Every three years a temporary, creative world emerges in Rotterdam where you can discover unique community-based art projects and meet its engaged artists who make it their daily job to bridge the distance between worlds and people from all walks of life. At the end of March, theatre, dance, music, film and visual arts projects from literally every continent on earth will dock in the port of Rotterdam during the International Community Arts Festival (ICAF). A festival build around the idea that community art is a worldwide cutting edge and highly relevant arts movement, it is the only one of its kind.
ICAF is a unique festival experience: from large-scale performances to intimate film screenings and meetings with extraordinary artists and their participants. The day program of the festival offers the possibility of in-depth conversations, inspiration and exchange. The evenings are chock-full with live theater, dance, film and music performances. Morning, afternoon, or evening; Rotterdam opens its doors for five days of world-class participatory art. The seventh edition of ICAF takes place from 29 March to 2 April 2017.
What is Community Art?
"It is a huge spectrum of practices, but they are all connected by the belief that the arts are essential to human life and that everybody should also have the right to create. Because they believe, and we believe, that that is very important for who we are as human beings." Eugene van Erven, ICAF director
To answer this question, we must begin by saying that the meaning of community art – as are the two words that constitute it – is highly contested. In some places they have even suggested alternative words for the equally slippery concept of ‘community’. They have replaced it, for instance, with ‘applied’, ‘social’, ‘engaged’, ‘new genre public’, ‘dialogical’, ‘relational’, ‘people’s’ or ‘participatory’. At ICAF we have decided to stick to ‘community art’ for purely practical reasons, because also outside the English-speaking world it is quite widely used and understood. And even those who prefer other terms recognize themselves as relatives in this large global family that ICAF aims to bring together.
International community art is a constellation of very diverse practices that are characterized by more or less intense, reciprocal collaborations between trained artists and people who normally speaking are excluded from active involvement in the arts. It’s the evolving relationship between ‘artists’ and ‘non-artists’ in the course of a creative process that is often considered central to this work. Which is not to say that the art that comes out of these relationships does not matter. On the contrary, it matters a great deal, both to the trained artists and the people they co-create with, because it is directly concerned with their lives and the world they live in. It frequently leads to life-changing experiences for everyone involved, as well as to extraordinary aesthetically shaped expressions. Over the years it has also led to a different kind of artist: someone who combines the highest technical skills with the ability to organize, collaborate, and constantly adapt to continuously changing circumstances. The world and all the human and non-human variables therein constitute the atelier and the disciplinary challenges of the métier.
This brief excursion into the complexities of the term already indicates that we are dealing not with some second-rate ephemeral phenomenon, but with a sophisticated cultural practice that is literally spread across the globe. Once every three years, ICAF brings together the most innovative, the most controversial, the most inspiring work and those involved in it. We enjoy, we criticize, we learn from each other’s methods, we eat, drink, and dance together, and sometimes we even decide to embark on adventurous international co-productions.