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.

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