For nearly 20 years cSPACE has used the visual arts and digital media to support communities in expression of vision and aspiration, bringing the benefits of direct experience into the public domain and influencing social change through cultural activism. Projects have been collaborative and/or participatory, and built on local and international networks to create artistic initiatives both deeply rooted and wide in reach, incorporating trans-disciplinary expertise from professional and academic sources as required.
Established in 2002, cSPACE is a registered charity building on more than four decades of community-based arts and media practice by its founding director Dr. Loraine Leeson, including her work in The Art of Change (1991-02) and the Docklands Community Poster Project (1981-91). cSPACE has created a number of long-term projects including VOLCO, a planet in cyberspace founded on co-operative principles and created by over a thousand children; The Catch gateway public artwork for Barking town centre involved the whole pupil cohort from a nearby junior school together with a mentoring scheme for university and college students.
In 2012 The Young Person’s Guide to East London, produced with hundreds of teenagers from the London boroughs hosting the 2012 Olympics, which received the Olympic Inspire Mark and a Media Trust Inspiring Voices award. In 2015 Lambeth Floating Marsh in collaboration with scientist Nithin Rai, supported biodiversity along the shored up banks of the Thames in central London. A recent project Active Energy with The Geezers, a group of older men in Bow East London, investigated renewable energy for their community, and earned the 2016 RegenSW Arts and Green Energy award. In 2017 Loraine’s work from the 1970s produced in collaboration with Peter Dunn and East London health workers’ unions, was exhibited at the ICA London, a return to that institution after first being shown there in Lucy Lippard’s Issues: Social Strategies for Women Artists in 1980. Loraine’s book Art:Process:Change – Inside a Socially Situated Practice published in 2017 offers a glimpse into the practice of these four decades from a practitioner’s perspective.
cSPACE ceased running its own projects in 2020 and Loraine is instead applying her approach of social engagement to realise projects with wider reach through her research at Middlesex University, collaborating with other institutions as well as artists in the regions where she is working. Research projects have included Jal! Cultures of Water in Rural Rajasthan (2018) a collaboration with NGOs and local villagers to help address issues of water conservation in one of India’s desert regions. The Art of Healing in Kashmir (2020-21) built on this work through partnership with an art therapist and puppeteer to support children suffering from traumatic experience in that region’s militarised zones. Another project Spaces of HOPE: The Hidden History of Community Led Planning (2021-23) draws on her 1980s work with the Docklands Community Poster Project to investigate the value of local input to regeneration as well as the role that art can play in this.