Our first meeting in Groningen

Getting acquainted

At the end of November 2016, the first meeting in Groningen formed the starting point of our collaboration. As a means for getting acquainted we all brought a ‘source of inspiration’, any kind of material which would inform the group about personal inspirations and about our different disciplines. We spent an afternoon sharing the sources of inspiration in order to get to know every group member. The material we shared informed us about incentives, passions, values, ideas and disciplines of the individual group members. Through sharing the sources we immediately gained insight into the different perspectives group members had on art, art making and arts education. Not only did we get acquainted on a personal and professional level but the exchange of the sources also served as a mapping exercise of the subject of our collaboration: cross-arts.

Collage of some of our ‘sources of inspiration’

Collage of some of our ‘sources of inspiration’

Collecting first ideas for our collaboration

Our next step was breaking out into pairs, having a walk outside and brainstorming about first ideas and approaches for our work. This was followed up by a plenary session in which we collected and discussed ideas and approaches. We talked about the meaning of cross-arts making and collaboration and identified some implications for us as teachers. These conversations concluded in ideas such as the following:

Cross-arts collaboration becomes meaningful when it gives space to new collaborations within the arts that will create ‘new’ art. It is not a question of finding lifetime partners or new ways of having artists from different background working together as partners, but it is rather about finding approaches for working together.

Cross-arts collaboration is opening up the possibility of rethinking your own art form and stepping out of the comfort zone, stimulating thinking outside the box.

This cross-arts collaboration should focus on the process of collaboration and ways in which participants can find each other. This implies that we shift our focus:

- Instead of working in a result or product driven way we can focus on the work process and documentation of that process.

- Instead of emphasising training skills we can focus on learning by sharing  experiences and performing experiments.

- Instead of teaching students we can form a community of learners which includes both teachers and students working together in a non-hierarchical way. Every participant can contribute ideas and personal themes, hand over experiences, open doors, facilitate and moderate discussions.

A condition for cross-arts collaboration including teachers and students is that we create a safe non-judgmental environment, in which all participants feel the freedom to experiment.

The space for experimentation is pivotal for finding new ways of art making. Being able to embrace failure is a crucial aspect of experimenting.

The context for our work should closely be connected to ‘life’, meaning politics, society and community.

We envision an open, intellectual-artistic environment.

During our final wrap-up session of the Groningen meeting we discovered that we had pinpointed some mutual values and starting points to frame our collaboration. We discussed the context in which our art collaboration should take pace. We had some ideas about the way we wanted to shape the learning environment and we identified some keywords for our collaboration:

In the higher arts education environment, embracing experimentation and being open to failure, moreover emphasising the work process instead of the result or product, can be a challenging concept since assessment, judgment and quality are such key phenomena of our work as educators. However, we believe that shifting the focus from assessing the quality of end results towards the quality of the process will be crucial for creating a cross-arts learning environment. With the emphasis on critical reflection and assessment of learning experiences, the collaboration and co-creation can become more important factors in the learning process than the final result.

Keywords: Inventive, experimental, taking risks, research, exploration, embracing failure, unknown final result, entering the process with a question, investigating an idea.

At this first meeting we realised we needed to explore these ideas further, by becoming cross-art makers and collaborators ourselves, before inviting students into the process. We felt that we ourselves should experiment, share our art practice, and experience together collaborating in a cross-arts setting. With this in mind we organised our staff training. We decided to use the statements and keywords identified above as a frame for our collaboration and that Visby and the island of Gotland would be our context.

Reading on: Staff Training Visby