Producer David Binder did a short TED Talk about arts festivals. He mentions a number of new festivals which are engaging directly with communities in site specific events.
However, it was the first one he mentioned, Minto: Live Sydney Festival 2011, that fired my imagination most. The people of Minto, accompanied by some cooperating artists, performed on their lawns, driveways and garages as the audience moved by. I am not sure if it was planned or spontaneous, but one story Binder relates almost sounds like some residents who weren’t part of the original tour got caught up in the spirit and began performing on their lawn.
I saw a lot of applicability to the current discussions about creative placemaking and community engagement.
But what I saw as the most compelling element of this practice is that it reinforces the value of the arts and play for kids right where they live. When asked about what got me started in the arts, I often refer back to a role in my 8th grade play.
But like a lot of people in the arts, the reality is, my siblings and I would perform for our family and friends at gatherings.
A festival like this would demand greater sophistication, but heck with arts in schools, performing at home would reinforce the value of the arts for the kids, the parents and the whole community literally right where they live. It would be interesting to see if residents of Minto felt the experience changed their perception and participation in arts activities.
Just as annual tours of historic homes emphasizes the value of their presence and engenders a sense of pride in the neighborhood, (though perhaps some resentment in the kids who have to help clean their home in preparation), a neighborhood arts festival could advance the cause of the arts, inspire pride and perhaps surprise people with the hidden talents of their neighbors.
I don’t really think this would or should be a substitute of arts in schools, though it might spur renewed community interest in offering instruction. Rather, I was thinking that at one time a home piano was once the center of family activity. Participation in a neighborhood arts festival might serve to fill that absence to a small degree.