Grassroots Collectives at the Gates

From Planet 244

by Dylan Huw

Dylan Huw celebrates the growing influence of radically political arts organisations. He argues that with large gatekeeping institutions now eager to display their ethical credentials, whatever their actual practices, their ‘abrupt embrace’ of the grassroots necessitates a reckoning with the often exploitative nature of the arts sector.

The equilibrium of Wales’ artistic ecosystem has shifted, and dramatically. A renewed spirit of collectivism and grassroots practice now feels like Welsh art’s centre of gravity, and practitioners who tend to be younger, much more culturally pluralist and much less wedded to traditional barriers of medium or sector than those our culture has usually privileged are the ones shaping the future of our artistic life. As the work of independent collectives such as Where I’m Coming From, Y Stamp, Gentle/Radical and others building new lanes for arts and ideas to flourish in Wales becomes increasingly impossible to ignore, powerful institutions are coming knocking. But are our gatekeeping organisations – funding bodies, universities, private foundations, large galleries and museums – equipped to keep pace with the urgency and criticality of these collectives, who are deeply engaged with – and making work around – not only movements for social justice but the conditions of cultural production itself? In a climate in which any well-heeled organisation is able to talk the talk of good intentions regardless of its actual practices, how do we ensure that this ‘moment’ is a harbinger of a more equitable and diverse long-term artistic culture, rather than a brief flourishing of critical optimism alone?

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