My first day in Cornwall, having spent the previous day traveling and I was straight out for the first two interviews. The first of these was with an artist/print maker living and working rurally in the Penzance area.
We talked about communities of place and interest.
The participant belongs to various professional networks but in particular he talked about Penwith Printmakers and the St Ives Society of Artists http://www.stisa.co.uk/ He stressed the way the web has enabled him to network more regularly with such networks (both on and offline) and how these interactions have sometimes led to opportunities to work with others, for example through exhibiting together. He was also able to talk of examples in which online interactions had led to greater offline interactions in the social sphere. This is important, as both participants today have talked of being an artist as a sometimes solitary experience.
Following a lunch stop in Mousehole (and failed attempts at finding either a crab sandwich or a pastie) I went to my second meeting with an artist based in Newlyn, a charming fishing village right next door to the larger town Penzance. On speaking about the local area I learned that it is a vibrant, thriving community with plenty of activity in arts and culture for both creative professionals and amateurs alike. There is a strong sense of local identity and place here, partly a Cornish identity, but also something which sets this area apart from others and makes it distinct. The participant felt that the community are involved/engaged and that this participation is what makes a successful community. Through his professional networks, he has become involved in some exciting projects and collaborations. We talked about the role of broadband in all of this, and I gained some fascinating insights. The participant is starting to embrace social media and beginning to see the benefits. He sees a lot of activity and opportunity online, which perhaps reflects something exciting going on in arts in the region – and wishes to be a part of this. His experience so far with social networking has been that the engagement with potential clients and other artists might help to foster a dialogue which in time could enable them to identify with the work, placing greater meaning and value on it and hence becoming a customer or collaborator. Interestingly, this kind of online interaction might actually increase offline participation, networking and collaboration because it gives you time to think, to step back and consider if something is really for you, rather than the more on-the-spot experience of face to face interactions. I’ll be going back to speak with this participant on my next trip to Cornwall in the Autumn, once he has had time to fully realise the benefits of social media and online applications.