The Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales has been up and running for around eight months now. In that time, we’ve engaged with more than 100 arts organisations across Wales and taken a number of those through the process of identifying a challenge or opportunity, building a team around it and coming up with an idea that might help solve or realise the challenge or opportunity.
We’re really pleased to be able to announce today that we’ve funded five new research and development projects in Wales.
Each project has come through the Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales programme, completing both the Identify Challenges and Build Teams and Generate Ideas phases of the fund. They’ve worked up solid research and development projects, in collaboration with technology partners that they will undertake over the next 9 – 10 months.
First off, Arts Alive Wales will explore how they can share artworks and performances created in remote, rural locations with a wider audience. As Rebecca Spooner, Arts Development Manager, explains:
Here in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons National Park, we work with a lot of talented artists creating site-specific work in remote places. The landscape – although a real source of inspiration for our artists – provides a challenge for us. In rural areas, it’s harder to get the work seen by a wider audience, and online solutions are made trickier by a lack of broadband or WiFi connectivity. So, we’re setting out to explore the possibility of using satellite broadband and other technology to get round the problem.
Next up, Artis Community will work with Proper Design to explore how digital technology can play a role in quantifying the social impact of participation in community arts activity, and in doing so, drive forward organisational decision making, and develop potential for investment from a wider variety of sources. As Richie Turner, Projects Director – Enterprise and Innovation, says:
There are two driving forces behind community arts. The first is offering high quality artistic participatory activity. The second is for that experience to be transformative for the lives of the people and communities taking part, often by providing people with a voice or means for expression in the face of disadvantage.
But the evidence we have to prove this transformational impact is generally anecdotal or case study based, and it doesn’t always reflect the full story. We need a way of producing far more robust and objective data to show the real social impact of community arts interventions in areas around health and wellbeing, education and community regeneration
Our third project sees Bombastic working with digital agency, Moon, to research and develop the creation of a digital platform that creatively combines education and live art that can mean more frequent and impacting engagement for its schools audiences, and in turn, shape a new business model for the Company as Artistic Director Sean Tuan John explains:
Bombastic has been mixing live arts with animation and interactive digital experiences for ten years now. But performing and touring tech-based work means big overheads and real limitations on regularity of contact with our audiences. At the moment we can only take work out to schools once a year, which makes it a real challenge to build relationships with teachers and children. We want to be a much more regular presence across the school year, so to do this we need a far more agile and responsive model for working.
G39, a gallery space based in Cardiff, are working with Golant Media Ventures. For non-ticketed venues like G39, data capture to allow better insights into audiences and their needs is an ongoing challenge. So, they’ll be exploring how digital technology can respond to the different ways visual arts audiences interact with artistic spaces to creatively capture data that can be used to build relationships with audiences, benchmark across the sector and provide a robust blueprint for strategic decision making. As Director Chris Brown explains:
Visual arts are free at the point of access, and we’re committed to reducing the barriers that exist to engaging with visual arts at every possible juncture. But that poses a real problem for us. We want to be knowledgeable and insightful about the people who choose to engage with us. But while other organisations can gather data via a transaction – a ticket, a service or goods – we can’t connect the names that sit on our database with the people who come through our doors. We’re in the dark about how much we can attribute our footfall to our efforts in communicating and talking about what we do. We need to find a solution to that problem.
Our final project sees Hijinx, an inclusive professional theatre company and training organisation, presenting work performed by actors with and without learning disabilities, working with Proper Design and Dunne and Daisy to explore how they can use digital technology to track the progress and development of their group of 60 professionally trained learning disabled actors. And in doing so, how it can go about creating future employment opportunities.
As Marketing Manager Zoe King says:
Our vision is to make it common place to see learning disabled actors appearing on stage, screen and the radio. So with 60 professionally trained learning disabled actors across Wales, and more coming through our Academies, our challenge is three-fold. How do we share information and communicate our news internally amongst our group of actors, carers, and tutors? How do we keep track of their progress while safeguarding their privacy? And how do we showcase their successes and celebrate their stories publicly? Our work with the Fund is exploring how a digital platform might offer a solution to these challenges and help encourage and empower our performers while nurturing their careers.
You’ll be able to keep up to date with all of these projects via our new website, launching in the next couple of weeks. We’ll also be running a series of events and other opportunities for people to get involved in our work, so keep checking back for further updates.