Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Turning Point West Midlands Visit

Today AirSpace hosted a meeting with Turning Point West Midlands, to discuss artist's professional development strategies for the area. Turning Point is the arts councils 10 year strategy to support and strengthen visual arts in England, TPWM is our regional organisation. Wendy Law and Jane Morrow came to meet some of us Stoke based practitioners and arts organisers: present were: Paul Bailey (Cultural Development team) Marcus Wemyss (practising artist based at Burslem's live work spaces) Denise O'Sullivan (Ceramicist and pop-up organiser), Adam Gruning (recent graduate and artist), Glen Stoker (photographer and AirSpace window programme curator) Cath Ralph (Chief Exec of Burslem School of Art) and Andrew Branscombe (AirSpace Director and founding member.) Apologies from some of the other organisations and groups in the area who couldn't make it, but would like to be kept in the loop. I thought it would be useful to summarise the conversation and intentions here.
Today's meeting was part fact finding for TPWM and part communication in regards to their remit for delivering their aims and priorities of which 3 key priorities have been identified by the steering group, consisting of:
  • Artist support and development
  • Advocacy and communication
  • Research and critical debate.
In particular the focus of today's meeting was to discover what sort of provision already exists in North Staffs (in terms of artist's development) and what could be needed, and how that might happen. TPWM were keen to dispel the myth that the activity will be Birmingham centric, and in particular have identified that the professional development strand of what they do should happen outside of Birmingham.
They have already identified a number of opportunities which will be opening up in the coming years, which should support development for artists in this area and other areas of the west Midlands and these will include:
  • Research visits (about to be announced is a regional visit to Frieze, where delegates will go to see new work, but also look at the Sunday Art fair - with a view to explore whether art spaces from the region might be represented there.)
  • A series of studio visits: where artists will be able to apply to meet specific curators to show their work and explore possible representation or opportunities.
  • Micro residencies - where artists nominated by their group/area will be offered a residency in other areas.
  • setting up a regional artist development advisory group to feed into and set the agenda for an annual visual arts forum for the area.
They also wanted to know what we thought might be missing for our area, and how they might be able to support that. 
At AirSpace we have a keen eye on development of artists, and have always included within our programme opportunities to learn from elsewhere (bringing artists and speakers in from other places to share experience as well as going to other places and bringing the learning back) as well as hands on workshops for development of new methods of making and doing. This is something we hope to continue and would certainly benefit from support from TPWM on. One of our key priorities is to increase support for emerging artists and new graduates in the area. This year we have introduced the Graduate residency scheme at AirSpace: providing free studio space for six months, monthly support and development meetings and a solo show at the end of that period for two graduates (graduating this summer.) We would like to expand this and offer support to more recent graduates, and have already begun looking at how to do this. In particular we would love to work with A-N (we have worked with A-N before - a few years ago) and hope to be able to host one of their Fast Forward events at the gallery as well as exploring other connections - perhaps this is something that TPWM could support? 
What became evident through the meeting to me, is that though at AirSpace we have developed a very supportive community - sharing ideas, knowledge and critical debate and getting out there to see what goes on elsewhere- other artists in the area feel less supported in these terms, so it may be an area which we can open up more, again here TPWM may be able to help by publicising the events and workshops and sharing opportunities that we already have going on. First thing is to let more people in North Staffs know about TPWM. The newsletter is distributed to over 1,000 people in the region, and is useful to get signed up to.

I would really like to see some research visits which take West Midlands based artists to other cities (Nationally and Europe wide if possible.) and also the other way, bring other artists here to see what we are doing.
I have been lucky enough to be selected for two A-N networking trips in the past: the first to Lille in April, 2008 (written up here on my blog.) This trip saw us visiting a variety of artist led spaces in Lille, which was brilliant and has certainly fed into my thinking about AirSpace over the years: but also led to a number of important connections and opportunities for me as an artist: A two month curatorial residency at Harrington Mill Studios, a commission for a publication, an exhibition in Margate with AirSpace studio group and a number of lasting and supportive friendships.
The second was in Liverpool - an A-N supported networking weekend called 'The Winner Takes it All' - on my blog here - which again has lead to a variety of opportunities and connections. The conversations and connections made on this sort of research trip are really priceless for the emerging artist, and I know how privileged I was to be able to take part in them. 

No comments: