Art Work Midlands - Artists Working in Participatory Settings


Paul Hamlyn Foundation is delivering a new £1.47m Special Initiative to support the continuing professional development of artists working in participatory settings.

Art Works: Developing Practice in Participatory Settings is a workforce scheme that seeks to meet the needs of artists at different stages in their careers - from the aspiring young artist embarking on training, to experienced practitioners who wish to progress their output. It is seeking to build on good practice to enhance the existing development infrastructure.

The following is a draft summary of the EMPAF Partnership application to this programme. Please read this in line with the diagram that can be found on the resources page at


If you wish to make any comments or add a vote of support please do by emailing Jan Reynolds at by 10 am on 24th January.




There is a strong evidence base that participating in the arts is fundamental to positive health and wellbeing. 


We are committed to defining, advocating for, and ensuring quality of experience for people engaging in arts activities in participatory settings at all levels, in all settings.  Art in participatory settings is often unfairly assumed to be of lesser value or quality than other forms of art practice and until this perception is challenged the sector as a whole will continue to be undervalued.  We believe that artists delivering quality work in participatory settings contribute to the quality of experience and benefit for participants.

This proposal is driven by people with a passion to see the practice and transformational benefits of the work reach the highest standards and achieve due recognition.


1.2 Aims

There are a number of clear aims for the Art Works Midlands programme:

  • To develop an holistic programme of training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for artists working in participatory settings that will work with and complement existing training and accredited courses; suitable for artists at all stages of their career and from all art forms. 

  • Ensure the specific needs of arts and health work is reflected in the Art Works Midlands CPD and training programme.

  • To ensure a sustainability for a programme of delivery and continuous evolution to meet changing needs

1.3 Objectives

  • Consolidate definitions of standards,  skills and core competencies expected of artist working in participatory settings
  • Map pathways and portfolios in order to: increase understanding of available and relevant training and CPD on offer, understand and respond to gaps in provision or need for more connectivity (e.g. – accreditation of vocational courses that enable new pathways into formal learning)
  • Deepen artists’ and skills providers’ understanding of arts practice, employer and participant needs, particularly in relation to health and wellbeing settings
  • Facilitate discussion between skills providers on the need to strengthen interconnectivity between vocational and formal learning
  • Influence  and advocate to arts organisations, healthcare commissioners, employers, funders and policy makers
  • Regularly disseminate/share findings (including mapping of training) through website, regional and national networking events to ensure learning is shared widely
  • Develop relationships with [J1] arts venues to ensure that the value of arts in participatory settings is understood and embedded within the pan-regional physical arts infrastructure


1.4 Outcomes

  1. Artists, employers and participants are aware of agreed standards expected of artist working in participatory settings, ensuring quality of provision
  2. Artists at all stages in their careers are aware of, and access, a greater range of relevant formal and informal learning
  3. The arts sector that operates in participatory settings, and arts sector more widely, is aware of changes to the external environment in which they operate and able to adapt and change to benefit from this and remain relevant to communities and audiences
  4. Skills providers (vocational and formal) work together on an on-going basis to try to understand and bridge gaps in learning pathways
  5. New skills provision bridges current gaps with a flexible model of practice that is safe, involving and fit for purpose
  6. Employers, commissioners and funders have a greater understanding of the benefits of arts in participatory settings
  7. Resources that enable artists operating in participatory settings to evaluate work in a way that is reflective, ethical and easily shared
  8. Arts practitioners across all art forms have a thorough understanding of best practice for arts delivery in health and wellbeing settings, placing them in a position to pursue new opportunities and drive innovation in this area


1.5 Areas of Enquiry

The initiative offers partners an opportunity to build on a considerable track record in developing training and professional development for artists working in participatory settings. Questions around what constitutes best practice are central to their work. These questions will be key areas of enquiry for the action research taking place within our programme and we propose to look specifically at:


  • How can we ensure artists in participatory setting deliver quality work?
  • How can we best support artists to transfer the core competencies into an arts, health and wellbeing setting?
  • What methods would best raise the status of the practice of art work in participatory settings?


Programme delivery


The programme comprises of five areas of delivery, including action research that will take place in and inform the development of each area:

  • a mapping study of skills pathways and participatory arts competences
  • a number of symposiums for skills providers (bringing them together as a group, and with employers, commissioners and funders)
  • work to advocate to and understand the needs of employers, commissioners and funders
  • development and delivery of a training and CPD  programme that will meet identified gaps in provision and signpost to other opportunities
  • action research alongside the above activities


Advisory Group


EMPAF Partnership (Jan Reynolds)

City Arts (Madeline Holmes)

Praxis  (Kate Gant)

University of Staffordshire (Mark Webster)

Warwickshire County Council (Cathryn Ravenhall)

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council (Max Bailey)



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