Today I went to the launch of Leicester City Council’s cultural prospectus and strategy. It turns out that this wasn’t the launch of the actual strategy, it was the launch of the work to consult leading towards the strategy, which actually is good as there’s still chance to input in to the decision-making for how the city moves forward. I have so many hats when it comes to things like this. I am an independent artist and this event was not aimed at me but I am also Chair of Leicester Society of Artists (an unpaid role) and occasional consultant and project lead for Creative Leicestershire. I choose to get involved in events and conversations and activities around artist development and arts policy as I am professionally and personally engaged with the outcomes of them. And I LOVE a good strategy!
I was delighted to see that one of the key frameworks they are aiming to develop in the strategy is Workforce and Talent Development. From my perspective as an independent artist & cultural freelancer, I am mostly interested in how organisations and councils support and develop the creative talent of artists. But I am concerned that artists are expected to input their ideas (which is of course our means of making a living) into a consultation for which they won’t get paid, and won’t necessarily get credit.
Last year I completed a lengthy consultancy project called Made in Leicestershire looking at market development, networks and professional development for visual artists in the city and county.
This work has led directly into a new project for me, again working with Creative Leicestershire on their innovative professional development programme WebinArt, which will restart this spring (subject, as always to funding success). My element will be focussed on co-ordinating peer mentoring groups for mid-career and established artists in Leicestershire and surrounding areas. WebinArt is now taking expressions of interest for artists who would like to be part of the network and benefit from the professional development we will be offering. There’s no commitment required at this stage, you will be sent information about applying once its up and running. It really is a fantastic programme and I am really looking forward to getting artist together to do great things!
I loved working on Made in Leicestershire, getting to speak to artists and help create ideas and proposals to better promote and support them. The majority of the project funding was provided by ERDF, the European Regional Development Fund, just one of the ways in which being part of the EU was great, and is very much missed. I hope to continue developing artist support programmes, enabling creative people to thrive and to support their work in communities alongside their own creative practice.
Over the last couple of years I have been working as a consultant for Creative Leicestershire, researching the future of the role of Made in Leicestershire, a network of local artists. Since this work has now finished, I have decided to try and take some of my recommendations forward through working in partnership with another Leicestershire artist network, The Leicester Society of Artists (LSA). In early October I put myself forward as Chair with the hope of taking some of my learning from Made in Leicestershire into this thriving, well-established group. I picked the busiest time of the year to do this, just before our Annual Exhibition opened in early November. The last few weeks have have been intense, with my focus being on the exhibition judges and prizes, the preview event, working with the museum staff and then some PR and marketing activity while the exhibition is open, as well as future planning with our President Lars Tharp and the LSA Council. The exhibition continues until 7th December and is open seven days a week. I have three pieces in the exhibition too and was awarded one of the prizes as well. But the best part so far has been handing over prizes to other artists, which is a joy – and can result in hilarious photos with Tim Fowler!
Earlier this month Creative Leicestershire was awarded a grant from Arts Council England to enable us (me) to do more on my Made in Leicestershire development project. I’ve been working on research and consultation for Made in Leicetershire for about 18 months and this grant has allowed us to extend until the end of September and run some exciting new programmes for Leicestershire and Rutland visual artists and makers.
We are piloting peer mentoring for artists, beginning with training next week and then facilitated meetings over the next month. Those taking part will also have the chance to have a professional photo taken of them with their work and apply for a small professional development bursary. There’s still time to sign up to the peer mentoring programme which takes place on Monday 19th August.
We are also hosting a larger networking event on 24th September, where I’ll be launching a new printed report which will showcase some of the finest creative talent in the city and two counties. There will also be professional development talks and business support 1:1s for new and established artists. Tickets are just £5 and can be booked here.
I love working with artists and it is great to be able to provide development opportunities and work on ways to make the network stronger in the future. It would be great to be able to expand this area of my work into other counties and regions and to work with agencies to create support networks. Hopefully Made in Leicestershire will take flight in the next few years and be the brilliant showcase I want for this creative county.
Visual artists and makers networking in Leicester, Friday 7th June 2019, at LCB Depot. Book on Eventbrite. Please note this is for professional makers and visual artists living and working in Leicestershire and Rutland only.
Alongside my studio practice, I am also currently working as a consultant developing plans and proposals to develop the Made in Leicestershire brand for Creative Leicestershire. I have been working on this for 15 months and will be producing a report and proposals in July. Its been a delight talking to makers and galleries, running networking events and exploring what Leicestershire has to offer. I also put together the exhibition Tacit last year showcasing some of the finest artist-makers in the county. I will also be interviewing two artists this year for the Webinart creative business development programme.
If you are Leicestershire or Rutland-based maker, please fill in this short online survey to have your say about the future of the programme to support your work. And come along to the networking event.
Please join Creative Leicestershire for networking, artist talk and discussions. This event is for professional visual artists and craftspeople based in Leicester city and Leicestershire.
The event takes place alongside Lucy Stevens’ exhibition ‘Birdskins’ and she will give us a short introduction to her practice and the exhibition. Ruth Singer will be facilitating the networking and gathering your thoughts on future networking activities.