This text was created out of the need to share some thoughts on raising the prospects of quality international cooperation enhancing the visibility, effectiveness and value of local activities. We are a small foundation from Poznan (Poland) - one of the smallest partners in the SPARSE Plus project. Maybe this is because what is smallest - has the greatest value for us. And that's thanks to the fact that the smallest of the smallest recipients of art stands at the very centre of our activities and ideas. This is precisely due to the fact that we are an organisation that focuses on promoting, creating and supporting art for very young children, those even as young as a few months old, and adults close to them. We truly believe that unrestricted access to art is the right of every child. At the Art Fraction Foundation, we promote the World Health Organisation's idea that one of the ways to a child's proper development is to provide him and his loved ones with a safe space for creation and unfettered play, which not only contributes to development in a physical and mental sense but above all serves to strengthen the bond between him and his guardians. A huge opportunity to grow in this area was our joining the Small Size Network, which focuses on strengthening the international community of professionals for whom a wise and in-depth dialogue with the youngest art audiences stands at the heart of their (research and artistic) activities. By working with this network, which is part of ASSITEJ International, we have the opportunity to implement research projects to reach a global community. Paweł Galkowski - the head of our foundation is one of the researchers behind the research project 'Children as agents in Early Years Theatre practice', which is a part of Building Collective Resilience Project by ASSITEJ International. Being active in the international field allows us to build tools and improve competences in our work with local communities.

As a natural consequence of our activities aimed at families with young children living in big cities, it became necessary to create an offer that would allow art to reach children and their relatives in smaller and smallest towns. This is how our first traveling art festival for the youngest was born, and so, for more than 10 years now, we have been trying to deviate from the main routes, meeting audiences who live in villages and towns. This is how we got to know some of our local promoters, with whom we are cooperating as part of the SPARSE Plus project.

Magdalena Rożek, from the Zbąszyń Public Library, one of our local promoters in the SPARSE Plus project, tells us about the beginnings of our cooperation:

When we met the people from Art Fraction Foundation (AFF) at one of the meetings for cultural animators in 2015, we didn't know that working with them would turn out to be so essential for creating a public library offer for the youngest audiences. At the same time, 2 nurseries were opening in our town, and we didn't know how to reach parents of children aged 0-3 with our activities. Although we have been organising events with local nurseries for many years, they were not as spectacular as those prepared by AFF. Above all, we have gained new audiences, our library has also benefited in terms of readership, and parents have noticed the need for their children to participate in cleverly prepared theatre performances. Throughout all these years, our common project has been highly anticipated, one might say annual, event by all.

It is in this way that a long-standing, continuously developed collaboration has grown from a small project. Magdalena Rożek is also one of the people we want to make leaders and mentors of the cooperation network we are building between rural centres in our province, and perhaps in the future also throughout Poland. When we look at such resilient SPARSE Plus partners as Fish Eye from our neighbouring Lithuania - we believe that with the right determination and wisely built partnerships this can be successful in the future. Still in the realm of dreams - I asked Magdalena Rożek what her dream networking meetings would look like. And here is what she replied:

Above all, it would be about meeting with other local promoters, maybe even in smaller groups, to exchange knowledge and ideas, and to take different initiatives and projects together. What I'm most concerned with is maintaining direct relations with people who treat meetings in real life as a space for exchanging experiences. This gives you the feeling of being "in the know".

I believe that the study visits for local promoters planned as part of the mentoring programme in the SPARSE Plus project will be a great start for making these dreams come true. I see the strength of our project lies in direct relationships and the opportunity for continuous learning through experience. This confirmation is also found in Magdalena's words.

First of all, I am constantly learning, finding out, benefiting from the knowledge and experience of those who implement amazing projects for small, local communities every day. I am inspired by the actions of others, which means that little by little, I am reaching out with the library's offer to the inhabitants of the most remote villages in my municipality, involving them in the process.

Last but not least, it was the strength of the networks that allowed us to deepen and professionalise our contacts that found us in the SPARSE Plus project. One of the supporting us Small Size Network members recommended our Foundation to Ralph Lister - our mentor from Take Art. This is what I feel is most important about networking - the art of building relationships to support each other and reinforce the need to build dialogue - including with those whose voice is not often heard.

News written by Alicja Morawska-Rubczak from Art Fraction Foundation (Poland)

© Image by Raido Bergstein

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