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Engaging and empowering disenfranchised communities through art: Deptford

Student volunteering has been an integral part of Artem Conservation activities since it opened, providing students from all over the world the opportunity to get both online and hands on experience on art conservation and art engagement while being at university, as part of their university training and personal development.

Our latest volunteer, Ahmad MAMAM Almurakhi from Leeds Beckett University, has researched for us one of the most important new aspects of our business, Artem Conservation’s development on disenfranchised South London’s communities. On this post, Ahmed focused on the prosperous Deptford’s case:

foxing restoration
Second Floor Studios and Arts (SFSA), in Deptford

''This year it seems it is the world’s intention to bring art and creativity out into the open to bring back a new normal and heal our communities.

During the beginning of 2021, we observed a strong support from private and public institutions to create artworks from and for local communities in the public realm, such as grants, museum exhibitions, art galleries and festivals. More specifically, in Deptford, where Artem Conservation Studio is located, a walkable art trail is being made thanks to the work of the Deptford X festival, SFSA, town hall and galleries such as Deptford does Art. Thanks to these efforts, the old, disenfranchised communities of Southeast London, have been exposed to long-time artistic communities, such as Hackney Wick’s in East London.

However, what it has become clear is that public institutions support is helpful but unsustainable in the long-term. A major problem in this aspect is the strained public finances and often inefficient spending priorities, which are aimed at supporting the embattled public museums in Central London, limiting the exposure to art among disenfranchised communities in South London. As such, the work of private artists and businesses is crucial to encouraging greater engagement with such communities and can help in more efficient public allocation of funding that can help in bridging various communities outside of Central London.

A good example of such a venture is the Second Floor Studios and Arts (SFSA), where Artem Conservation is located. SFSA offers prime location modern studios for any artist, maker, and conservator as well as invaluable network opportunities. Also, SFSA members contribute significantly to the Gallery and the wider community through the tours to groups and voluntary opportunities through formal and informal volunteering. In fact, my research for Artem Conservation, noted that disenfranchised communities become engaged in a shared creative process, building a feeling of solidarity and understanding among all stakeholders involved, which in turn makes it easier for them to collaborate and act on par with each other. This further proves that public-private engagement can facilitate these.

Another important and growing project is Deptford X festival. This festival is rooted in the fabric of Southeast neighbourhoods and the people that lives and works in them. Deptford X, which will take place from the 9th to the 18th of July, is the perfect example of engaging communities with art, as this fringe festival is an open call for local creativity, schools, art professionals, and a wide range of international artists.

Finally, through this experience, I became more aware of the fragmentation of the London’s art scene and became acquainted with how important art is in forging links between individuals and groups, as well as a medium of building a more active and tolerant civil society, no matter the social background''

Ahmad MAMAM Almurakhi