In 2016 Eelyn Lee and artist R.M. Sánchez-Camus co-founded Social Art Network (SAN), a UK based community of artists committed to building agency in the field of art and social practice.
SAN grew out of the Collaborative Arts Peer Forum, a group of twelve artists with socially engaged practices who met regularly at Peckham Platform to test the benefits of peer-to-peer support. Convened by Eelyn Lee with support from Artquest and Peckham Platform the group shared practice and identified four key factors needed to support artists and strengthen the field:
- A platform to showcase and discuss current work
- Expanded critical and reflective dialogue around the work
- A national network of artists to strengthen peer support and artist's development
- A database of current, past and historic projects
In November 2018 SAN convened the Social Art Summit, an artist-led review of socially engaged arts practice in the UK, taking place over two days in sites across Sheffield. By convening practitioners from around the country to share practice and discuss ideas, the Summit explored what it means to be making art through social engagement right now. This ambitious event, co-convened by Eelyn, Marcelo and guest convener Ian Nesbitt - a Sheffield based artist - tested ideas for launching a Social Art Biennale.
Since the Social Art Summit SAN meet-ups are now happening around the UK including London, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Nottingham, Brighton, Newcastle, Manchester, Inverness, with other meet-ups in development. On 25th April 2019 SAN hosted the Social Art Assembly at Tate Exchange to unpick the learnings from the Summit and develop ideas for a biennial event. A Research Publication about the Social Art Summit, commissioned by a-n, with a forward by Dr Cara Courage, Head of Tate Exchange can be downloaded here.