiments, WP3 (MS7), pilot studies were conducted by different partners (D 3.1) and evaluated (D 3.2). Experiments planned for the testbed are underway in different countries (D 3.3). The work of WP 4 kicked off earlier than planned due to the onset of the pandemic as more time was needed to revert all workshop activities to online and digital environments. A communication and dissemination plan (D5.1) and two plans to safeguard data were developed, one to manage, protect and collect data and ensure maximal open access were developed in WP5 (D5.3 and D5.4) alongside a visual profile (D5.2) for the project. In addition, websites, a narrative platform and social media channels were developed for dissemination purposes. On a project management level in WP6, different management boards, the Steering and Academic Committee were established. The coordinator engaged in project communication with WP5 to ensure the best possible communication and understanding amongst consortium partners. The coordinator continuously engaged in information sharing, feedback, planning and implementing consortium meetings to meet the project’s planned objectives and milestones against the actual state of achievement. Our contribution will be through experimentation, methodological development and implementation in policy processes as this area is under researched.
Besides developing a sense of social responsibility amongst artists and a participatory role for communities in artistic work, AMASS strives to evaluate the social and pedagogical impact of its projects from the perspectives of all stakeholders in the testbed of experiments. WP1 expects to impact the projects overall knowledge base, and through joint analysis of data, contribute to the connection between that knowledge and practise, as well as the knowledge and policy, and knowledge dissemination through the online MOOC. The project strives for assessment and accountability, therefore, what we have accomplished so far is a systematic literature review authored by WP1 clearly showed a major deficiency of arts-based social interventions so far: no assessment beyond promoters' enthusiastic claims about success. As educational policies in EU countries are research-based and data driven, the national projects of AMASS are evaluated and the affective and cognitive development and enhancement of creativity and social skills revealed. A descriptive collection of authentic and sensitive assessment methods, compiled by WP2, provides a basis for the selection of suitable tools. The pilot projects of the testbed of experiments (WP3), of which one was conducted in each country (except HB and Leeds), so far have all undergone such scrutiny and their effects on participants and their community revealed. These results add to the value of these innovative educational interventions: those who find them useful for their own educational environment, will know what to expect in terms of educational outcomes. The societal impact of the arts, assessed and disseminated through WP3, will together with the PSD and stakeholder workshop approach of WP4, feed into local, regional and European-wide policy recommendations that will be disseminated further on in the project. WP4 will contribute beyond the state of the art through experimentation of different policy development approaches, also in digital environments. By the end of the AMASS project, we will have completed and evaluated 35 international arts-based interventions. Policy makers, convinced by the new pedagogical approaches, fascinating artwork by participants and the atmosphere of creativity, will be informed about the developmental potentials of these projects as well. Some of them may enrich a curriculum that is individualized to cater for children in need, others may be utilised for informal learning environments (like museums, houses of culture, therapeutic institutions) as they are proven opportunities for motivation, skills development, and social integration. Assessment results seem to be more convincing for local, regional and national policy makers than proud statements by project leaders and thus ensure the sustainability and dissemination of AMASS methodology. AMASS will contribute to addressing the structural problems associated with policy development, which is based on top-down narratives that are associated with policy making, posing a problem for grass-root level participation, especially the involvement of marginalised communities in policy decisions, because policy often reinforces existing power structures and elitist organisations. The persisting challenge with policy decisions are that they remain often too abstract, distanced and removed from especially marginalised communities, while there are growing divides and gaps to be bridged between stakeholders.
AMASS logo - basic version
AMASS logo - version with name desciption
Map of Participating countries in the AMASS project