This weeks’ Global Social Leaders spotlight is Rising Arts Agency – a community of young creatives aged 16–30 based in Bristol in the UK, who are mobilising others for radical social, political and cultural change.
Find out more by reading the Q&A below!
How did the Rising Arts Agency community start? What is the story behind this amazing initiative?
Rising grew out of a series of conversations Kamina Walton was having with the young people she was working with in arts engagement and evaluation, which led her to founding Rising Arts Agency in 2016 with the idea that it would be youth led and she would step aside after 5 years. The community of creatives that came together around Rising were underrepresented in the wider sector, were creating work of a really high quality and had some kind of activism at the heart of their practice. Basically, they were all looking for a home and other people doing similar things.
How important is the role of artists and creativity in engaging people in climate change and other prominent world issues?
I think artists translate these issues through their own lived experiences in a way that is so much more emotive and relatable than other mediums. There’s something about ideas presented with good design that captures people in a different kind of way.
Images in order of display: Kamina Walton, Colin Moody, Kamina Walton, Colin Moody
What was the inspiration behind the #WhoseFuture campaign?
We were approached by Bristol City Council in May 2020, in the midst of lockdown, working from home fatigue and the (temporary) closure of so many cultural organisations – to do the campaign in just 4 weeks.
Initially we thought this was impossible, given the timeframe and the scale. Then George Floyd was murdered and the Colston statue was toppled. This was no longer an opportunity we could turn down – #WhoseFuture was our response.
Rising has always dreamt of taking up space in the city, shouting loud and proud for what we believe in, and the #WhoseFuture campaign has allowed us to realise that dream. Increasingly our work has focused on both championing a range of social issues and challenging the status quo in the creative sector. We used this campaign as a vehicle for showcasing young people’s outstanding creative work. At the same time we amplified their voices across the city, inviting the public to pay attention to what they have to say.
#WhoseFuture gave these young artists and creatives the space to address some of the specific issues we have been grappling with head on through our work. These include racism, access issues, the climate crisis, leadership and young people’s hopes for a secure and empowering future.
Through a brilliant partnership with Out of Hand and full support from Bristol City Council the campaign enabled us to take over nine billboards and 370 poster sites around the city centre for a full month over the summer of 2020.
Do you have plans to expand beyond Bristol in the future?
Whilst our core community is focused in Bristol, as a unique city with massive inequality but also creativity – we have always known our way of working has a wider scope. We have worked with organisations nationally and internationally; to engage with their local young people, contribute to leadership research and share knowledge. We only hope that campaigns like #WhoseFuture allows us to meet more people looking to work in this way.