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VASW Forums 2022 - What did you say?

Between May and July 2022, Visu­al Arts South West (VASW) host­ed ten region­al forums: nine online and one in per­son. This is what we found out.



Between May and July 2022, Visual Arts South West (VASW) hosted ten regional forums: nine online and one in person. Each forum was hosted by one or two local artist practitioners with each host encouraged to tailor questions and discussion topics around regional concerns and themes. This year, VASW were able to offer bursaries to artists and freelance art workers to attend the forums.

The objective of the forums was to create a dedicated space to discuss how visual arts communities are coping with universal contemporary issues, while at the same time carving out a place for artists and art workers to connect, thus strengthening local networks. Building on 2021’s Forum report, it was hoped that these conversations would give VASW insights into each region so that detailed feedback about local experiences could be gathered from artists and art workers.

The cost of living crisis, imminent recession, emergence from a global pandemic and international conflicts have built an environment where most people, across all sectors, are struggling significantly. Although issues can be more strongly felt in particular areas, it was obvious that the commonalities across the forums were universal for both urban and rural areas.

On a more local level, some artists simply do not know who the other creative practitioners are in their region. This was particularly evident within the more sprawling rural areas. Many people were surprised to see the diversity of practices and were pleased to have the forums to connect on this level and make contacts.

This report highlights the concerns that face both individual artists and the arts sector in the south west as a whole. It is also evident that this is a key moment to bring the region together and work as a whole, avoiding the urge to ‘compare and contrast’. Although the commonalities reflect structural and systemic issues which extend beyond the reach of the south west and, indeed, the arts sector in general, key needs were expressed that can be actioned.

IMG 5696 c Chelsey Cliff