Guest blog – To MOOC or not to MOOC?

By 30th June 2020Uncategorised

In April and May eight Wales-based artists and producers and one from Italy joined the Articulture team to develop their skills and understanding of artistic creation in the public space with a free online course ‘Create in Public Space’. Here Annie Grundy, Articulture Co-Director, shares her experience of doing this MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and the unexpected but exciting developments that followed, including the continuation of the Wales study groups in Summer and Autumn this year.  

To MOOC or not to MOOC?

What are YOU doing in these too-long Covid days? Could you maybe ‘MOOC’ with us at Articulture?

My mum and I have been shielding together in lockdown for what seems like forever, with an ancient labrador, a one-eared yard-cat and Mr J the blackbird running rings round us. So obviously I am mad-crazy-busy. I nonetheless found time to MOOC in May and it proved to be not only an occasional get-out of doing gardening (am I the only person who can kill a plant merely by acknowledging its existence?) and the first stage of wading through  the scary limbo imposed by Covid 19 but it has also sparked some exciting actions for Articulture – more of which, later…

The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) – titled ‘Create in Public Space’ – was created by FAI AR – Europe’s only higher education training programme dedicated entirely to art in public space, and is open to anyone who is interested in creating and learning more about art in public space. They worked with collaborators at the Europe-wide IN SITU platform and the French national organisation Artcena to get this amazing course together and then put it out for anyone to do FREE of charge.

So Articulture decided to do the course and invited artists and producers from around Wales to do likewise – doing the modules each week at their own pace, then joining us for a zoom-chat. Our group added a contingent of 14 to a world-wide network of people exploring what it means to create in public space.

The course comes in bite-size chunks delivered either by the two main presenters or by a range of interviewees from across Europe. Sections can be easily replayed and there is a back-up transcript if you want to go over things. You follow at your own speed and if like me you have varied and often unpredictable working hours, it’s fine to either follow half an hour between zooms or to go for a full week’s block of sessions in the wee hours whilst the rest of the house sleeps!

A new world of work and inspiration

The presentations are accompanied and interspersed by many inspiring and fabulous examples of work so if you need a diversion there are plenty of enticing rabbit-holes to explore!

There were some snippets of works by artists I knew of already – not least ‘Host’ by Kate Lawrence Vertical Dance, ‘D-Construction’ hip-hop dance performed over chain-link fencing by Dyptik and the giant visual deception ‘Mensonges Urbains’ by Pierre Delavie. But a majority of the works featured or referenced were new to me – new and exciting, new and inspiring, new and thought-provoking, new and challenging.

D-Construction – Dyptik

I am recalling a giant domino trail, an orchestra playing from people’s balconies in a tower block, suggestive vegetables in a Kabul market…  For me there has always been something fiercely liberating when arts are found in spaces not designed for art, when the ‘stage’ is a public space like a park or a shopping centre, a street bench or a beach. There is a whole section of the MOOC focussed on what place is, can or should be given to the audience when creating in the public space.  I loved that the MOOC reaffirmed my sense of freedom in association with arts in public spaces – but also the trepidation and therefore excitement that often goes with it!

Host – Kate Lawrence Vertical Dance. Image – Nick Young

Looking forward – a collective story for outdoor arts in Wales and its future

There was great feedback from the artists and producers who did the MOOC with us and I also really appreciate that doing the course prompted us at Articulture to embark on two key actions we had talked about but not previously got round to.

Firstly, doing the course highlighted for our group how great it would be to see the rich history of arts in public spaces in Wales have a more broadly recognised profile. For our part at Articulture we would like to contribute to this by pulling together a compilation of some of the creations, experiences and tales that make up the story of outdoor arts in Wales so that we have a kind of diverse and colourful ‘patchwork quilt’ which we can celebrate and promote.

Secondly, one of the exercises in the MOOC asked participants to list the learning and training opportunities they knew of in their region or country which relate to creating in the public space. Our group’s participants were able to put plenty of flags in the map for colleges and courses around Wales that include an outdoor arts element – from dance to puppetry, from circus to promenade performance. The group also clocked the gaps however, so we are starting an education / training action group to see how we can progress with getting a fuller picture of what is currently available (and we have to acknowledge that Covid 19 may change the picture) and advocating for creating in the public space to feature more prominently in arts teaching and training.

I am now really looking forward to more MOOCing with two more ‘Create in Public Space’ Wales based study groups now planned for this Summer and Autumn, hosted by Articulture working in collaboration with FAI-AR.

Registration for the Summer group is open now to start 13th July. Details here.

Wayfaring – And Now. Image – Tony-Gill