Conservation and Arts Collaboration: Disseminating Art Grants in Cornwall
Case Study Type:
Public Engagement Case Study
Sand dune system:
Penhale and The Towans, Cornwall
Case Study Subject:
Working with arts organisation, FEAST, to disseminate artist grants
About The Dune System Engagement Intervention
Penhale Dunes, near Perranporth, and The Towans, near Hayle, are the two largest sand dune systems in Cornwall and are the Cornish sites for the Dynamic Dunescapes project. They both have local residents, schools and community groups nearby as well as many holiday makers visiting.
What was the change you hoped to make?
At the start of the project we had a budget of £10,000 for community arts events within Cornwall, with an aim to build an understanding of our project by delivering ten events, to reach 5000 people. With limited experience within the team of working within the arts sector, we wanted guidance and support around this process, to ensure successful engagement with our project.
What was the suggested intervention?
An artist suggested that we contact FEAST, a community-based arts organisation funded by Arts Council England. FEAST invests in innovative community and artist led projects and events.
Part of their ambition is to “look for opportunities to take the arts into new areas by building partnerships with organisations that are working for social, environmental or economic change” and "to bring people together and help communities become more lively, more generous and more confident.”
The team at FEAST are very experienced in handling artist grant applications and steering artists towards a good fit with grant criteria. This was an area in which we lacked experience, therefore it seemed an ideal chance to work together.
What did you do and how?
At our initial meeting with the FEAST team, we discussed how best to manage the grant budget and decided to ‘piggy back’ their existing small grants scheme, in a way that was similar to some work they had done with a previous project. This resulted in us diving the funding into 10 x £1,000 grants which artists could apply for.
We then discussed what we wanted artists to deliver and to draw this up into a document stating application criteria. Below is the opening statement on the document:
“We are helping Cornwall Wildlife Trust find artists who are passionate about working with and for the environment and communities. A number of Dynamic Dunescapes Small Grants are available, to artists who have great ideas about how to increase public interest in, and support for, one of the most threatened habitats in Europe: sand dunes.”
We consulted the Dynamic Dunescapes Comms documents and laid out the following project interpretation themes:
- Dunes move and experiencing dunes changing shape is a sensory experience. This naturally dynamic habitat requires conservation interventions and we want the public to understand that.
2.Dunes are beautiful
- Dunes are beautiful places to enjoy views and unique surroundings.
3.Dunes are homes
- Dunes are homes and help create safe places for special plants and animals.
4.Dunes are for play
Dunes are for playing in which is good for our health, so go and explore!
5.Dunes are still a mystery
- Dunes are still a mystery - find out more about how they behave and what wildlife lives there.
6 Dunes are good for you
- Dunes are good for you and spending time in nature can help improve mental and physical wellbeing
It was also very useful to draw on the expertise of the FEAST team in drawing up a contract for the successful artists. This documented an agreement between the artist and Cornwall Wildlife Trust on behalf of the Dynamic Dunescapes project. A start and finish date was stated as well as various terms and conditions encompassing publicity materials, permissions, copyright and evaluation reporting. It also stated the arrangement for invoicing and payment which was, as follows:
1 – First instalment of £750 on receipt of this signed contract, an invoice and compliance with any extra requirements which will be discussed with you by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust People Engagement Officer and set out at the end of this agreement. You must also provide us with a short project description (approx. 60 words) and at least one image for our website.
2 - Final instalment of £250 on receipt of your final evaluation and budget reports and an invoice (within 4 weeks of the end of your project)
Who did you work with? / How did you engage with different groups?
Through our artist grants, we have been able to engage a much wider range of people than those who are, perhaps, traditionally interested in nature and conservation. We have had a very broad range of applicants working in all creative fields, which has helped widen the appeal. Our successful applicants were:
Mac Dunlop – comes from a free music, performance art and poetry background. He composed and recorded five dune soundscapes called “Sand Waves” and also led music workshops for secondary school music students.
Pete Ward – an environmental artist working with earth pigments. He ran a series of dune walks and painting workshops for schools, members of the public and a local art group. https://peterward-artist-illustrator.co.uk/
Cobweb Tours – theatrical partnership running Cornish heritage tours. They held tours of the dynamite works at Upton Towans. https://sites.google.com/view/cobweb-tours/home
Why don’t you? Club - offers creative activities and adventures to families with younger children and is part of the community organisation, Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change. They held pinhole camera workshops and walks on the dunes. https://www.cn4c.org.uk/
Charlotte Luke – contemporary dancer and teacher at Savvy Studios. Held dance workshops for the public and for a primary school in the dunes at Upton Towans. https://www.charlotteluke.com/mitd
Laurence Eagling – a videographer, photographer and editor and part of documentary film-making team, Swimming Head Productions. He ran photography workshops on the dunes, helping participants to take better photos with their mobile phones. https://www.swimminghead.co.uk/about-1
Friends Of The Towans Art Club – two artists running sketching and painting workshops and hoping to establish a long-running Towans Art Club. They are Hilary Gibson, http://www.hilary-Jean-gibson-illustrator.co.uk, and Dominica Williamson, https://www.ecogeographer.com/.
Reg Payn – a visual artist, performer, entertainer, inventor and maker and part of ARTiculate, a diverse collective of artists. He held skylark lantern-making workshops at two primary schools. https://www.regpaulpayn.com/
How was the intervention monitored?
We asked artists to provide attendance numbers and a short report at the end of their workshops or intervention. We also asked participants for feedback or to fill in surveys on their experience.
We met with FEAST at the start of the process and for a joint evaluation of the process at the end. During the application and delivery period, we corresponded via email and phone to discuss the proposals of grant applicants.
Highlight any issues/obstacles & how you overcame them?
Originally launched during Covid, the grant applications were a little slow to get started. However, as time went on, we had a steady stream of applicants, many of whom put forward successful proposals. It is likely that attendance numbers at some events were reduced due to Covid.
A couple of the artists that we worked with were not very forthcoming with updates and feedback on their work. We discussed this issue with FEAST at our evaluation meeting (see below).
How much did the intervention cost?
There was no cost to Dynamic Dunescapes project for the collaboration with FEAST.
Did the intervention work?
Was it successful and what has changed?
The collaboration worked very well. It was invaluable to have the expertise of a local arts organization to advise on the process of grant delivery and on the likelihood of successful engagement from the proposals of grant applicants. With their guidance, as well as our own meetings with artists, we were able to give grants to a wide variety of artists who, in turn, successfully engaged a large audience.
The arts projects enticed members of the public who may not otherwise have spent time on the sand dunes. It was also an extremely useful way to attract school groups and community groups to engage with this ecosystem in, perhaps, a less didactic fashion. And it was helpful to have an engagement tool to offer to specific groups and to open up to the general public.
Through these creative workshops, we were able to engage people with the history and legend of their local dunes and with the beauty and variety of dune nature.
With regards to legacy, the Friends Of The Towans art club is gaining momentum and the intention is for it to become a long-standing, established community group. We also feel there is potential for the chosen artists to use their workshops in the future to engage further audiences.
“I know Dunescapes provided a different and valuable stimulation for the artists”, Rose Barnecut, FEAST
In response to our feedback survey sent out to participants on the dunes photography workshops with Laurence Eagling, people “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they enjoyed the event, had gained new knowledge about sand dunes and that it was well organised. In response to the question “What did you most enjoy about the event?”, replies included:
“Learning new skills and being outdoors. Meeting other people”
“Having more knowledge of something very close to where I live.”
“Being outside in the dunes with people with a shared interest and sharing our images”.
The feedback following Cobweb Tours dynamite tour to the question “what did you most enjoy about the event?” included:
“The delivery of the information by Hetty and Will, done in a very informative, enjoyable and entertaining manner.”
“The guides were very knowledgeable and able to answer all our questions.”
“Learning in a beautiful setting”
What could be done differently next time?
During our evaluation meeting, we recognised that we could have communicated further with FEAST during the process, for example, asking for assistance if grant recipients were slow to respond or give feedback.
A selection of images from the various projects the collaboration generated.
Friends of the Towans art group - botanical workshop
Lawrence Eagling Photography Workshop
Moves in the Dunes dance workshop
Skylark Lantern Workshop