How art festivals can help to improve struggling communities

May 3, 2018

Art festivals are known for being exciting and sometimes elaborate affairs, offering both established and up-and-coming artists the opportunity to showcase their work. With the significant increase in popularity of African art, more and more festivals have been popping up all over the continent.

Not only do these art festivals allow the world to see African art from a different perspective, but they can help to improve struggling communities.

Promoting interaction in a public space

Many art festivals take place in public spaces, such as Hilton Arts Festival in KwaZulu-Natal. By taking place in public spaces, art festivals allow the community to come together and be exposed to other people.

People who are interested in investing in African art can go to these festivals and interact in the public spaces that the community has to use, opening their eyes to the plight of the locals. Some may even opt to invest in the upkeep of the festival venue. These public spaces are often underutilised when there are no art festivals happening, but the community could be encouraged by the success of the festival to use these spaces properly and improve their conditions by cleaning the paving, weeding the gardens or repairing damages to community buildings.

They help to engage the youth

Young artists and creatives are often overlooked by many, but art festivals give them the opportunity to showcase their talents to a larger audience. Engaging the youth in a struggling community can help to build morale, which is what festivals such as the Zakifo Music Festival in Durban aims to do.

Part of many festivals include fundraisers or charitable giving which is often used to fund youth projects or invest in African art, music or theatre driven by young artists. Engaging the youth is important to build up a community, as they are the future and will need to be able to keep the culture of the community alive when their elders are no longer able to do so. The youth will also need support from patrons of the galleries, as well as the  venues where the festivals are held at, in order to uphold the integrity of their community.

They encourage tourism

Art festivals are visited by more than just locals, encouraging tourism from national and sometimes international visitors too. Tourism can directly affect the economy of a struggling community, as the people who go to the festival will need a place to stay and will most likely want to eat at local restaurants too.

Tourism is often fuelled by unique festivals, but a community cannot rely on this alone to end their suffering. By encouraging galleries to have regular exhibitions of African art, music and theatre, more national tourists will visit the community and will introduce more cash flow into their economy. International investors may become interested in the festival and will use their time at the venue to explore the area, visiting local attractions and spending their money.

They can create employment

While an African art festival certainly creates a way for up-and-coming artists, any festival can create employment within the community it is taking place.

Many struggling communities have little to no employment opportunities, but an art festival can help to improve this, especially if it is a regular event because it will require a lot of planning and manpower, such as security guards, waiters, tour guides and more. Hotels will need to employ extra staff during this time, and restaurants will need waiters and waitresses to take on the extra workload. As mentioned above, the community cannot rely solely on this type of employment, but it is a good start on the journey to improvement.

Construction of new facilities

Many art festivals make use of structures that are already standing and usable for the exhibitions and concerts, but some need specialised facilities in order to be a success. These new facilities need labourers to build them, so what better way for the local community to gain an employment opportunity that lasts for a significant amount of time.

The new facilities can even attract other events that need venues, generating income aside from the art festival. A new community venue could be rented out as a wedding venue, a conference venue or as a community meeting place for voting days or other important events. This will not only bring in more revenue, but it will also bring the community together and create a better bond, making it easier for people to work together and uplift themselves.

Creativity takes courage

Art festivals do more than give you something to do on a lazy weekend, they provide exposure for up-and-coming artists. These festivals help to improve struggling communities by providing employment opportunities in the form of tourism and other avenues related to the festival. They involve the youth and promote community involvement for better living conditions and higher morale in dark times.  

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