Wednesday 30 March 2011

There's no consultant in team

Unless you're in a team of consultants.  As creative partnerships draws to an end, more people in my team are calling themselves creative consultants.  I guess some people think of me as a consultant too, but there is something about it which has always made me uncomfortable.

We are 'creative agents', experienced creative professionals who are highly skilled in working in educational settings, acting as a 'critical friend' to schools.  But if a consultant is a professional who provides professional or expert advice (wiki), what's the difference?

As Creative Partnerships ends, so will the term 'creative agent', so what can I call myself so people know what I do?

First off, what does a consultant, or consultancy, look like?  Well, according to google image search, it's either something to do with a missing jigsaw piece, or two strong, white, masculine, suited hands shaking.

A consultant is someone you call on when you have a problem.  Maybe in a recession, one of the best businesses to be in is consultancy.  Consultants are brought in to research or solve a problem, but generally have no actual responsibility to implement the change advised.

That's what I am most uncomfortable with - consultants are not part of any team.  Even though I have been mostly self-employed now for a long time, I need to feel part of a group, team, whatever.  That's why I'm going back to calling myself 'Community Art Worker', even if Community is not a popular term anymore.  Truth is, it never really has been.  

Derived from 'common' its usage dates back to the middle ages, meaning simply 'those who share'.  As with common, it has been associated with ''normality', 'vulgarity', 'inferiority' and 'of low social status' (OED).  Google images of community are of people, lots of people, colour and loads of hands holding (not shaking), jigsaw pieces (clearly a lot of jigsaw fans out there), the odd wheelchair, bike, and not a middle-aged suited banker in sight.

Even in 1970s, the heyday for 'community art', it was seen as, 'a kind of folksy Marxism' (J. Pick, 1980).  Pick goes on to say community art workers 'use the means of expression excluded by too haughty definitions of the 'arts'.  In this the word community returns to its former meaning, that of purposeful amateur activity.'

Socially responsible, sharing, amateur - doing it for the love of it.  I feel like I'm getting back to words I can happily stick my name to.  It's cheesy in buckets, and I'm not so keen being called 'average', 'vulgar' or 'inferior', but at least I'm not a consultant.
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