Take A Part uses art as a catalyst to support community cohesion, celebrate local identity, challenge local issues and champion change where people live.
Kim received an MBE in 2021 for Services to Social Engagement in the Arts – the first time ever that social practice has been acknowledged in this way.
“I work on projects that engage new audiences, support and invest in community-based placemaking, social enterprise and talent development opportunities for community members,” says Kim. “I love working with people where they are, listening to what they want to do and supporting that ambition to thrive.”
Currently Take A Part are working in Plymouth with the communities of Coxside, Stoke Village and Efford on long-term placemaking projects around creative mapping, blue spaces, green spaces and creative education.
“We are also working across the South West, regionally and nationally on partnership projects that support local authorities, arts organisations and community groups to develop and embed their own projects, such as Yeovil Art Space, Take A Part Carlow and Meadow Arts.
“Working hyper-locally like us, you know your audience intimately. Where they live, where they work, what their likes and dislikes are. You are tuned in.”
When COVID hit, Take A Part picked up the phone and asked people what they needed.
‘The local school wanted creative ways to keep their frontline and vulnerable families engaged, so we made art packs,” Kim explains.
“The community wanted to share information on where to get support from one another and what was happening on the ground, so we made a zine. People wanted to get outside and take walks, so we made a ‘suggest a walk’ project and beach cleans.
“We created a digital learning suite – Social Learning – to support communities and artists to think about their approaches differently and gain the tools to try new things. We established the South West Social Art Network – currently at 230 members – to network and support practitioners in the sector at a time of crisis.”
Their approach gained attention. Take A Part’s work was case studied by Arts Council England, Engage, ArtWorks Alliance, Centre for Cultural Value and Gulbenkian Foundation as well as featuring in a book on creative approaches to placemaking by UCL Press.
“We became a CIO to diversify our funding, brought all our team onto PAYE to build legacy and structure and have been able to expand to new roles,” says Kim. “We are soon going to recruit to our board in order to support our growth and future plans.
“We have done really well overall. We were at a point of possible closure when COVID happened. But this year we increased turnover by 76% – testament to the fact that our work is relevant, needed, useful and supportive.
“What comes out of our initial position of listening, asking and offering is where the wonderful stuff happens. It could be literally anything – radio stations, carnivals, allotments, performances, social action marches, storytelling…”
The work of Take A Part draws attention to people in a place and gives weight and decision-making power to those living in it.
“By bringing local community members, agencies and organisations around one table we put everyone in an equal power dynamic to support better conversations around collaboration.
“Our approach is to collaborate with others to give them the tools they need to make work happen where they are that supports social change and community cohesion.
With each project Kim and her team leave a legacy of learning in the community to allow residents and organisations to carry on the work beyond their time with Take A Part.
“I hope that the work of Take A Part has fostered mutual understanding, respect and more authentic approaches to local decision making. I hope it has empowered those who have historically been told they cannot make decisions to stand up and be bold about their needs.”
Since moving to the UK from Canada in 2003, Kim’s practice shifted from museum management and social history curation towards a focus on socially engaged practice – co-creating work with others as a means to support community engagement and infrastructure to develop.
“I sort of fell into it! My background is in Near Eastern Archaeology (Indiana Jones got to me). I have no art degree or background in contemporary visual arts. I worked on collections for historic houses and social history collections in Canada and was a curator for the Government of Ontario Art collection. I was always behind the scenes.”
In the UK, Kim initially worked at a contemporary arts centre in the New Forest called ArtSway as Audience Engagement and Marketing Manager.
“I loved working directly with people on exploring creativity and culture together. ArtSway – now closed – had a real connection to their local community and audience and often created collaborative projects. That started me off.”
Kim went on to work at Equata (Kaleido) South West Disability Arts Development Agency where she developed an understanding of the regional context as well as diversity and inclusion through the lens of disability and d/Deaf arts.
“It taught me a lot about activism, politics and power structures. I then met Michael Bridgwater and we started a pilot project to work in Efford on creative approaches to engaging the local area in the regeneration of the high street. And the rest is history…
“It has been an organic process of learning by doing. I never set out with an agenda. It was seeing where the energy was and responding to it. I never knew I was community building via creativity until impact studies were authored and case studies written.”