Beyond Empathy

Beyond Empathy (BE) uses the arts to influence change and enrich the lives of individuals and communities experiencing recurring hardship. BE began its Community Arts and Cultural Development (CACD) work in remote NSW. Today BE works in urban and suburban, regional and remote communities across Australia. BE works where multiple disadvantage is found: social and economic, individual and community.

In BE’s experience, change is only possible over the long haul. Multiple interventions over many years are required to break cycles of disadvantage and embed new skills and attitudes among the individuals with whom we work. Using art forms that resonate with our participants, we aim to disrupt old ways of thinking and empower marginalised people to re-engage with their communities, create new narratives and shift perceptions. Disparate groups in our communities are drawn together by their exposure to and involvement in the inspiring art projects, dissolving entrenched generational and demographic attitudes. Our projects strive for culturally ambitious art works that are built from the contributions of many, diverse individuals and the stories that evolve from their relationships with community.

BE is flexible and adaptable. We have to be. No two communities are the same and circumstances are always changing. In some places we work across the entire community and in others one-on-one. BE’s projects create robust links on multiple levels. Our CACD artists work with some of the most disadvantaged Australians to teach new skills and encourage expression to feed into both personal and artistic outcomes. At the same time we connect people to local, state and national services. Each project leaves an imprint across the cultural and social landscape that cascades into the next.

Art resonates, connects, creates the realisation ‘Ah, they are somehow like me’. When lives blurred in the margins move on to centre stage their presence demands – How do we respond? How do we now become more real?

BE stands for beyond empathy. Empathy is the first step towards creating change in ourselves and others; it acts as a catalyst to signal that change is needed, doing so with a warm heart. Going beyond empathy is a commitment to building skills and capacity for individuals and community to be in charge of their own change process. It’s a translation from feeling into action.

While our programs respond to, and are inspired by local needs, we believe that the vibrancy of our programs have national and international appeal. This is largely due to the ability of the projects to create partnerships, galvanise opportunities and improve the lives of those marginalised individuals and communities involved.

BE is a Key Producer with the Australia Council for the Arts, Community Partnerships.