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Social Art Summit Frequently Asked Questions

The Social Art Summit is an artist-led event, so we feel it is really important to highlight feedback from artists and welcome exchange and dialogue. In the interests of trying to shed some light on decisions we’ve had to make around the fees and costs associated with putting the Summit on, we have pulled together a few of the questions we’ve been asked.

What is Social Art Practice?

‘Social Art Practice’ and ‘Socially Engaged Art’ are contested terms for an art medium that focuses primarily on human interaction and social discourse. These terms describe work in which engagement in social situations is not only a part of the process of the work as it develops, but also where the social interaction itself is at some level the art; an aesthetic in itself.

Artists working in this field may co-create their work with a specific audience or propose interventions within social systems that inspire debate or catalyse social exchange. Socially engaged art typically aims to create social and/or political change through collaboration with individuals, communities, organisations and institutions.

What is the Social Art Network?

In 2016 artist and filmmaker Eelyn Lee was selected by Artquest to convene a group of artists with socially engaged practices to form a Peer Forum at Peckham Platform. These sessions, with twelve artists, triggered urgent conversations around the need to de-marginalise the practice, leading to the idea for the Social Art Summit.

In 2017 Eelyn and fellow peer forum artist R.M. Sánchez-Camus [Marcelo] co-founded Social Art Network (SAN), a base from which to realize these ideas. Eelyn and Marcelo are working collaboratively to co-convene the Social Art Summit; build an artist-led network; expand dialogue and develop the first ever Social Art Biennale. SAN aims to build agency for artists and communities making art through social engagement whilst developing new audiences for the work both nationally and internationally. Sheffield based artist Ian Nesbitt is this year’s guest co-convener of the Social Art Summit. Social Art Network has been developed through the volunteer labour of artists interested in social practice.

Why is the Summit Happening?

The Summit hails from an artist’s peer forum and is the culmination of 3 years of development carried out by artists and their free labour. It has grown out of a recognised need and urgency to create an event of this type that is not run by governing bodies or institutions but by artists. By running such an event ourselves, we can raise and collectively address the types of issues that we come across in our work; issues that similar events run by governing bodies or institutions fail to address, or worse, colonize our experience and learning and feed it back to us as training and best practice. We believe that the Social Art Summit is a crucial development in this field precisely because it is artist-led, and because of its positioning as a large-scale nationally-focused event.

Do Artists Get Paid to Present?

Artists have been paid a fee for devising and facilitating labs and their guest artists have been paid a nominal fee to participate. Travel expenses and accommodation has also been covered for these artists as well as for 18 artists selected from the Open Call and artists presenting in the Discuss & Exchange sessions. An International artists’ fee is covered by specified funding from Site Gallery and Making Ways.

With the limited funding available we have tried to be as inclusive and open in scope as possible and to garner a broad spectrum of contributions. We hope to build on the success of this event to move towards providing a platform for sustainably paying artists working in this field at future events.

Why is the Social Art Summit Ticketed?

Unfortunately we don’t have enough funding to make the Social Art Summit a free event. We realise that even though we have made our best efforts to fundraise, we have to rely on income generated by ticket sales to cover our costs. In an effort to make sure that artists who cannot pay have means to attend we have offered a number of ticket, travel and accommodation bursaries.

We believe that the work showcased at the Social Art Summit deserves a high profile, that demonstrates the strength of the sector and the importance of this work. By being ambitious in scope and scale we hope that we can attract further funding that will enable us to programme events that are free for more artists.

What Does the Ticket Price Pay For?

To the delegate, the ticket price pays for a wide range of sessions including talks, discussions, workshops, performances, a screening programme, international speakers, two lunches, a subsidised evening meal and evening entertainment. Over 60% of our income is for artists fees, travel & accommodation with the rest going towards marketing, evaluation, catering, venues, workshop materials and exhibition costs . Out of 200 artists attending the summit, over a third are receiving a free ticket, travel, accommodation or all three.

Can I Pay what I Feel to Attend?

Pay As You Feel is difficult to manage when planning large-scale events, particularly in terms of securing the balance between fixed outgoings with uncertain income. Ultimately, we as individual artists would have to take on those potentially huge losses. We recognise that the vast majority of us are on low incomes and precariously employed. As precariously employed artists on low incomes ourselves, it is impossible to put on an event of this scale and not pass on some associated costs, much as we would like to make it free to attend. What we have done is to reduce those costs for artists as much as possible by asking institutions to pay higher ticket prices. We do however acknowledge that this still precludes some artists from attending - something we are committed to addressing in the future.

Can I Buy a Day Ticket?

We cannot provide day tickets because of the amount of administration involved. We are a very small team and have been working at the edges of what is possible for some time now. For future events where more funding is in place and a clearer assurance of the interest in the event is in place, we could take greater financial risks such as Day Tickets which would reduce income stream to cover costs but allow for greater accessibility.

What Other Ways Can I Participate?

In April 2019 we will be holding a one-day Think Tank event at Tate Exchange to unpick to learnings of the Summit and to discuss ideas for launching a Social Art Biennale in 2020. This event will be open to the public and free for all.

A-n are producing a Research Publication with articles written by a range of voices about different angles of the Social Art Summit. This will be available as a free downloadable pdf in the New Year. We will also be publishing notes and reflections from each of the Labs soon after the Summit.

Social Art Network meet-ups happen regularly and are always free. We hope that artists attending the Summit will start up their own meet-ups in villages, fields, towns and cities around the country so that together we can grow the network and strengthen the field.

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As stated, we welcome exchange and dialogue and hope that this has made our position clearer. We do not profess to have got everything right - this is the first event of its kind of this scale created for artists working in social engagement and we are doing our best to make sure a variety of voices are included.

We hope that others understand the myriad of difficulties faced when making such decisions, and to approach us with a basic understanding that we are trying to do something that benefits all artists working the sector. The Social Art Network is a nascent organisation that is yet to be formulated so all ideas and input from artists are welcome. We seek solidarity and empathy from other artists who we hope can join us in this vision of developing the field of Social Art Practice.

For any other enquiries, please get in touch with us at the following email address: socialartnetworkuk@gmail.com