Voluntary Arts Ireland

Our approach

Voluntary Arts Ireland is here for the people who love to be creative…..who love to sing, dance, garden, bake, act, perform, write, read, make and the list goes on. We want to see a healthy, creative and engaged civic society.

These creative citizens and groups, whom we seek to serve, live and move within a the wider civic space - including the virtual civic space - and placing participation in creative cultural activity at the heart of civic life is very much a core part of Voluntary Arts Ireland’s work. (Fig 1)

Fig. 1

Figure 1

As well as promoting participation in creative cultural activity we will connect explicitly to the wellbeing and civic participation agendas that are emerging in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This expands and enriches our overall approach to helping to realise the vision of a healthy, creative and engaged civic society (Fig 2)

Fig. 2

Figure 2

In a world where it is becoming clear that the everyday creative things we do have a value to us, to the social fabric and wellbeing of our communities and to the health of our democracies ‘cultural commoning’ [see box] offers an alternative approach to sustaining our creative lives. And so, the organising principles of the ‘commons’ and ‘commoning’ are a key part of our approach.

‘Cultural commoning’ is when people come together to sustain creative activity and practices through participative and collaborative approaches (e.g. holding resources in common and co-design/production). A cultural commons begins with what people already know they have and can use rather than from a deficit position focussing on what they have lost or never had. It connects with the state and the market but happens independently. Like art and science – and any other facet of human culture - a cultural commons has to be made. We can see examples of a cultural commons being enacted all around us. These are a result of people making them so.

What do we mean by Creative Cultural Activity?

Creative cultural activity encompasses the activities of traditional amateur arts and crafts groups as well as wider (and emerging) definitions of the arts within differing cultures, new forms of digital creativity and other areas of cultural creativity, such as those practised in gardens, kitchens and workshops. It also emphasises culture as a process and includes a sense of active involvement. Participating in culture as a process through diverse forms of ‘creative cultural activity’ is something that many people love to do – and all people have the potential within them to do, not just privately but in a civic space.

We see every creative cultural activity in a public space as an act of civic participation which contributes to our individual and collective wellbeing. People’s voluntary, everyday creativity also contributes, along with publicly funds arts and creative industries, to a creative cultural economy that encompasses material prosperity and more.

Our roles

We see VAI as having two main, connected roles:

  • First, as an enabler – we encourage, highlight and support diverse creative cultural activity by citizens (individuals), groups and communities.
  • Second, as an influencer – Voluntary Arts Ireland develops, in conversation with diverse others (including people from across the full range of cultural and ethnic diversity), fresh thinking and ideas. We will share these ideas with other enablers – policy makers within central government, local government/authorities, arts organisations/groups and creative entrepreneurs – in order to influence policy and practice. We will continue to do this, for example, as part of our supportive engagement with BAME cultures and communities.

Our ways of working

In various ways across our work:

  • we curate (compose, select, organise, present knowledge/events/activities; relate to needs)
  • we convene (connect people, ideas, experiences; bring together gatherings, forums, conversations, …)

Overall, as an all-Ireland organisation/network, VAI will seek, wherever possible, to foster sharing and collaboration across the two jurisdictions of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.