Our culture, our passion, our inspiration
It was with great anticipation and excitement that I ventured one early Saturday morning along the highway in the direction of Cape Town to officially launch the RAD (Rural Arts Development) Foundation’s Visual Arts Programme. Months of planning between the madness that often goes along with development and strategizing funding and co-ordinating role players, finally became a reality with the partnering of local government in the form of the Langeberg Municipality and the RAD Foundation.
Firmly focused on developing outcomes that will stimulate, inspire, engage and educate the participants of our programmes, The RAD Foundation is now positioning itself as the conduit for arts development in the Langeberg region. Add to this, our focus on providing the necessary platforms for participation in the arts in the form of festivals in the area, we are not only stimulating the arts, but also “cultural tourism” which is fast becoming the catch-phrase for development within the more rural parts of South Africa.
The interview with an Artist Project encourages the holistic development of young emerging artists to include, not only inspiring them to learn from professionals working in the arts arena, but to stimulate their confidence in both verbal and written communication. We are provided with an opportunity to engage young aspiring artists who do not have the same access to programmes and development enjoyed by their city dwelling counterparts. It is indeed hugely satisfying that our partnering funders have bought into our vision for the development of our Visual Arts Programme. I am sure that together, we will navigate the challenges and draw from what we are learning as an emerging NPO to provide the foundation for future development of specific outcomes within the greater frame-work of this programme.
So it was that on one crisp Karoo Winter day, 11 youngsters and their facilitator, hers truly got together to explore the world of the artist. Three local artists, without whom this workshop would not have been possible, agreed to the use of pictures and short biographies to be included in the manual provided for each participant as the research portion of the workshop which would then stimulate the formation of questions for each artist. We discussed the stimulation of conversation as opposed to interrogating our visiting artists so that we can allow for more than yes or no answers. I came to realise that no amount of planning for outcomes, actually prepares one for the reality of different age groups, differing amounts of exposure to the arts and the format of the learning environment. The participants were naturally shy and reluctant to open up to a stranger who they had just met. This posed some significant challenges initially and I knew that in order for positive outcomes in terms of our original thinking and planning for this particular workshop, I would have to change tack midstream and address what could be a potential disaster for a workshop so focused on communication, both verbal and written… notwithstanding the visual communication element that is fundamental to the topic.
Natural curiosity and youthful enquiry became my immediate friend in finding a solution. They may not talk to me for the time being, but they will talk to each other. Participants happily interviewed each other in pairs and in groups they were able to find the confidence to formulate questions for the visiting artists. Within the space of a few hours, participants were visibly charged and all had overcome their initial shyness not only with each other, but also with me. Interestingly, English, the language of instruction is not for the most part the home-language of the participants and this in itself poses some challenges for them. As a facilitator, one needs to be ensuring that every opportunity for practicing is used. Listening skills and note taking became key elements to satisfying the outcomes for this project and whilst individually, participants vary in the degree of development required within the overall scope of the project, as a group, the outcomes are a shining example of what happens within the group dynamic and getting things done together. We played to the individual strengths of each participant and thus allowed them to feel a part of a greater story. Their learning was ultimately from themselves as individuals and from their place within the group.
What we learnt from all 3 visiting artists is that it is a tough occupation and requires passion and dedication if one is to derive a living from pursuing the arts. The surprise from the participants that the arts are not essentially a field that will make them rich, was tangible. They were also surprised by the amount of hours required to accomplish an artwork, anything from a few days to a few years.
There is no doubt that all participants now have sufficient information after this workshop to question themselves and their motivations for their choices. With practice they will also reach the point where they will be able to research, interview an artist and write a narrative for publication.
We, as developers of the project were able to gain some valuable insights into each participant via their interview notes on each other. We now know a bit about what makes them tick, where they come from and their wish lists for art materials. Most importantly, we can begin to plan accordingly, focusing not only on the group as a whole, but also speak to the heart of the individual.
Meet the 3 visiting artists here: (the written work which is the outcome of correlating the notes taken by the participants and their questions for each artist