100 Stars in the Sky
Think of this list as a constellation of tiny points of light that leads to giant stars of knowledge and understanding.
100 tips for Social Practice Artists
Pre-plan your plan
Write your vision & mission and keep it simple. How much time do you want to spend on this? Can you recycle past learnings into the workflow?
Continuously develop communication skills
Learn from experience but also research, for example why not try out some Nonviolent Communication techniques?
Learn about safe data and the internet
Working with sensitive issues and people online brings important safeguarding issues to think about. How do you share information and where is it stored?
Consider what you don’t know as much as what you do
List all the tools you need for the project, then list all the unknowns. Then list all the ways you can problem solve, then list all things you want to know more about. The margin of error are the things that couldn’t have expected, keep space in your list for that
Keep an open mind, especially when you don’t like an idea
Subsuming the artist’s ego is what makes artists dedicated to social practice such wonderful community workers. You’ll never like everything in a collaboration but do you have to?
If you lack the know-how bring the enthusiasm
Relieve yourself of the pressure to have all the answers. As an organiser and facilitator you can always bring the joy and learn together.
Identify your role models (living/deceased, real/fiction)
Who are your stalwarts, your icons, your protectors and your guides? List them and keep it handy when you need advice
See yourself as a role model
If you’re reading this you already lead by example and are interested in learning more. Everyone’s lived experience makes them an expert, including yours.
Embrace and admit failure and mistakes
Find joy in the errors and happiness in the hiccups. What if things not going to plan was the best learning experience? Maybe there is no such thing as failure just how we perceive the process.
Accept constructive criticism as helpful not hurtful
Sometimes it’s easier to criticise ourselves than to hear it from someone else. Everyone has a different perspective on things. Invite constructive criticism as a mode of self-reflection and gently tell yourself its not about being bad, its about being better.
List your learning and name the steps to move forward
We learn constantly and sometimes take it for granted. Instead keep a learning journal and list simple to complex ways you see the world differently each time to create something new.
Plan wellbeing into your daily To Do list (physical & mental)
Can your health & wellbeing be a daily task, one that you complete every single day? Add whatever it is you need into your daily schedule so that it doesn’t get sidelined.
Keep a process journal, not just the planning but the doing as well
Sometimes informal stream of consciousness is where the best thinking happens. Keep a journal where you can write this all down and then tap into it in the future.
Habits and conventions are useful and help keep us feeling safe, but sometimes new ways of thinking and working move us to new spaces of learning and being.
Don’t wait for the change you want, create it
If you catch yourself complaining about an issue that you would like to see changed, what could be 3 things you may do to change them? Even if its something huge and global that feels out of your control, what steps could you take in your life to have done something about the issue. This is less about instant results but more about longer term ways of living
Be driven by your passion, but use your practical know how
A good balance between heart and mind will keep your fire roaring but ensure that the components all fit together to make the wheels spin. Keep them both in balance and in check with each other.
Recognise the lived experience of others that makes them experts
Everyone has something to say, add, and teach no matter who they are. Taking time to listen to each individual may take time but it allows you to recognise the expert within.
Borrow, redevelop, and collage ideas to help create your own
Move away from sole virtuosity and embrace the collective hive mind, everything has been thought of in some mix of ways, dip into that archive to inspire and inform. Find inspiration outside your comfort zone.
Aim to make yourself the catalyst but not the cause
The work, the project, the plan, the mission, may feel like its so aligned with you and your life but ultimately its not about you. Rather you are the caretaker for something much bigger.
Practice active listening as an action
How does your whole body and mind hear? How does the person sharing know you are listening in this way? Take time to quiet your inner voice when someone speaks to you.
Identify and connect to a support network
There are lots of creative people dedicated to creativity and community. Find a local peer forum for artists, join a mailing list with resources. Feeling supported helps you, your work, and the people you work with.
Create a new support network
Collect and make your own group from like minded people who would benefit from a sounding board. This can grow locally and now with online platforms beyond. Think of this as mutual aid, less what you take but what you give.
Balance improvement with being OK with as is
We are often striving to grow and improve. Sometimes where things are is just enough. Finding this balance so that you dont move too fast or get stagnant keep you motivated and relevant.
Never give up
You may change directions, let go of collaborations, change the way you work but these are all part of the process and not ‘giving up’.
Balance the thinking and the doing
There are times for deep reflection and there are times for busy doing, both are important but too much of one or another can confuse the outcome.
Keep in mind the long term while delivering the short term
Remember when we pre-planned our vision and mission? Carry these with you throughout your To-Do lists and tasks.
Focus your mental peripheral vision
Most things in site are not directly in front of us. Keep sight of the elements that are around you and influencing the situation.
Share your knowledge with others
All knowledge is a huge well from which everyone can drink. Everyone will benefit from what you share and no one can replace you because how we utilise knowledge is unique to each of us.
Identify the projects that inspire you
What creative works make your heart, mind and soul race? List them and also watch them change over time
Consider your work a service to others
Your practice is a gift. Gift giving is powerful and helps the giver grow even more than the receiver.
Remain flexible in your process
You have your tried and tested way which you reply upon to deliver, but leave space in there for new methods you didn’t expect would arrive and work.
Take time to feel prepared for each encounter
Avoid rushing into a situation feeling unprepared. This causes anxiety and does not promote your true self. Have time to rehearse the scene before acting it out
Identify what your ultimate goals are
These may vary from project to project and are different from the vision and mission. There may be what you are delivering but you may have your own larger goal you want to achieve.
Learn difference between certainty and confidence
With one you walk through life free of doubt. With the other you walk through life trusting in your abilities. Explore what the difference is for you.
Encourage collaboration and co-design at all stages
Build allies and teams through true sharing of the process at every step. These people may change throughout but find the shared voices and bring them on board as you move forward.
Technology is an ally, embrace its potential
How we use digital spaces thoughtfully and ethically will empower you as the artist, the communities you are working with and the work itself by remaining relevant and thinking one step ahead of endless new technologies.
Identify what you consider as strengths
We often tend to focus on the opposite. Instead list your strengths and how you can use them.
Enter chaos with calm
Challenging and messy situations are to be expected, bringing an energy of calm into that will help you make better decisions
Don’t take things personally
This is less about you and more about the other. By recognising that everyone carries their own storms within, we can take a step back from situations and see the bigger picture.
Don’t make assumptions
The narrative that is at hand often does not reveal everything that is going on. Instead of adding more complexity by creating a series of stories that you don’t know are true, try working with face value.
Consider your words before they are spoken
Its easy to use language in a disposable manner, but taking time to consider each utterance may bring a new realm of clear understanding
Observe reactions to your words and actions
Every action creates a reaction, the collective movement of these is a choreography that can be adjusted and considered
Body language replaces spoken language
Take time to use your body to speak, think about where you sit in a room, how you hold your hands, shuffle your feet, the tilt of your head and rhythm of your breath. All of these become signifiers for the observer.
Explore the edges of discomfort
This is less about being in places of discomfort but knowing where those boundaries are so you can navigate them healthily.
Identify every action as creative
The fluxus artists invited us to consider even the mundane as a creative performative act worthy of being called ‘art’
Avoid over-facilitating, allow things to flow
Overplanning can sometimes mask uncertainty, plan time for silence and flow between people.
Build empathy over sympathy
One is an active action of awareness of the other that can lead to solidarity, the other expresses understanding and affinity without actively considering the others perspective.
Keep present the reasons you chose art and people
Art is messy. People are messy. The combination of the two can be very very messy. Remember the reasons you love this mess and turn to them when you’re questioning your role.
Let your personal mission & vision be a motivation
Return to your mission and vision and help it put wind in your sails when you are feeling that things aren’t moving. They help explore bigger picture thinking.
Balance being an oak and being a palm when the wind blows
Find that elusive state between remaining steadfast when things are challenging and sticking to your plan, or being flexible and embracing change. Both may be necessary in different ways at different times.
Take time to understand equity around you
Observe people, relationships, architecture and space to see how they care inclusive and cooperative
Laughter is power, Joy is an action. Use it
Give yourself permission to enjoy and allow yourself space to let go, brining this energy into the room
Field questions with answers that prompt learning
Instead of yes or no, offer responses that may prompt critical thinking
Share ideas freely
If everything is communal and shared then intellectual property is impossible, only the very special of delivery that is you.
Build good communication between all parties, people, and places
Set up times for sharing, for feedback and for reflection. We naturally communicate and share but need systems and rituals to help us get there.
Feel comfortable saying ‘I don’t know’
Relieve yourself of the pressure and responsibility of knowing everything and being always right
Observe and respond to others behaviour
Take into consideration, not what is said but how it is spoken, including body language and other signals. Listen to the words but see the whole world of communication around them.
Balance risk aversion & risk taking
Great learning happens with great risks. Failing repeatedly helps learning and grow. Sometimes doing the tried and tested helps stability. Sometimes go out on that limb and see how far you get.
Self-reflection is your shadow, but face the light
Navel gazing is essential unless you are crossing a busy intersection. Know when to reflect and when to act.
Offer affirmation to others
Find the positive in others, especially those who challenge you.
Offer affirmation to yourself
Recognise when you’ve done something well and take a moment to feel proud before moving back into the work
Share critiques through constructive criticism
When you want to feedback on things, remember to consider your language and delivery so that learning can happen.
Balance leading & supporting
Your role is often both a leader and a supporter, one action moves ahead and brings others with you, another gently nudges from behind and helps them move forward. Recognise the times to be both.
Plan space to allow for chaos
Add a 10% chaos contingency to any of your plans. If you dont use the time you have extra celebration time.
Be a creator of positive experiences
No matter what outcome people are left with from working with you the main response should be it was a positive experience. What are the factors are needed to get there?
Remember the personal anecdotes of those around you
You dont have to be great at names or dates but when something personal has been shared lodge that in your memory and recall it to the person so they feel heard and seen.
Know when to say ‘No’
We tend to be yes-people who want to endlessly please. Saying ‘No’ can sometimes be excruciating. But knowing what boundaries are and when you can’t do something shows you care more not less.
Learn by doing
You can’t ever be both an expert and try something new for the first time. Both are great positions to be in and are constantly interchangeable as you move through your work.
Teach by doing
Being a teacher isn’t always dogmatic, its also about leading by example and bringing others into the sharing.
Believe in your process
This allows you to be OK with not knowing with the end result will be. You’re process is your framework around which you can build anything.
Be up to date of the current thinking in your field
Research the thinkers, writers, scholars and other individuals who are collating and building knowledge about the intersection between art and people. If you don’t have time to read them all just familiarise yourself with the general concepts and how they apply to your work.
Search yourself on the internet and consider if this represents you well
You can control how you pop up on search engines, this isn’t a lottery it’s an algorithm. If it’s not what you want, actively change it.
Expand your social circle through practice
Blur the boundaries between colleague and friends and the cross over in between
Make friends not just collaborators
Everyone working on your project becomes part of a longer trajectory of your life and can come in and out at various points. Open the door to camaraderie.
Enjoy routines avoid habits
Creating patterns of making and doing can be comforting but building habits can be stagnating.
Ask guiding questions
Avoid asking a question that can bring a yes or no answer, instead thing of them as a journey into new territory of understanding.
Explore emotional intelligence
This is as much about managing the interpersonal well as much as yourself.
Maintain strong relationships
This helps build allies and a support network, which you can rely on when things are challenging.
Be specific about praise
Take a moment about what exactly is good about what someone is doing or has done, we learn from both praise and criticism.
Consider what information is public or private and why
Safeguarding information is essential when working with vulnerable people or in volatile social situations. Not everything is open to the public and sometimes information you come across needs to be kept private. Set yourself up some guidelines with how to address these things.
Explore the multiple layers of validation
What makes you and others feel validated? What are the tools and actions need to ensure that validation? Sometimes these are known and sometimes these are new. Once you have developed a method of validating others experience to can develop and grow this across projects.
Align and realign your practices to the world around you
The world and society on it change rapidly while you are creating the work you do, what you started with may change dramatically in context when you are finished. Allow wiggle room to recontextualise your thinking.
Improvise to your setting
Your objectives and the reality around you dont always have to match, be flexible towards the spaces you find yourself in and let them alter the process.
List practical steps of big dreams
What simple achievable thing can you do right now? What medium thing can you achieve this month? What larger thing can you complete this year?
Commit to continuous learning
Avoid reaching the status of expertise and instead foster the curiosity of the young excited to branch out into new territory
Practice emotional check-ins
Keep a moodometer in your journal, and keep track when it dips into the critical red & whats caused it. This is not about being right or wrong, but about understanding your moods more.
Listen to your self-talk
Our inner voices come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it commanded by the ‘Judge’ & the ‘Victim’. Recognise these two voices and refuse to feed them.
Have a few great conversations a week
Not everything needs to be planning and task, and not everything has to be dreaming and wondering. Somewhere in the middle connect with some of your stars, heroes, and friends and have a great chat.
Avoid competition over collaboration
Conversations can crop up in places you wouldn’t expect. Competition is like a chameleon and can suddenly appear. Take time to know when both are in the room.
Avoid notions of wrong and right
Out in the field where there is no right and wrong we can meet and discuss things from a shared perspective without those deadly weights.
In conflict, fly above the immediate issue to see the larger causes
A birds eye view takes you away from the challenge and helps you see the underlying issues that have driven the conflict. This isn’t always easy and sometimes requires taking a step back and/or away from the conflict.
Respect other’s time
Don’t expect everyone to have the same capacity, including yourself. Done presume and/or assume about others timing.
Create healthy boundaries
Letting everyone in indiscriminately and locking everyone out are two sides of the same coin. Be the gentle gatekeeper to your personal boundaries.
Bring a positive and proactive nature that fosters cooperation between people.
Name the stars in your constellation of people
Who are your starts? List them. If they’re alive, tell them.
Always do your best knowing that things can change
Every day is different and your best is different every day. Some days you are flying high and others its hard to get up. No matter what the day, do your best and be OK with what you did that day.
Bring your true self to situations
To bring your true self, spend some time knowing who that is. Then work towards creating positive work situations where you can foster, attend to and reveal that true self safety.
Practice active solidarity
Creating unity is an action and outcome of working with others, understanding this as a central outcome can help you record how this happens and what helped it develop.
Think of citizenship as a verb
To be a participatory member of a social system is to have spaces where you can bring your true self into action. Creating encounters of solidarity that build empathy can be seen as the core activities that create citizens. This opens up the doors to anyone to get involved regardless of political status.
Visualise your inner drive as a battery and keep it charged
Keep an eye on your inner charge and see when its green, amber or red. In order to keep it green, remember what thing revitalise you and go to them.
100 Stars in the Sky was developed as a new experimental role as Wellbeing Facilitator for DGB’s project en(Shrine)