Creative Spaces Manifesto
(work in progress)
CREATIVE SPACES MANIFESTO
What are the spaces that young people need to be creative, to experiment, to develop their talents? This was the key question of the project 'Creative Spaces' that 9 partners in Europe (with the Belgian network Vitamine C as coordinating partner) focused on, during 2015 and 2016.
This Manifesto is a work in progress. You’re very welcome to join the discussion and to contribute your observations and experiences, whether you’re a creator and maker, you run such a place or you’re responsible for decisions on policy level.
Young people are creative, experimental and uniquely placed to invest in the evolution of our communities, the development of culture and the building of a sustainable society. In order to support and enable this investment, accessible and safe spaces for the valuing and practice of creativity in all its forms should be prioritised.
Our interest was spaces that seem to have creativity in their genetics and genesis. We travelled, we visited spaces, we researched and surveyed, we spoke with practitioners and with users and, of course, with young people. We sat, we discussed, we argued and we initiated an online questionnaire that helped us to find some keywords and surprises, as well. We came to some conclusions and guidelines, but they’re far from conclusive or final because, just as creativity and creative spaces cannot ever be fully defined, they don’t have to be final, they can’t be - that’s their true nature.
But there are some things that such spaces do share and we believe that such characteristics are also partly transferable.
In this Manifesto, which is based on our own discussions but also and more importantly on the answers of young people via the online questionnaire, we present
1) what we found out are the needs of the young people and users of these creative spaces
2) our colleagues’ creative spaces all over Europe and
3) the approach of policy makers.
YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR NEEDS
Young people need space where they can develop their talents, be challenged, learn, succeed and get inspired; open, free and safe space for individual and group exploration, which encourages entrepreneurship and provides opportunities to be a full-participant and contributor to society. A creative space is a safe haven, a place where we can find the best of both worlds, a calm cocoon and a dynamic playground, as much an emotional as a physical space. For this to happen, we have identified 4 priorities:
A desire for more time seems to be the most urgent need for young people in today's achievement oriented society. Time, which will allow for experimentation, discovery and inspiration.
Feeling safe and free, in a space that doesn't necessarily need a defined outcome, where failure is a part of the process, with the possibility to withdraw for contemplation without pressure from outside. This space is needed in both physical and mental ways.
Meeting different people for experimentation, new experiences and exchange. Peer to peer learning and guidance from experts and coaches is welcome when asked for, but not in an imposed way.
Having a space to DO. Being able to do things over and over again, to try out, to learn through failure. To grow and get empowered, gaining the necessary skills in order to be not only future active members of society but to be the creators of that society, with confidence and self-reliance.
SUPPORT: WHAT IS NEEDED
What is the role of cultural organisers and the cultural field?
In order to enable creativity and self-reliance, providing the basics and offering support would be the key for the creation of spaces for participation, creativity and empowerment. Successful spaces evolve over time and adapt to the needs and wants of their users, they should be a mirror of the society and the final destination of such spaces is always subject to change. If you want to provide usable and relevant creative spaces for young people, then you should take into account the following:
In order to create and provide diversity, low or better no entry fees is one of the most important factors for a space young people would and could participate in.
Some organisational structure is necessary to run and manage a space but the rest should be as flexible as possible: opening hours, content or use of space should be guided by the spirit, soul and energy of the initiative by young people themselves and, importantly, not everything has to be determined from the start.
The realities of life in societies all around Europe underline the necessity of participation and impact on young people of all cultural backgrounds. Young people with discriminatory experiences are frequently the ones with little or no opportunities for their future. Inviting and welcoming all cultural backgrounds without accentuating the differences but focusing on mutuality provides the necessary atmosphere for empowerment and exchange.
Don't try to define in a precise way what a creative space is. These spaces emerge in all forms and in all ways. Some are still quite small-scale, others grow to become cultural or youth institutions. Some combine voluntary work with electronic music, co-working space with dancing or gardening with art projects. What they all have in common is an open approach and a lot of room for experimenting.
POLICIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Creative spaces do not have one form or one topic; they should be as diverse as their users. What they should have in common is to enable and empower their users from diverse backgrounds to create, to become confident, active and entrepreneurial citizens.
There is a necessary and urgent need for change of the following parameters:
There are many of so-called margin groups being underrepresented in cultural life. Furthermore there is a clear connection between prosperity and participation in community and cultural activities. Migrants, people with difficult social backgrounds, the "don’t haves" rarely participate in arts and culture and they seldom enjoy the advantages of prosperity and wealth. Providing opportunities for participation in cultural life for people of all backgrounds is an urgent issue for the empowerment and cohesion of communities all around Europe.
One of the big problems in our societies is the continuously expanding gap between the "haves" and the "have nots". Feeling part of the community and participating in society are ways to overcome these gaps and provide chances for wealth and growth. We have to think seriously about the redistribution of resources in order to reach marginalised groups from the beginning. Start investing in creativity from childhood, via education and schools, to reach all children. Creativity is an inventive, open way of thinking, doing and learning and is not just connected with the arts. Investment now will provide the necessary balance for the future.
Creative spaces do not have one form or one topic and a unified legislation is completely counterproductive. Supporting initiatives dedicated to participation and diversity, building the conditions to facilitate young people to start creative spaces themselves, providing real physical spaces, investing in time and infrastructure to experiment - these parameters will create the necessary support and empowerment for young people to become confident, active and entrepreneurial citizens.