Process Description of the Cross-Arts Working Group
By the working group members
Within the frame of an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership (SP), several European higher education institutions in the fields of arts started a collaboration for exploring cross-arts collaboration under the title: NAIP: Training Artist without Borders. This collaboration was an extension of the already existing partnership between several institutions related to the European Music Master New Audiences and Innovative Practice (NAIP). Within this project, which took place from September 2016 until October 2018, new partners from the fields of fine arts, theatre and opera were invited into the consortium for the purpose of widening the horizons beyond the perspective of music.
A cross-arts working group, existing of academic staff from the participating institutions with various artistic backgrounds, was assembled to explore how to use creative collaborative learning approaches in a cross-arts setting. The aim was to include participants from the fields of music, performing arts and fine art. The project’s intensive programmes were to be used as a venue for exploring the working group’s ideas. The group would work on the learning approaches in the first year, and focus on documentation, experiments, processing results and producing outcomes in the second year. The idea was that this work would be used as a basis for developing a cross-art module that could be offered to the participating institutions, bringing together staff and students for stronger cross-fertilization of ideas and cultures.
In this paper we will describe our working and learning process, presenting our story of working together as a working group. We will provide the reader with insight into how we have developed our work, addressing various subjects connected to cross-arts collaboration, cross art making as well as learning and teaching in a cross-arts setting. Our hope is that this process description can also serve as a blueprint or model for a cross-arts project, resulting in a module for second cycle arts students. We therefore take the process description as a point of departure for distinguishing a framework for a joint cross-art module.
Point of Departure: A Cross-Arts Project
At our first meeting it was clear that the group was diverse in terms of artistic backgrounds, gender, age and experience. Some of the group members had years of experience working together, knowing each other very well, and others were coming completely fresh into the group, not having known anyone beforehand. Therefore, it was important to start our work with a dialogue about the various fields of arts and teaching that we each represented, taking the first step towards developing a mutual language. This way we opened up the possibility to engage in meaningful conversation about art making and collaboration. We realised that we would not be able to approach the development of a cross-arts module sitting together in a meeting room, but that we would in fact have to create and participate in our own cross-arts collaboration project. As will be elaborated in this paper, we have done that through exploring and experimenting with sharing inspirational sources, exercises and cross-art making during our meetings in the past two years.
First Year: Exploring and experimenting
During the first project year we met three times. At the first working meeting we emphasised finding a way to start the collaboration as a working group, getting to know the different disciplines we each represented and identifying sources of inspiration and mutual values for our work.
During the second working meeting, which was in form of a staff training, we explored finding a mutual language through sharing and exchanging work forms and methods from our individual practices. We each prepared and facilitated a short workshop in which we all became active as a community of learners. Based on this exchange of material we broke out into small groups to make collaborative art. The meeting was concluded by reflecting on the process. We all became collaborating artists and guinea pigs for exploring new territory.
The third time we met as a group, we brought our students together in a cross-arts LAB (during the project’s first Intensive Programme). This was a venue for experimenting with the approaches and work forms we had explored during the staff training, setting up a cross-arts collaboration as a ‘Community of Practice’ existing of both teachers and students from various fields of arts. Using the setting of the Icelandic harbour town Hafnafjörður as a source of inspiration, the group exchanged approaches and ideas for exploring ways to connect and collaborate. Within the frame of this process we formed several cross-arts LAB groups which then dove into collaborative art making.
Second year: Consolidation and Implementation
During the second project year we met three times.
The first working group meeting focused on evaluating the first intensive programme in 2017, and looking into ways of collecting and describing the outcomes of our work. We chose to underpin our work ahead by making a collection of interviews with artists familiar with cross-arts making and collaboration. The second working group meeting was dedicated to looking at the output we had created so far and on preparing the second intensive programme of 2018.
The third and final time we met was at the second intensive programme, which was organised in Groningen, The Netherlands, in the two small villages Zeerijp and ‘t Zandt. During this we implemented the teaching and learning approaches we had developed and found so far. We also put some new experiments into practice based on our earlier reflections and evaluations.