'Big hART is an Australian arts and social-justice company. It was founded by playwright and director Scott Rankin and John Bakes in Burnie (north-western Tasmania) in 1992.
The company initiates large scale, long-term community cultural development projects in disadvantaged communities in urban, regional and remote Australia. Projects are task-focused and are to increase social, cultural and economic participation for community members following a three-step model approach.
At the heart of Big hART's approach rests the idea, that "it's harder to hurt someone if you know their story".
The company works to:
- make sustained changes with disadvantaged communities,
- take the issues faced by these communities and make them visible in the public sphere,
- influence social policy,
- create high quality cultural activity which drives personal, community, and regional development, and
- produce high quality art for local, national and international audiences.
Big hART tackles social disadvantage by supporting social cohesion through involving people in creative expressions of their life and identity within cultural and arts practice. To achieve this, the company developed a working model loosely based on three steps:
- A non-welfare arts-based community development project runs over a minimum of 150 weeks;
- An art- or theatre production creates a public platform for the community to share their stories with a national audience; and
- Ongoing social policy engagement addresses key issues and complex challenges that the community struggles with to promote a lasting, sustainable legacy with maximum impact.
Big hART's work is not based on a welfare model - but encourages people to reflect on their buried cultural capital and on their personal trajectories to build self-supporting futures. The adopted approach follows a socially inclusive, asset-based community development model that focuses on strengths and skills already present but unacknowledged in the respective communities.
To achieve high levels of engagement and artistic quality, personal relationships are build with participants and their community at a grassroots level and by linking individuals with professional artists and cultural workers across a range of creative workshops.
Without requiring any particular skills from the participants to begin with, these workshops promote an atmosphere of mutual respect. Designed to experiment with different art forms, each individual is enabled to find an appropriate medium in which to express their own story.
In presenting the artwork to the general community, individuals get to experience a positive form of attention and appreciation. The performance creates a communicative environment and challenges the audience to reflect on preconceived ideas pertaining to the participants who have been relegated to the margins of the community.
To amplify the influence of the project and to enable sustained change in the community, Big hART partners with local institutions, organisations, individuals and government bodies.
The presentation of the artwork to a wider audience in mainstream venues offers a new domain of experience to the participants while raising awareness of issues facing the targeted communities. This awareness and public profile is then used by Big hART in the political domain to push for policy change which will support the community to better tackle its problems and create follow-on effects for other communities facing similar issues.
External evaluations of Big hART-projects indicate that the company succeeds in its outcomes: Many projects have consistently shown high levels of participation, improved levels of literacy, improved life skills and self-confidence in participants, as well as diversion from crime into education and work.'
Please check out Big hART's Projects, Awards and References on their Wiki page.