François Matarasso

A Restless Art was published in January 2019. It took four years to research, write and re-write; it took 40 years to develop the thinking that shaped it. The path was not always easy but now, looking back, I’m struck by how clear and consistent it has been. I’ve never doubted what I do, or why.

My hearing isn’t what it was: at the Instituto Politécnico de Viseu, May 2019 (Photo Luís Belo)

Why I do what I do

My work in community art stands on the belief that everyone has the right to create art and to share the result, as well as to enjoy and participate what others do. Shaping your own cultural identity – and having it recognised by others – is central to human dignity and growth. If people can’t represent themselves culturally how can they do so in any other way, including politically? If people are only imagined and portrayed by others, how can they be full, free and equal citizens? And yet, in every society, people’s access to culture is uneven. Those who identify with dominant cultures have no difficulty creating and promoting their values. Others, passively or actively denied cultural resources, platforms and legitimacy, remain on the margins. My work tackles those issues by making art with people, sharing ideas, thinking and writing about it.

How my work has developed

I’m a freelance community artist, writer and consultant. Between 1979 and 1994, I worked in with people in estates, towns, hospitals, institutions and prisons. As my interest in the ideas behind this work grew, I became involved with research and its implications. From 1994 to 2003 I undertook a series of studies of arts and culture, often with Comedia, including Use or Ornament? (1997) and ending with Only Connect (2004). At the same time, I continued to work on community art projects in and beyond Europe. I’ve been privileged to work with many public bodies, foundations and universities, but above all with arts organisations. My work has taken me to distant countries where I’ve learned about community work in other cultures. In 2010, I began Regular Marvels, which celebrates  people’s everyday art practice through six books, all free to download from the website. My time now is shared between community art, writing, and research, and I have no idea what I might be doing next.


I hope you find something useful on this website. If you have questions, or would like to discuss a project, please get in touch. I’m always happy to talk.

Cabbage field opera photo.jpg
Community Art Training School, Kaunas, June 2018