For those of you interested in how we collected the data you find in this website, read on for a summary of our survey. You can also email us at if you want a copy of the full report.
Our research project had two main components: a Survey of practitioners in the field, and a series of Case Studies compiled through interviews and desk research. From the survey we produced Profiles of baseline information on individuals and groups involved in community-based arts and culture initiatives, and the Case Studies focus on and illustrate specific themes and topics related to the field of community-based work.
REPORT ON THE SURVEY
As a preliminary step to aid in the design of the questionnaire and aid in the setting of criteria of the identification and selection of practitioners for inclusion in the Directory, we held a focus group with a select group of invited known practitioners. Based on their feedback, we designed a survey questionnaire of 25 questions related to their practice and covering demographic details of themselves and of the communities with which they worked. The questionnaires were translated into Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin, and we then proceeded to send them out to practitioners.
The main criterion for selection of respondents was that they be arts/culture practitioners operating in geographically-based residential or working communities. We did not include institution-based, outreach arts/culture workers such as arts therapy practitioners working in hospices, hospitals or special homes, or arts/culture practitioners working within schools or academies; nor did we include arts or culture organisations conducting initiatives in community settings with overtly commercial or leisure-orientated objectives.
We identified over 30 potential respondents (groups and individuals) through informal and on-line inquiry, expert recommendation, peer recommendation by practitioners, or self-recommendation. It was also our hope that the first batch of practitioners we contacted would help in the dissemination of our survey to other practitioners in their circle. The location of potential respondents was mostly concentrated in the Klang Valley (Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas of Selangor) with some located in secondary towns along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and one respondent from the East Malaysian state of Sabah.
Of the over 30 survey questionnaires sent out, 22 responses were received within the project data collection timeframe (February - May 2014).
Results and Conclusion
Regardless of where they are located within the country, we found that their practice tends to be informed by social awareness and the desire to use the arts to bring about change or benefit. They frequently work with communities that face a social problem or are perceived to be in need of some form of assistance; they take stock of their surroundings and attempt to mobilise themselves and others or advocate for connections with those around them using the arts. They also generally see themselves as playing a role in promoting awareness of a cause or in helping others gain through shared experiences of a cultural activity. Most do this on a semi or wholly voluntary basis, working on a project basis, and with income earned often just to cover costs or as a token payment.
The work they do and with whom they do it is varied –from mono-language urban and urban village communities to multi-ethnic rural and urban village communities; from low income to middle class; from festivals and showcases to workshops and documentation projects; public art for beautification and street art as public protest. Nonetheless, they are all linked by a common sense of purpose and the placement of the engagement (if not needs) of the community over their own as artists.
Some have radical frameworks or philosophies underpinning their desire for change, while others see art and culture – and therefore art education -- as a basic supplement or condition for human development and wellbeing.
Some practitioners appear to be well-connected with others practicing similar work or with similar concerns, these networks are equally loose as the projects they organise, and there appear to be no formal networks for opportunities to discuss, share and encourage the development of work in this field.
Most of the practitioners are not able to be dedicated full-time to community-based work, as many do so on a voluntary basis or for a very small token payment. Many also work on a project basis while juggling other jobs. Everyone surveyed, however, appeared committed to their respective causes and missions, and it is hoped that in time the field develops into a fully recognised one, with viable income streams and widely accepted benefits.
Although by no means an exhaustive survey, we feel that we were able to capture the basic features of community-based arts and culture workers in Malaysia as a preliminary step in future research.
Want to know more? Email us for the full report and tell us about your interest in community-based arts and culture workers.