Getting Started

About this section

This section provides information about starting to work in participatory settings. It explores: definitions of participatory arts; careers in participatory practice; the range of work; how to get involved and relationships with commissioners.

Artist Theresa Easton's work with children at Greenfield Commuity Arts Centre, Newton Aycliffe, Photo: David Lawson

What do we mean by ‘participatory arts’?

There are many definitions of participatory arts and our presentation on what is participatory arts? explores these. This includes a short definition which is:

Participatory art involves an artist working with at least one other person to take part in a process that an artist facilitates.

Image: artist Theresa Easton’s work with children at Greenfield Community Arts Centre, Newton Aycliffe, Photo: David Lawson

ArtWorks North East Youth Work Workshop 2 Tommy Anderson signs

Who does it?

Our Audit of practice researches the variety of participatory arts taking place within a range of cultural organisations in North East England. The report investigates the activity delivered in each organisation, artmaking practice, approaches to arts in participatory settings, excellence, language, employment of artists and training and development.


Image: artwork created by young people involved in artist Tommy Anderson’s Summertime Jam project for Helix Arts, Barnados, Northumberland Clubs for Young People and Throckley Community Hall

ArtWorks North East Health Workshop 2

How do I get involved?

The ArtWorks working paper 5 on training and development providers and opportunities identifies that training and development opportunities in participatory settings are provided through: accredited and non-accredited courses; seminars and conferences; distance and online teaching; peer-to-peer networking and conversations; project collaborations; placesments, ‘live projects’ and work experience; internships and apprenticeships; shadowing; observation; coaching and mentoring; use of toolkits, research and online resources; reflective and reflexive practice.


Image: prop and sensory exercise with carnations and marbling used by artist Claire Ford in ArtWorks North East Health Workshop 2


ArtWorks North East Health Workshop 1 white masks

The commissioner’s angle

ArtWorks pathfinder Navigator used artists laboratories to explore how employers and commissioners can ensure they are hiring ‘quality’ and what professional development might result in better hiring. These in-depth conversations with, and between, artists and employers/commissioners of artists working in participatory settings also explored practice differences and whether there were sufficient commonalities to allow for common training, qualifications and standards across different art forms, values, intents and purposes and settings.


Image: masks used by artist Pady O’Connor in ArtWorks North East Health Workshop 1