What defines art?

As far as Viviana Checchia is concerned, it is all around us, from skills we can share and pass on to the world we live in.

The newly-appointed public engagement curator at CCA will be working with communities across the city, building bridges and forging links that will hopefully change the way many think of art.

“I don’t want to focus on exhibitions,” she stresses, “we might have one a year and the rest of the activities will be in the form of workshops or talks, either at CCA or around Glasgow.

“I have been discussing an application for a project with several community gardens so the idea would be to develop the activities at and with the garden.

“I don’t mean a painting workshop. For me, there is no distinction between art and life. So any activity the public engagement programme will offer is not going to be arty days in the sense that it is connected with crafts. It will be more related with a very broader understanding of art as life.”

Reaching out to local groups is the first task for Viviana, who previously worked at

the AM Qattan Foundation

in Ramallah, which supports Palestinian artists, and has also curated projects in London, Nottingham and Athens as well as co-directing a curatorial project that worked with various communities in her native region of Puglia in Italy.

“I’m excited to be creating a new programme for CCA and the city of Glasgow that aims to be a new approach to engagement which has – at its heart – the prospect of social and cultural change explored through art and artists,” she says.


I WILL work with a sustainable approach with projects and ideas that already exist in Glasgow, considering interests I’ve discovered in the city regarding the urban landscape, food and knowledge sharing.”

Research groups, community gardens, food and environmental projects, urban re-imagination and development of the civic potential of the arts will all come under the scrutiny of Viviana.

She will develop CCA’s open source model and work in partnership with under-represented and temporary communities, artists, and existing organisations in the city and internationally to deepen the involvement of the arts in the life of Glasgow.

“Public engagement is my obsession. This post is quite rare in the contemporary arts system and there aren’t many institutions that have something like this,” she says.

“It is also a challenge because at the moment there is not a shared definition of what a public engagement curator is.”

For her first couple of months in the job, Viviana has been finding out about current projects that resonate with her in the city and getting to know the people involved.

The next step is the vital link between the community and the CCA: looking for gaps in what activities are available and developing a response.

“It really is a moment of change here at the CCA,” she says.

Viviana is focusing on activities connected with growing food or making things, such as sewing; skills that we might be losing as they no longer seem to be passed on from generation to generation.

Then looking at places, both urban and rural, and working with local people. In Garnethill, that might be the Chinese community as well as the burgeoning student population. While in the north of the city, she will tap into existing work done between CCA and Drumchapel LIFE with artists Alex Wilde and Clementine Sandison to encourage vegetable growing and cookery.

A research group will also hopefully pluck nuggets of interest from the academic world inside Glasgow School of Art and share them with the world outside.

“The programme doesn’t have a fixed definition, which is good. I want to break traditional perceptions of the word engagement,” she explains.

“Lots of people think I’m going to do an educational programme or will be in charge of kids’ workshops and teenagers’ activities.

“So I will be trying to broaden the audience as much as I can. I’m interested in trying to get audiences of all ages, genders and ethnicities to share things together rather than isolating them.”

Scotland’s growing population of immigrants will add to the mix and the cultural diversity. The possibilities of all that sharing of skills and knowledge is endless.

Activities should start by the summer with a programme based on food.

“Maybe because the post is new or there are very few organisations working in an inclusive way like this, but everyone has been very open and welcoming,” says Viviana.

“I hope it will motivate people and they will have a different perception of the arts. They might gain knowledge they will have for the rest of their lives.”

Visit www.cca-glasgow.com