Story and Art Create Democracy

Story and Art Create Democracy

We live a in a diverse multicultural community with distinct stories.

A truly democratic culture is inclusive. It allows a diversity of values to be heard and reaches out to those who are excluded.  This was a panel discussion topic with Beyond the Festival Show case that City of Greater  Bendigo Coordinator Arts and Culture Maree Tonkin participated in recently.

Maree is a long time friend and colleague of mine, over the years we have worked on numerous arts projects within the community that engage, empower and add to the story of Bendigo.  I was curious to learn more about Cultural Democracy, a term I had never encountered.  I felt it was important to take the opportunity to learn more as many of my clients and work is about sharing story and creating opportunity for participation – online and offline.

“It is difficult to really define cultural democracy and how to go about creating cultural democracy,” Maree explained.  “For me it is a set of related commitments.  Commitments to projecting and promoting cultural diversity and the right to culture for everyone. My work with the City is to enable people to participate in art and cultural experiences that affects their cultural life.”

A ‘culture of inclusion’ can be achieved through a range ways including good strategic planning and investing into arts and culture, the Council Plan outlines values and commitments that aim to enhance the quality of life for all people in Greater Bendigo. Last month the council launched their Charter of Human Rights.

Goodness it is a lot of words that explain two words – Cultural Democracy.

When Maree shared previous projects that engage I  began to get a better sense of how story and art create democracy – such as creating space and time for a path to recovery for Black Saturday survivors. Or when she was approached by a support group for newly arrived Karen women who needed to practice their weaving, but didn’t have access to space.  Using a disused shop front space the women were able to practice their traditional weaving and share their story within the community through their textiles being visible.  Their studio is no longer in use, as their lives have transformed as their connections into the community grew gaining jobs and other new roles.

The “space” is always different for participation.  But is it is the place, the activity where a person feels the most freedom to express.