Friday, November 29, 2013

The Art Party Conference 2013

Over 1,000 artists descended on the seaside town of Scarborough on Saturday,23rd November 2013  to march, chant, make, talk, debate, and generally explore the importance of arts in our education system.
The Art Party Conference described itself  as an antidote to all other conferences, saying:
It’s not aligned with any political party but an opportunity to celebrate art and artists and acts as a forum for debating the future of the arts in today’s climate of spending cuts and changes to the education system. The Art Party hopes to influence decision makers to listen and to think again.'[i]
The day began with a growing collection of banner wielding artists on Scarborough Beach, who soon set off on a march up the beach to the impressive Spa Complex, corralled by artist Bob and Roberta Smith, who rallied the marchers with a chant of 'Where are we going?' 
Scarborough, 'Why are we going there?' at which point the chanting would break down as the complicated answer was 'To better advocate the arts to government.' Which was too much for the motley collection of artists, students and the public joining the march. Laughter rang out, as chants about avocadoes and 'get on with it' were heard.
The day started as it went on, hilarity often giving way to the serious message which had brought such a big crowd out on a November Saturday. Yes, the Art Party Conference felt light-hearted, fun and at times surreal, but everyone there must have been aware that what we are really advocating is recognition of the value of arts in society and education. The threatened stripping out of art from the curriculum, and the very real cuts already taking place mean not only a loss of livelihood for many present, but also, potentially the reduction of much that is bright and good in life.
In current Education Secretary, Michael Gove's world, ideally what he describes as non-traditional subjects will be weeded out, and his Minister, Liz Truss, goes further to explain, "We are rebalancing the curriculum towards high-value subjects – in maths, sciences, DT, computing, English and languages." [ii]
The description of the more academic subjects as high-value, of course hints at the notion of non-academic equalling low-value, and it is precisely this which I feel strongly, needs to be countered. In creating a subject value system like this, the government threaten to leave great swathes of young people out in the cold, and for no good reason. A society where only the academic is seen as worthwhile, is a society lacking in imagination, creativity, the ability to think differently and ultimately is a much, much poorer society and life experience on the whole. Artists and art are already undervalued, but with 14% less children taking GCSE Art this year, the future for the arts in society looks bleak.
I know that 14% less GCSE Art students means 14% less free thinkers, 14% less creative minds and 14% less well rounded young people able to make independent choices. And this figure looks set to rise if the current government gets its way. It feels like this favouring of non-creative subjects has been done on the sly, but now that we have woken up to it, something must and is being done.
Much of the festivities of the day centred around the main hall, where an artwork by Bob and Roberta Smith took centre stage: 'An Open Letter to Michael Gove'. During the day Gove's image became the focus of various performances, speeches, actions and there was even a Gove lookalike, who gave a pantomime style speech to boos and hissing.
There were stands, artworks, performances and talks taking place throughout the day. I was at the conference with AirSpace gallery, where we 'Took A Stand' designed by artists Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson. The stand offered participants the chance to write their own Manifesto; very fitting with the day’s themes, and also a chance to tell people about Pigdogandmonkeyfestos – an exhibition of artists’ Manifestos to be held at AirSpace in May, 2014 - I marched with the other artists, smashed Gove's head in at the Goveshy, and even had some inspirational nail art at the Arts Admin stall. But in the back of my mind I did think a few times, there is a lot of energy here, but are we preaching to the converted?

 What is important now is how to build on the energy whipped up at the art party conference and see it is a catalyst for change: now that we all return to our busy everyday lives, what difference will one day in Scarborough make? How do we ensure the energy does not just dissipate?
One of the criticisms I heard voiced of the event was that it was all about Bob and Roberta Smith, using his connections to bring his famous art friends to the seaside for the day to celebrate his big idea. My view is that what we need now is big ideas, and we need people like Bob to use his artworld connections to gather support for this really important cause, so if that does involve ringing up your famous mates, then I'm all for it. Richard Wentworth was one of the big names there on Saturday, and he set out how important Bob and Roberta Smith's letter is. He made a public offer to meet Bob in London at a time and place of his choice to take a photo with Richard and the letter for the front page of the Telegraph. I hope it happens, and I hope that everyone in attendance, and the many other artists, and supporters of the arts that couldn't make it on Saturday see the Art Party Conference as a Call to Arms.
The Arts and Creativity in this Country are under attack and if ever there was a time to stand up for the arts, it is now. We have to get organised, speak up and speak out about the cuts.
So the question of whether the Conference has done any good will have to hang in the air for now, but what it did do was bring people together, to celebrate the arts, which is a very good start.

[i] Crescent Arts. (2013). What is it? Available: Last accessed 27th November, 2013.
[ii] polly toynbee. (2013). In Michael Gove's world Jane Austen, Orwell and Dickens will die out. Available: Last accessed 25th Nov 2013.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Walk with Monique

Alongside many solitary walks, or walks as starting points for exploring new sites, there have been a few remote walks over the past couple of years, with other artists: there was a walk with Emily Speed in February 2012 (read about it here) - I was walking at the Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival site, and Emily was walking at the Liverpool Garden Festival Site, and while we walked we wrote to each other, then there was a walk with Bethan Lloyd Worthington, (read about it here) during my residency in Harlech in May 2012.
This Summer I saw a call from artist Monique Besten, who would be spending 40 days walking from her house in Amsterdam to Nomadic Village 2013 in the South of France. (Monique's project is documented each day via a blog, which I am enjoying following.) Monique was looking for people to walk with on each of the days, and they could be physically walking with her, or remotely walking.
I thought the idea was great, and wanted very much to walk a day with Monique (at least in thought) so got in touch to secure a day. I met Monique at the end of last summer, at the Sideways Festival of Art and Walking in Zutendaal. (read about it here). Monique was one of the librarians from the Walking Library, and at some point we made a connection through my absent mindedly leaving my purse in the library: Monique was able to identify me by a library card she found inside, and the purse was returned before I even knew it was gone.
So on Saturday 17th August, I set out on a journey, and so did Monique. Coincidentally, we both photographed our feet, wherever we were standing on the journey: they are at the top of this post.

My instruction to Monique.
I will leave my house early on Saturday, 17th August, to take the train. I will journey West towards the sea, and I will not stop until I get there.
At 1pm, I will stand at the shoreline, and look out to sea .
I will spend some time thinking of you on your journey, and thinking about the day you are having.
You will spend the day, getting as far as you can. You will be walking and thinking about the journey of my unborn child. You will think about what is to come, and an image will emerge, which will reveal something about the Child's journey.
It is in my mind all the time, as it will be now for the rest of my life:  but just for one day you will take on the job of thinking about the journey for me, and I will take the day off, and go to the seaside. 

Monique's Journey: Day 3: Walking with Anna Francis
I woke up too late. 7.30. I had planned to work out my route, write my stories, think about today but I had just slept. I thought about Christian Bobin's words in The very lowly, his book about Francis of Assisi, I didn't remember the exact words but they said something like "all good things start with sleep". Maybe I had done well. At least I had slept well. And it wasn't too late for breakfast. A good walking day starts with a serious breakfast.
The breakfast was in the main building. High ceilings. Old wooden furniture. Flowers. Piles of fresh fruit. Yoghurt. Cheese. Eggs. Cappucino. Views of green meadows with birds and donkeys. But no internet connection. I felt stupid. Cursed myself for not having tried harder to get some work done yesterday evening. Because today I had an important task and I wasn't prepared. I had no idea where to go to, what to do. Today I was taking over the duty of a soon-to-be mother to think about her child. A serious duty.
On the other hand, what did it matter where I went? I had maps in my Ipad, a gps, everything I needed on my back and it was the season of abundance, free food available at every hour of the day, fruit, edible weeds, things for sale for little money on small tables outside peoples' houses.
I enjoyed the breakfast, looked at the donkeys, thought of another walk where there had been a donkey present, a long walk through Belgium where I had met Anna. Anna who will be a mother soon. Anna who will go to see the sea today. We will meet at one. She will look at the sea. I don't know where I will be but I will be thinking of her and the little one.

I left, I walked, I used my tiny Ipad to navigate. I realised I had been so eager to have things planned well for the serious duty of today but that it was so much better just to see how things work out and let life lead the way. I bought some plums "from the neighbour's garden", thought about the little one, about how strange it was for me, not wanting to have kids, to have the responsibility of thinking about this tiny creature and wondering what her/his life was going to be like. I thought about Anna and then it struck me that I'm walking with two Anna's these 40 days. Today with Anna, the mother-to-be, a mother who asked me to think about her child for a day and in September with Anna, the mother of a man who asked me to walk in memory of his dead mother, a son asking me to take over the duty of thinking about his mother for a day. Life and death in a name. In any name actually.

I had started the day by embroidering Anna's name in my coat. Yesterday in Utrecht I had bought some blue thread at a thriftshop, I thought I could use it for today, for Anna. I came across the same colour of blue in a piece of ceramic along the road and I took it. I found a sad pigeon, dead, lying in the grass loooking as if it was asleep, its body covered with big dewdrops glittering in the sun, one wing stretched out. I walked and walked. And wondered where I would be at 13.00. I had set my alarm, I tried to be timeless.
I was just crossing the border of the former Roman Empire when my alarm sounded. History and the present merged. I thought about Anna and her little one. The one that will be. The future. And while doing that I was looked at by hundreds of eyes. All along the road big old birch trees, tree eyes, I've always been intrigued by these trees, their whiteness, soft skin, their eyes. And recently I had discovered how usefull the bark is when you want to lit a fire. Anna at the seaside, me inbetween trees, thinking of each other. Both thinking of the same child.
I took a photo of the trees, there was something blue in the far distance. I walked on. I passed the blue trash container. I passed the town of Werkhoven, I crossed a river, I made my way along another river, took a small ferryboat and reached a campside. I thought about the child, looked at the field packed with caravans, the fancy boats and decided to walk on, to look for a quiet spot somewhere, to camp in the wild, although in Holland this doesn't really mean what it sounds like. I walked through Beusichem, had my diner in a cafe, walked on and saw clouds in amazing shapes, saw the sky in a shade of blue my camera couldn't capture. I thought about how present the blue had been today and just as I thought it was a good thing I didn't believe in these coincidences saying something about the future, the sky turned from blue into a glorious pink. Blue, pink, an unborn child. The sky turned dark, the colours left and I walked throught the night, looking for a green spot to dream of a colourful life for a new human being and I smiled. It was still warm, some young cows followed me, I took a left turn and found a small path inbetween some fields. A path into the green. It started to softly rain. And I quickly pitched my tent and slept.

(Somewhere during this evening, when it was already dark, just before I met the cows, I passed a noisy shed with a bunch of boys partying. They stopped me, being curious about what I was doing there in this outfit. I drank a beer with them, tried to answer their questions. Some of them were trying to joke with me, others were more serious. They were dancing and drinking, about to go to some disco nearby. They were young and silly but in a good way and nice to talk to, they kept saying You, they asked why I was walking all alone, what sort of art I made, if it was true that all artists use lots of drugs, if I didn't have anything else to do. They told me about their place, they were really proud of it, the police came by to check them out now and then but they never caused any problems, they just wanted to have some fun, to hang out with friends. They didn't understand I was doing the same thing. But without a fixed location. Without people being there in person all the time.
When I left I promised them I would write about them. And about their place. I asked them for the name of their "clubhouse". They laughed. And smiled proudly. The Wank Shed.)

In February 2014, we will host an exhibition at AirSpace gallery called A Walking Encyclopaedia: it will aim to show the breadth of walking practices, in partnership with the Walking Artist Network. We will put out a call soon for documentation of walks, texts about walks, films about walks, books about walks....I hope to show some of Monique's work there.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Buddleia Series

This Spring/Summer I have developed a new series of works which celebrate the Buddleia Plant. My interest in Brownfield sites across the city continues, and one of the most prevalent plants, almost always present on these sites is the Buddleia.
Buddleia is able to grow from the most unlikely of patches - even managing to grow out of tiny cracks in buildings, finding the smallest patches of viable fertile soil, and creating something beautiful and impressive. I realised on a site visit to Paper Gallery, that there seems to be a correlation between Buddleia and artistic activity. Artists too can flourish and create something from nothing, in the most unlikely of places: also, I think that the types of spaces which we find ourselves operating in (the overlooked, the not yet noticed, the difficult) are just such places that Buddleia also inhabits.
So, the buddliea plant has come to represent for me a way to flag artistic activity, and begin conversations about how artists are operating.
The buddleia has had 3 outings so far this year: The first was part of the Park Traces project that I am working on this year: to document Hanley Park in Stoke-on-Trent, a beautiful Victorian Park, that is in desperate need of renovation. The Park is the subject of a Heritage Lottery Funding Bid, and therefore it is really important to document the park as it is today, in order to see the differences in the future, if the bid is successful. In May, I lead a group of 9 art students, plus two other artists, Bethan Lloyd Worthington and Phil Rawle, in a week long project, looking at the park, and developing site-responsive artworks, which were used as starting points for conversation with the public. Details about Park Traces can be found on the project blog.
My project for Park Traces centred around the amenities for Park visitors. One of the issues, flagged by Park Users, is the lack of adequate toilet and other facilities within the park. The toilets are often closed, and when open, are usually less than inviting. The Ladies toilet sign seems to point to the once well cared for amenities within the park, and I decided to focus on The Ladies Toilets.
The buddleia was exhibited outside the ladies, on the sign, which we spruced up, by giving it a clean and a quick lick of paint. I assembled a good set of cleaning products and utensils, and made my way through the park to the toilets, first thing on Saturday Morning, before our projects were due for display. The buddliea is made from 3d photographic decoupage (photo on card), wire and floristry tape.
I cleaned off toilet tissue splatters from the walls, cleaned the toilets, and the floor and the sinks.
And provided hand soap, toiletries and flowers, to make the space more inviting. Bleaching, scrubbing, and mopping certainly improved the smell in the toilet, which had been quite bad, but was soon much improved.
Maps were also installed, so that the public could identify that this was one of the works of art in the trail, and throughout the day the toilets were used by lots of surprised, but delighted Ladies. One lady said it was wonderful to be able to help her grandchildren wash their hands, as she couldn't remember there ever being soap in the toilets before.
If only we had had longer, we could have made some more permanent repairs to the toilets, and a lick of paint would have been good too. It took about an hour to clean the toilet, but once done, it would be quicker if it were due to happen on a daily basis. Lets hope the HLF project flags the need for better amenities for park users.
The next buddleia outing was as part of the Paper Perform Exhibition at Paper Gallery, Mirabel Street, Manchester. Paper Gallery seemed to explode onto the art scene last summer. I followed with interest their trajectory, while on my residency in the mountains of Japan. From afar it seemed that this tiny gallery was making a BIG impact. Successes at the Manchester Contemporary art fair, and lots of coverage certainly seemed to catch people's attention. I thought it sounded a fantastic idea to have a gallery dedicated to works on, with and about Paper, so I was delighted to be invited to take part in their 7th exhibition: Perform.
You can read about my site visit to develop ideas here.
In the end it was the Paper Decoupage Buddleia which was developed, and for the exhibition I had a table set up, with two chairs, and the idea that the viewers to the show would be invited to sit with me, and make the buddleia and have a conversation about the impact that Paper had had or is having on the area, and on the people that visit it.
Conversations that were had centred around the specific location, and the impact that Paper was having on the Mirabel Street area, whether or not Paper had made this area better known, and one conversation about the fact that Mirabel Studios had been in the location for longer than Paper, but that before Paper, no one knew where it was.
During the Private View we managed to make an entire Buddleia plant, but of course the plant is secondary to the conversations. The Buddleia here is flagging the good work that paper is doing, and talks about the way that artists locate viable, cheap spaces to work, and through their activity, the locations become better known, and better occupied. 
My buddleia were installed in locations inside and outside of the Paper Gallery, and remained for the 6 weeks of the show.
Many thanks to Nicola Smith for the opportunity to be involved in this wonderful exhibition. Details of artworks and artists here.
The final Buddleia work, was installed in Lichfield Cathedral, as part of the Lichfield Festival, which ran from 4th - 14th July. AirSpace Studio Artists Yearly exhibition would this year take place in the Cathedral. 
The time frame was quite short, but we are all quite experienced now in forming site responses, and so everyone rose to the challenge of such a wonderful space quickly.
I was intrigued by the Erasmus Darwin House and Herb Garden, which is situated opposite the Cathedral. Erasmus Darwin was Charles Darwin's Grandfather and a good friend of Wedgwood. I was fascinated to learn about his Commonplace Book, a sort of miscellaneous journal containing information and details about his scientific discoveries and research, and his interests in the herbal properties of plants. Probably because we (at the Gallery) have been developing the Yarden, I was fascinated to see what a really long standing and established walled growing space might be like. Darwin, a polymath, is also famous for writing a 12 part poem called 'The Loves of the Plants, and so my piece for the exhibition was to develop a 12 part poem, which explored the seasons, using the art of Floriography, to connect plants found in the Herb Garden, with the seasons and their proposed meanings and uses.
The poem comes in a booklet with collages, and is also a proposition for a one year investigation, looking at the Herb Garden, and the works within the Commonplace Book.
The booklet (limited edition of 100) was available from inside the Erasmus Darwin House during the exhibition, and also from beside the Erasmus Darwin Plaque inside the Cathedral, where my buddleia was installed. It is yet to be arranged whether the year long investigation will happen or not, but I hope it does.
The buddleia has been an enjoyable series to work on, and I am sure will be something I return to.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chelsea Flower Show

My practice has for some time involved flowers, plants, and green spaces, in relation to regeneration and the built environment. I was really interested then, when I first heard that our city, Stoke-on-Trent, was entering a show garden for the Chelsea Flower Show.
For years now, the only news making the headlines across the UK about Stoke is usually bad - factory closures, being voted the worst place to live, and other negative stories. This only proves to become a self-fulfilling prophesy, as people get the impression that this is not a good place to be, and don't visit or move here. What a positive change then, for the city to have something to celebrate, and to get some good press!
The Stoke-on-Trent transformation garden, seems to me to have picked up cleverly on this theme, presenting a city in metamorphosis.
The design itself celebrates the rich pottery heritage, but looks to the future, including elements of cutting edge design, high quality engineering, and forward thinking green specifications.
I have never been to the Chelsea Flower Show, and so this year seemed the year to go, but I had not bought tickets, and by the time I looked into it, they were sold out! So I was amazed when I received an email from the Council's 'Our City' magazine, letting me know that a competition to win tickets that I had entered had come through! I had my ticket.
One of the main features of the garden was a steel bottle oven. I have to admit that usually, when it comes to the ubiquitous bottle oven shape being used (as it frequently is in the city, for public art works and other representations of Stoke) I am usually not a fan - but in this case, it seemed to make sense, to let people outside the city see this architectural feature. What I love about this design, is the bone china bricks, created within the British Ceramic Biennial's studio in the old Spode Factory - which I saw being made on a recent visit. These are truly beautiful objects, and each one unique. 
What a shame that the public viewing the garden would not get to see the exquisite detail - as unfortunately, despite how it looks on the television, you can't enter the gardens, but instead observe them from the path nearby.
The growing wall was beautiful, and is something I would like to experiment with one day.
I was not able to get a close look at the one-off Moorcroft table, but it looked great, and even surface pattern students from Staffordshire University had contributed to the project, with their cushions, what a fantastic opportunity!

Well done to all involved in the fantastic project, it was truly a city partnership, letting the country know a little about the good things that are going on in Stoke-on-Trent.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Paper Thoughts

Back in the summer, while doing my residency in Japan, I was really interested to hear about the trajectory of Paper gallery in Manchester. They seemed to explode onto the North West's art scene, immediately getting a lot of attention by doing really well at Manchester Contemporary. I really like the simplicity of their idea for an artist led space, and so responded to the call that was out in the summer. Each show is called Paper: _____ the one on at the moment is Paper: Copy and includes artists working with photocopiers, to produce multiples from an original.
After I sent in my expression of interest in the summer Nicola Smith, one of the co-founders of the gallery got in touch about an exhibition that she is working on, Paper: Perform, which will look at the currency of performance art, and documentation.
I went to Manchester this weekend to meet Nicola, have a look at the gallery, and see what might be of interest in the local area to work with.
I am still thinking a lot about using flowers and ikebana to talk about space, and how it is governed and developed in cities, and so went along with that in mind.
Nicola took me around the local area, pointing out the beautiful red brick building opposite, which used to be the sorting art springs to mind. We met Christine Lawley who has a studios in the building, she had grown up in the area and said that it's a fantastic part of Manchester, she said they had not realised that the sorting office was such a fantastic colour, as it had been black with pollution. She also said her school had been nearby, but that it's a car park now. She also pointed out how close we were to Strangeways.
Paper and Mirabel studios (where paper is located) are new to the area, but since they opened, a sushi bar has opened around the corner...gentrification is already beginning. I am keen to pick up on the way that this works. The Mirabel building is just off Deansgate really, so why has it taken so long for development to begin. I want to express the way that an art space affects is locality. I suddenly realised while I was there that there is a real correlation between the way that invasive weeds like buddleia find thetiny gaps and bits of overlooked fertile ground and grow there, and that this is exactly what artists do too. We operate in the forgotten places, and demonstrate value, we make something out of nothing, and slowly views change of an area.
I began to think that for Paper: Perform, I should do something that leaks out of the gallery, into the nooks and crevices of the streets outside of paper, populating the gaps, and letting people know that paper is there.
I am thinking of making a kit, so that people can make their own paper buddleia, to put on the streets outside of the gallery. I am also thinking of a walk from Manchester Piccadilly to Paper, noticing all of the evidence of weeds on the way. I would like to do something involving an ikebana demonstration, but I am not sure how it fits with the other ideas. I have also found myself buying a load of wild flower cigarette cards since getting back from Manchester, not sure why, but I am sure it will all make sense by June.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

WEA Health Leaflets

Just before Christmas I had a phone call from Janet Henson from the Worker's Education Authority. The WEA was set up in 1903 to support the educational needs of working men and women, and since then has been committed to providing lifelong learning. I really support what they do, and think they provide fantastic and important opportunities for people of all ages in the UK.
I noticed that with the cuts happening across the city of Stoke-on-Trent, with quite a lot of public service buildings closing, the WEA's classes and reach had been affected.
Janet was ringing up with a query about finding an artist to work with the WEA to create leaflets for their classes, as during these times of swingeing cuts, having good attendance numbers is more important than ever. Janet said that the Bentilee group had been fundraising, and had managed to raise £160 to pay someone to make them a advertising poster, but that this would also need to pay for the printing costs. I said I would be happy to work with the learners to design their own poster, as I didn't think they would be able to afford to pay a designer and afford printing costs: and so I went along to their Christmas party to meet them, and discuss initial ideas. Then just after Christmas I went along to their class.
We started by looking at some other gym posters for ideas and then answering questions about what attracts each of them to come to the class, and what benefits they could identify from being there. They then each had to come up with possible slogans for the poster.
After that we got up and did some light exercise, as an opportunity to take some photographs of the group. Over the two meetings I got a good idea of what the group wanted, and then went away to put it all together.
Once complete the poster went back to them for feedback, and final alterations were made.
They were really pleased with it, as were the WEA.
Later Janet got back in touch to say one of the other groups had seen the poster, and one of their learners had been inspired to make their own version, based on the Bentilee group's design. Here is what Janet said:
'Hi Anna, please have a look at the attachment . One of our WEA volunteers has made a flyer, for the YMCA class,modelled on your flyer. She took her own photo's and put it together. I think she has done a wonderful job. You have inspired learners to have a go.'
Janet then asked if the design made for Bentilee could be rolled out across the 20 classes in the area - which it will be. 
I was really pleased to work with the WEA gym Bentilee on this. I don't often offer my skills for free, but for something like this I was really happy to.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

AirSpace Mission

I was selected to take part in the Engage Cultural Leadership programme, Extend. This is a programme for those working in arts and education settings, who are, or have aspirations to be cultural leaders. This has involved two residentials, the first in Wakefield in June, and the second in Leeds in January.
Within that, each participant has been allocated a mentor, and also we were put into groups to work on a group project. My group found that we had a shared interest in participation, and embarked on research to explore participation in cultural projects. My particular interest has developed to be around decision making within participatory projects. The group project has been documented via a blog, but is not what I wish to talk about here, so just to give an overview.
My group includes; freelance artist, Johnny Gailey, Susan Humble from Artlink, and Emily Druiff Director of Peckham Space. Within our group project we each went and did some research and then organised our own residential (in a cottage in the Peaks) where we intended to share our findings and plan for a manifestation. Unexpectedly, we ended up posing questions for each other, which would help us to move our thinking on, in relation to the work that each of us does as artists, educators and leaders.
The three questions that I was given were:
Which direction do you want to face?

How do you make the gallery relevant to the community in which its in?

What are the connections between everything that you are doing and how do they work for you?
Originally this was meant to help move on our group project, but has a much greater reach than we thought - something which was quickly realised.
I realised that attempting to answer these questions could help greatly in planning for the coming two years at AirSpace Gallery, and if the questions could be explored with Andy and Glen (co-directors at AirSpace Gallery) we could figure out what each of us wants to do, and build this in. 
The gallery has been through a relatively difficult time over the past year or two. Previously Andy and Dave had both been there full time, and with Dave's decision to leave and explore other opportunities and avenues, I don't think any of us realised what a big hole it would leave, and how long it would take to understand the implications. Also, the gallery vision and mission was always something that Dave and Andy had set out, so with one half of that partnership now gone, it became imperative that we first understand the new context, and then work out what impact that may have on the direction of the future of the project.
We had the Stocktake Exhibition, which looked back at 6 years history of the gallery, and was quite a nice departure point for Dave. We had thought that in looking back, we would understand how to go forwards, in fact Stocktake may have just marked the end of the chapter. We now needed to start a new one.
What I realised was that though I am a named Director at AirSpace, I am not able to invest as much time as other Directors (as I work 4 days a week - and need time for my own practice as well.) For this reason, I need to make any involvement really work for me. 
I feel that with a small artist led organisation like ours, it is important to keep in mind the individual career aspirations of those involved, and ensure that time give (often voluntarily) has some kind of alternative benefit. For this reason I planned a facilitated activity to work n with Andy and Glen, in order to try to understand our individual career aspirations for the next two years, and to look at those alongside our plans for the direction of the gallery for two years, and to see how these relate to each other.
Keeping the original 3 questions very much in mind, the activity was structured like this:
1. Each participant has 5 minutes to write down all the things they do for the gallery.
- then sort into: things you still want to do, things you would like support to do and things you no longer want to do.
Each participant then shares these, and a discussion around identifying gaps, and possible solutions for shifting roles/responsibilities takes place.
 2. Each participant has 3 minutes to note down goals and ambitions for the next 2 years.
3. Each participant has 3 minutes to note down all the things they would like to see the gallery doing over the next two years.
Then participants present their goals and ambitions, and then what they would like to see the gallery doing - and links between own goals and gallery goals are explored as well as links between participants.
(This helps us to understand what informs each of our approaches.) Very helpful! 
4. Participants note down 5 points in relation to what they feel AirSpace is and should be, with a view to write a new/relevant mission statement. These are looked at and discussed, and links/crossovers explored.
5. We discuss the original 3 questions set out at the beginning to see if we have answers yet.
A new mission statement is written in the subsequent weeks, plus a timeplan set out, and an arts council bid completed.