At a pre-Covid Dartford Arts Network (DAN) meeting in 2019, during a creative brainstorming session, we came up with two strong ideas – one was to map the arts opportunities (and barriers) in the local area, and the other was to create some kind of mobile arts vehicle, which could take arts events and opportunities where they were most needed and wanted. We brought these two concepts together, and the Ice Cream Van Project was born. We have put together an initial project to enable us to run high-quality arts activities with the public at different locations in the area. The project will build on relationships with other local arts organisations, highlight gaps in arts accessibility and contribute to a final showcase event. This will share what we have learnt about how a mobile vehicle could improve accessibility for highlighted audiences.
Through three artist-led workshops, developed in partnership with local organisations such as Darent Valley Landscape Partnership, Gravesham Arts Salon and Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, we will run a summer programme of artistic education, engagement and research to help us understand and then promote what the mobile arts facility could be. DAN is looking at future ways to bring the arts right into your neighbourhood or even your street! That’s why we call it The Ice Cream Van initiative.
Mapping an area, broadening connections, and developing a wider, more collaborative art network along the estuary are all things we have felt passionate about since DAN began. This project will help DAN fulfil the potential of local artists and the local ‘cultural landscape’. Each workshop will be led by a different artist, who will devise things for you to make, do and learn while exploring what else this inspires you to try and what you would need to do that sometime in the future. They will use the idea of the ‘mobile arts vehicle’ as a springboard to address issues of arts mobility with different audiences, using the art form chosen for that workshop to stimulate and capture the ideas of participants – bringing these to life.
The creative output from each workshop will be a mixture of physical artworks – created both by the public and by the commissioned artist – and written and recorded stories. DAN will also gather information to improve mapping and relationship building. These outputs will help identify the most effective, needed and desired ways of bringing art to the community and forging links between people and organisations, centred on the concept of the DAN mobile art facility and how it can fulfil some of those needs. Our final event in the Autumn will bring together as many as possible of those who joined in with the project and those with whom we have made new connections. By bringing together artists and other collaborators in the project, this event will lay the foundations for future, wider network building along the estuary.