16. 04. 2019
Face-to-face with the Squad
Recently the nine participants of Art Squad gathered for four days of face-to-face time in Adelaide. Although the squad have been together as a cohort since October last year, their regular group interaction is via weekly video-link (we use Zoom) and digital collaboration hub Slack. Our time together in Adelaide was the first time most of the squad had met in person!
The purpose of the face-to-face time from a program perspective was:
- Build connections and bond as a cohort;
- Reflect and plan for the year ahead as an individual & as a group;
- Practice leadership and group facilitation skills in a supported environment;
- Have the opportunity to meet (some) key figures and peers in the South Australian arts sector, including representatives of Carclew and Country Arts SA;
- Experience Adelaide during festival season, including attending selected performances & exhibitions to inspire, inform and learn;
- Make, take and find time to be creative and to think critically about your/their own creative practice & aspirations.
In developing the final schedule I thought a lot about timing, environment, learning styles and I drew a lot of inspiration from my own experiences as a participant in many programs/events. There needed to be a balance between things I’d curated to provide access to new ideas, new people and new opportunities and between Art Squad self directing and exploring their shared and individual interests. You can see the working schedule here to get an idea of what our time together looked like. Minor adjustments were made before and during but this is a pretty accurate reflection.
I asked all of the squad to identify what they most hoped to gain from the face-to-face time and the biggest shared response was about their access to each other (that first dot point) so it seemed especially important that our location and accommodation provide plenty of space and opportunity to connect and bond. After looking at various options (and a few falling through because of timing) we ended up staying at Buxton Manor in North Adelaide. This gave us very convenient access to Carclew and the CBD where our formal activities were based and the accommodation itself provided us with privacy and shared spaces for ‘just us’. We didn’t want to be in a hotel or caravan park situation where we would be sharing common spaces with external individuals and groups – it was about having space dedicated to Art Squad community.
I think it’s okay to note that the ‘vibe’ of Buxton Manor – for us – was a bit strange in the sense that it’s very old-school and furnished in a very particular style. This wasn’t a bad thing and created lots of discussion about history, power and privilege during our stay.
I’ve adopted the idea of ‘day leaders’ from my experience as a participant of the Australian Rural Leadership Program and this structure for our Art Squad face-to-face gave four of the squad the opportunity to practice their leadership and management of group dynamics. The day leaders role (in our Art Squad context) was to guide the group through that day’s schedule, including:
- Ensuring everyone was where they needed to be, when they needed to be;
- Greeting and thanking any facilitators/hosts/guests;
- Providing opportunities for debriefs/questions as part of individual sessions;
- Managing logistics (with support from me);
- Managing any changes to the schedule to maximise impact and reflect learning.
On the first morning I promised the group that if they asked me any questions about the schedule (ie. what are we doing next), my response would be “Have you read the schedule? Have you spoken to your day leader?” I kept this promise. My role was to provide the schedule and framework and be there to provide back-up but the four days were about Art Squad navigating and learning together as a cohort.
We took over the Country Arts SA Instagram account for the entire time we were together, so jump over there to see some of the other highlights. We also had Leighton Bond – a young Adelaide-based videographer – with us documenting some of the face-to-face so I’ll share a little video snapshot when it’s ready too.
Let me know in the comments if there’s anything from the face-to-face you want to know more about, either what we did, why we did it or what impact it had, or anything else you are curious about. We are very happy to share and that’s what this blog is all about!