Kōrero me te whakarongo – Jeremy Mayall

Creative Acts of Kindness

We talked to Arts Advocate Jeremy Mayall from Creative Waikato recently about art and social change as embodied research. Jeremy watched our recent webinar Racism, community, art and social change: Understanding community responses to racism in Aotearoa. Jeremy found the subject matter of our webinar intriguing, and found the kaupapa similar to a project the Creative Waikato team had just delivered, Kotahitanga: United Through Creativity. This project looked at art as a tool for social justice to inspire conversation and look at different pathways for understanding one another.

Q: How do we get art and social change out of just the art space?

If we look at what role art can play in how we understand the deeper value of being human, then art belongs everywhere. Humans are storytellers – that’s how we understand the world and communicate with one another. And as our knowledge progresses, we tell different stories. So, art, culture and creativity are not separate from how we live our lives, they should be interwoven throughout all things – seeing it as separate is a Western construct.  

Q: What did you get out of watching our webinar?

What has being talked about was exciting because it looks at how we tell different stories, in different ways, to connect with different people. It is always inspiring to hear about creative projects that are inspiring change through art.

Q: How can we think about art and social change as research?

Art projects are an important form of research. It becomes embodied research: Research by doing, by unpicking and sharing. These projects have a really powerful and complex impact through creativitiy itself – it is through this act of doing that we can bring different voices together who have a shared creative experience.

Then there’s the next level of the process of storytelling which has a different impact and a different audience. It has a ripple effect. The creative activity is a pebble dropped into a pool. The ripples that come from that pebble flow through our lives and result in many complex things to measure and understand: What has the impact been from experiencing an artwork in the moment, and then how might that resonate with us a month into the future, or five years into the future? Human experience is constantly evolving, and as this occurs all these little bits get woven into the tapestry of our individual and collective wellbeing.

Art and social changes projects show our collective experience of being in the world and it’s such a potent way to deal complex things, in a way that pure factual discussion often isn’t. Also, art hits us at a different level. There is art for everyone, but you’ve got to find the art that resonates with you.

How can we make art projects make more of an impact?

There’s a need to support and deliver a range of creative activity in a range of spaces. Understanding the impact is one thing but making it something that is enabled and encouraged is another thing entirely. We need more people to have creative practice in their lives. They don’t need to call themselves artists, but it would be great if everyone had a regular creative practice which they can turn to. It’s a powerful tool for mental health, physical health, and cultural connection. This might be a hobby, or a mindfulness tool, or a distraction. All those things are good. Unfortunately sometimes these activities can be seen as frivolous, but the evidence suggests otherwise, so the more we have different people advocating for creative practice – who see the value in those activities – the better. These activities are a way of understanding ourselves and are hugely powerful. 

How did you come across our webinar?

I just stumbled across it in an email newsletter forwarded to me from a friend. This was my first introduction to Community Research.  There are so many people doing so many amazing things! I am always fascinated by how we can join the dots between different projects, and understanding that collective storytelling as an interesting part of the journey. Combining community and research is a great thing – especially with art as the pathway to understanding this.  

What’s really important to you right now?

Advocacy around the value of more people having meaningful and regular creative practices in their lives. This is something that has real power to change the world and it is happening at range of different scales. You could do it for yourself on a Sunday afternoon, or it may be something that brings you together with a new community.

I’ve been talking a lot about the idea of the creative process, or act of engaging in creativity, as an act of kindness: Kindness to oneself and the community. It’s so valuable, but it’s so easy to lose sight of because of other priorities and complexities of life. Part of the challenge is to encourage people to find their own way into a creative journey. So, perhaps this is a good opportunity to encourage everyone reading this to take a few moments today to do something creative.

More about Jeremy

More about Kotahitanga: United Through Creativity

More about Creative Waikato

Got an art and social change project you’d like to add here? Contact us.

Community Research


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