Research : Encounters Art

Based in Totnes, Encounters Art encourage creative, transformative projects, which often produce co-designed solutions to issues impacting on local communities by evoking questionings, inviting responses and engaging with initiating solutions . By providing creative consultation, co-designing concepts and training around themes of 'Climate Emergency and Ecological Limits,' 'Care and Wellbeing' and 'Place.' The company of artists, producers, facilitators and change agents look at ways to enable individuals to innovate, evolve and take risks to respond to societal need, building relationships and connections of lasting value, seeking to embrace and rebuild diverse communities through engagement and participatory art.

“Encounters do something remarkable, something precious, they create invitational spaces in which people feel comfortable to relate to each other and to ideas in a very different way. I don’t know anyone else who brings the care, love, attention to detail and passion to what they do”

The Story in the Object evolving from gathering personal objects from the community, accompanied by stories from their owners, creating a personal reflection on life in communities and towns. Then forming an interactive exhibition surrounding the attached meaning to objects intended to question the ongoing disposability of society and materialism we are often surrounded by. Similarly, Museum of Now used guided conversations, craft learning and creative expression to form an exhibition of unique objects hand made entirely from local, natural or recycled materials by people who live or work in the town, encouraging ongoing interaction and play, whilst reflecting on object and place.

Encounters Shops become meeting places in which local communities can collect and exchange experiences, memories, objects, journeys and thoughts about their lives, where they live and the wider world as a nationwide "mobile shop" project. Using photography, visual art and text to collect personal material from local visitors, reflecting back through the creation of interactive, evolving displays, performance events and publications. Talks, workshops, community visioning, feasts, intergenerational exchanges and cross-cultural dialogue processes can also take place in the Shops which influence a sense of community forming and provoking questions to influence change and meaning making.  

Other examples of Encounters Art projects include commissions to design and coordinate a creative engagement process that would catalyse a community response to housing people that are homeless in communities such as Torbay. These discussions became to use creative approaches and cues to develop ideas and plans for action that could be taken together locally and explore community potential. There influence further continues on to projects involving mobile arts, culture and learning space called Chrysalis which allows a portable space for environmentally motivated inspiration and discussions, as well as other initiatives such as developing a Residents Charter of Rights within local care systems. 

Looking at Encounters Art has encouraged me to understand that just by providing small moments for conversation and by suspending the right questions for inclusionary processes allows for active community participation. The creative tools that are offered not only form inclusive moments, but build towards better connections and developments into influential ideas. Looking at these processes has given me further scope in what creative ways we can address these meaningful moments, just by allowing place and becoming a creative catalyst can give individuals agency in providing social change, developing the community and human connection within a place.  

Further Development : Attending Art of Invitation : Creative Approaches To Community Engagement workshop 

Lottie Matthews © 2020
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