Leading through practice
Leading through practice: Framing the discussion
Artist as Leader is a programme that aims to understand the ways artists lead through their practice with a view to informing and developing a critical understanding of the role of creativity in culture.
Artist as Leader is a programme that aims to understand the ways artists lead through their practice with a view to informing and developing a critical understanding of the role of creativity in culture. There are two complimentary parts to the Artist as Leader programme.1 The first is the research which takes the form of in-depth interviews with a range of artists and managers who work with artists. The interviews focus on practice and the perceptions of the interviewees of ‘leading through practice’. The second part is the development of a laboratory space. Over seventeen years Performing Arts Labs (PAL) has evolved a methodology for bringing together individuals increasingly from different disciplines, in the development of new work. The Lab draws together artists and policy makers with a view to exploring scenarios. The policy makers will offer their key challenges in the social, economic, cultural sphere within the next ten years as a basis for new collaborative work.
The research, which is across art forms, is being tested on a wide set of constituencies. With a-n’s readership in mind, this publication focuses on the visual arts. This publication also comes during the research, not at its conclusion and its main motive is to lay out a typology of issues, substantiated by experience, with a view to enabling and encouraging debate. We have invited four contributions – Linda Frye Burnham, Reiko Goto, Francis McKee and Tim Nunn – to demonstrate a range of perspectives. The debate continues and is open to all online at www.a-n.co.uk
Artist as Leader is funded by an AHRC (Creativity) Networking award2. It is developed as a partnership between On The Edge Research, Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University; Cultural Enterprise Office, Scotland; and Performing Arts Labs, London; and is also supported by the Scottish Leadership Foundation.
1 The Lab element of Artist as Leader is trademarked – Artist as LeaderTM.
Framing the discussion
Artists lead through their practice. One quality of experiencing art is that artists enable us to see the world differently. Our focus is on the ways in which this provides leadership. This is what we mean by leading through practice.
Currently, artists are increasingly choosing, or being called upon, to work more directly within social, cultural, economic and political processes. This is a trajectory that has a complex history in which art is increasingly active in the formulation of cultural processes.
The film What age can you start being an artist?1 gives an insight into Room 13, a project that has been running for a number of years in Caol Primary School, Fort William, Scotland.2 The film, broadcast on Channel 4, was made by some of the children involved in Room 13 working with Emma Davie, a professional film maker. The film is both about, and the result of, the specific creative dynamic of Room 13. Davie said:
Room 13 is an art room within Caol Primary School, which encourages children to think creatively. Children are able to ask for permission to leave their other classes to use Room 13, if their class work is up to date which it always seemed to be. The children are in charge of Room 13.
Davie understands Room 13 to be a different sort of learning environment from a normal school environment. Her perception was that the children were so much more engaged with the world around them and felt free to create work which genuinely reflected how they saw things not how they should see them. The art was cutting edge, bold and very unsentimental. In characterising what she learned from working with the children Davie commented,
People learn when the work is important. When you value something, people rise to it.
She described what this meant more specifically:
At the end of the day wed look at what the children had shot. Wed ask, Is it interesting, or is it boring?, thumbs up, or thumbs down. Theyd go out the next day and shoot more film. Often they had to get rid of the conventions of television to be able to see again. It was really quick, quick learning through doing.
Davie also commented on the importance of the playfulness of working with children that was particularly evident in Room 13.
A child would come up with a great idea whilst running out of the room and eating a sweetie. ... What was wonderful was to be with people who were genuinely playful.
This in turn influenced the making of Davies film about the project. The film became an exchange of skills between herself as film maker and the young people.
Davie focuses on very specific aspects of making a film in collaboration with children. She focuses on the quality of the learning and creativity that resulted from the practice (of, in this case, film making) being the most important thing. She suggests that the practice, the need to produce a film of quality in this case, is the thing that is leading.
What is happening when the result of the artists practice is that children are working differently?
Allan Kaprow articulated the change in how and why art is made as a blurring of art and life.3 More recently this has been expressed by Kester and Bourriaud as a paradigm shift in aesthetics.4 Sheikh views artists as part of a political project, setting out to construct, and to a degree subvert, different notions of public.5 These different discourses are artist-centred.
However, the artists role has also become part of the political agenda of the creative and cultural industries. In this context it is policy that drives and shapes opportunities for artists to work within social/cultural processes.
Both these positions, artist-centred and policy-centred, frame deeply felt contradictions.
It is a gross simplification to create a polarity between the idea that artists should be free to act for themselves, and that artists have an important contribution to make to social, cultural and economic development.
Setting aside the political and policy reasons for addressing this subject now, in describing previous work we were challenged by the artist Newton Harrison to clarify and articulate artistic intervention, not as a process of asking for or giving permission, but as a process of the artist consciously leading.6
This is therefore an important moment to analyse in what sense artists lead. Contradictions will be a recurring theme within this publication. They assist in challenging and perhaps reframing in a more nuanced way the potential of art practice to inform the debate.
The leadership discussion
We are aware that within management, leadership is considered to be a key to organisational success. Models of leadership tend to draw on the business world and are assumed to have universal application. We are aware that this kind of organisational leadership is an issue in arts organisations, when currently the arts represent five per cent of the national economy. In challenging the dominance of transformational leadership theories, Dennis Tourish7, Professor of Leadership and Management, Aberdeen Business School, suggests:
Traditionally, artists have followed an individualistic pathway, with a primary emphasis on personal creativity and autonomy. It is plausible that some of their approaches to leadership could contribute more to innovation, organisational learning and creativity than some of the conventional business wisdom allows.8
There is significant literature demonstrating that creativity, like leadership, is being considered as an economic driver.9
Within the Cultural Industries the major recent development has been the Clore Leadership Programme initiated by the Clore Duffield Foundation and subsequently supported by the Chancellor in response to the Cox Review10. The Clore Leadership Programme is precisely aimed at the development of leader-managers for major cultural institutions. This is a mirroring of the focus on leadership in the business and industrial context. Chris Smith, who now heads up the Clore Leadership Programme, has acknowledged that there is a difference between this kind of organisational leadership and the way artists can make a significant contribution.11
We are concerned with the reality of practice. In unpacking the qualities and attributes of artists leading through their practice, we are testing the idea that artists are uniquely placed to mobilise thinking and creative development in public life.
The first complexity that arises when we start to talk about leading is around purposes. Is it the artists purpose to make representations of the world; to expose or reveal change; or to create change? If it is to create change, is that a process of solving problems, or empowering those involved in the work?
What happened to the people who said we will represent something in the world? When did the artist start to say we will change the world? Francis McKee12
McKees first observation is that artists offer a new conception to the world manifested through an object or a performance, ie they make representations of the world.
Tim Nunn expresses the potential for the artist to lead and have influence without necessarily setting out to do so:
It may be an artist has been personally motivated to work in the natural environment and that the consequent art has stirred an appreciation of the complexity of nature and motivated protection of the environment. Or a composer has instinctively incorporated elements of folk music into a contemporary composition that has provoked a challenge to the value of tradition. Or a poet has made someone laugh when describing a sexual act and made that person realise something about her or his inhibitions.
Whilst acknowledging the resonance of Tim Nunns observations, McKee, and we also, understand that some artists are increasingly interested in working to reveal and expose change, and, going beyond even that, to create change in the world.
So let us offer an articulation that embraces both conscious and unconscious forms of artists leading through practice. Some artists are creating conditions which we as participants, inhabit for a while. Through this process we achieve a heightened awareness of the circumstances of our particular lives. As a result we may go further and engage in change.
If we accept this complexity, we believe that there are a number of nuances around which artists orientate themselves differently. These are explored in four broad thematic areas: The Artist and Power, Humility and Leading, Autonomy, and Criticality.
1 What age can you start being an artist?, made by Amy Cameron, Rosie Flannigan and Daniella Souness of Room 13 in collaboration with Emma Davie, Channel 4, 2004.
2 Room 13 has resulted from a long-term process of artists, primarily Rob Fairley, working with children at Caol Primary School, Fort William, Scotland. Children involved in Room 13 have won the Barbie Prize, and secured funding from amongst other sources, such as NESTA. There is now a network of Room 13s in the UK and internationally. See www.room13scotland.com for more information.
3 Kaprow, Allan and Kelly, Jeff (Eds), Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life, University of California Press, 1993, 2nd Ed, 2003.
4 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les Presse Du Reel,France, 2003; Kester, Grant, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, University of California Press, 2004.
5 Sheikh, Simon, various texts on Transversal: Multi-lingual Webjournal, European Institute of Progressive Cultural Policies, www.eipcp.net/transversal 2004-2006.
6 The conversation took place at Evolving the Future, the Darwin Summer Symposium, Shrewsbury, 2005.
7 Tourish is a critical friend to the Artist as Leader research.
8 Tourish, Dennis, Case for Support funding application to the ESRC September 2006.
9 For instance, DTI Economics Paper No. 15: Creativity, Design and Business Performance, HMSO, 2005.
10 Cox Review of Creativity in Business: Building on the UKs Strengths, HMSO, 2005.
11 At an Artist as Leader meeting, London, 6 January 2006, Chris Smith commented that you can never underestimate the contribution that artists can make to the leadership discussion.
12 Francis McKee interviewed by Chris Fremantle, 14 December 2006, Glasgow.
The artist and power
Artists who accept the relevance of leading through practice seem to have an ambivalent relationship with power. The leadership discourse in business is becoming more self-critical but still favours heroic or celebrity models:
Leaders have been referred to as idols (The Economist, 2002), heroes (Bennis, 1997; Collins, 2000; Raelin, 2003; Shelton, 1996); saviours (Khurana 2002); warriors and magicians (Tallman, 2003) and omnipotent and omniscient demi-gods (Gabriel, 1997; Noer, 1994) (Morris, Brotheridge and Urbanski, 2005).1
These models stand in stark contrast to the qualities that Linda Frye Burnham has discovered over thirty-five years of writing and publishing community art practice. A good artist-leader is a cultural animator building and participating in community life. He or she is an analyst able to read situations rapidly and accurately (Arlene Goldbard) thereby acknowledging expertise in people about their lives. He or she is a collaborator who motivates others to share a vision (Lee Ann Norman), a connector, an organiser, a revolutionary, a good negotiator, an entrepreneur and a lover (John Malpede). Such approaches are consistent with emerging perspectives on leadership, particularly associated with the Lancaster Leadership Centre2, which stress that followership is an indispensable part of the leadership equation, and which questions many traditional top down practices.
When an artist seeks to lead others in making art, it is often in a spirit of social change: to help heal a community after a trauma, reach across a divide, bring generations closer together.
In abandoning the heroic concept of leader, or the primacy of author as sole creator, we prioritise a different set of skills and competencies. We look to the artist to think strategically and go beyond the brief. Bob Last, film producer and entrepreneur, commented on the importance of intellectual ambition in art,
In my mind there is some sort of misunderstanding of what it is to be an artist that leads to ... the thought that self-effacing practice, or objects, or a lack of ambition to influence is in itself a heroic refusal or worthy thing [That] is some strange and conflicted construction of the artists role against the popular.3
Bob Last suggested an interesting example of leading through practice. He focuses on individuals in the film industry whose roles do not gain the headlines. He highlighted Thelma Schoonmaker who regularly works with Martin Scorsese. Last commented that Schoonmaker is able to intuitively retain a map of multiple and overlapping rhythms over ninety minutes, and that this is one of the key characteristics of Scorseses films.
Last goes on to focus on one of the contradictions at the heart of any discussion about the power of art to enable us to see the world differently.
An artists practice provides leadership in terms of constantly re-examining the world. The problem that dogs this sense of leadership is perhaps that it is not the case that the majority of people want a life where we are constantly re-examining what that life means.4
One of the most important historical examples of artists seeking to influence policy is the Artists Placement Group (APG). APG was established by John Latham and Barbara Steveni in the late 1960s and continued through into the early 1980s. APG was a radical social experiment engaging artists in non-art situations, and it moved the art towards a different power base where artists were not just embellishing. Their value as artists was palpable within the day-to-day business of various organisations.
APG marks out a territory in which the artist was given maximum freedom to engender creativity at any level of non-artistic organisations, often investing creativity where it was least expected. Grant Kesters analysis of APG places emphasis on the durational aspects of this work. John Latham explained the value of the artist in organisational contexts as lying precisely in their capacity to think through the long-term implications of actions within timescales that were far greater and more complex that the short-term expedient problemsolving of the market. APG placed artists within British Steel, the Scottish Office, the Department of Health in London, and the Department of the Environment in Birmingham. These placements resulted in a variety of works, but the true legacy lies in the opening up of expectation in and around the role of the artist. Although at times highly contentious, APGs programme led to an official memorandum from the British Civil Services in 1972 encouraging government agencies to involve artists in their activities.
APG, radical in its time, has in many ways established one model for how artists might work within organisations. This model has the potential to invert the conventional relationship between the artist and organisational power, but its application in real terms is problematic. Artists are rarely salaried (though within the APG programme they were). In practice this excludes them from certain sorts of processes. Rob Laycock, who has recently taken over as Director of Helix Arts5, noted precisely this point6. Artists are effectively excluded from certain networking and training programmes aimed at supporting emerging leaders. These programmes are aimed at the long-term good of society, and largely rely on participants being sponsored by their employers. This exclusion points to the gap between the rhetoric of creative industries and the realities of practice in the field.
Where artists develop a successful project that could iterate or grow and extend, they are often faced with becoming the managers at the expense of their own artistic practice. Laycock is employed to lead and manage Helix Arts. He is also a practising artist. He acknowledged that although he brings a great deal of creativity to his role as Director, his practice as artist is consciously separated from his practice as manager/ leader. The fact that an artist within an organisation is faced with such choices indicates that there is a tension between artistic conventions and leadership conventions. In other cases this constitutes a dilemma.
Paul Carter was the lead artist in the Edge FM project. This project was one of five in the first phase of On the Edge, developed in partnership with the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses (2001- 4). Edge FM involved a group of young people from Fraserburgh working with Carter over a two-month period to create a radio station. They developed the branding, applied for a short-term community license, interviewed inhabitants of Fraserburgh on their perceptions of Fraserburgh as home, recorded material and developed a broadcast. In this and in other projects, Carter clearly demonstrated leading through his practice. Carter understood that the role of the artist lay in mobilising young people to form self-organising groups that then gave those young people the power to address issues that affected their circumstances. He understood that it was not the role of the artist to sustain and lead the groups as might be found in conventional youth work models. His intervention was consciously time limited and also consciously linked with radio as a medium.
Being a tool, [radios] use can change, the messages it carries can change. ... Edge FM, as an art project, has a legacy in the continuing discussions and arguments about the culture of Fraserburgh and the position young Brochers7 have within culture.8 (Carter 2004)
Carters insistence on intervening creatively as a temporary, time-limited action contrasts in some aspects with the longterm commitment that Suzanne Lacy has made to developing work with the community of Oakland California over ten years (1990-2000).
Lacy views scale and long-term commitment as crucial to her approach.
Each project grew out of youth concerns expressed in the prior [project], and each positioned youth in leadership roles. Taking place over ten years of increasing hostility toward youth of colour in urban cities, the projects... feature efforts by hundreds to capture the imagination of thousands, in an effort to demystify youth. Taken together, these projects on public education, pregnancy and health care, public policy, police abuse, and youth participation in civic life represent a sustained and developed exploration of the practice and theory of community-based public art.9
Through the act of departure, Carter places the energy of the experience within the lives of the participants. The artist is ephemeral and redundant once the task of mobilising the energy of the young people is complete. In staying, Lacy consolidates and grows awareness of the issues through the sheer duration and scale of the numbers of people who are reached and their power to effect change. Both seek to transfer the power of leadership to the young people and away from the artist.
1 Morris, Andrew J, Brotheridge, Celeste M, Urbanski, John C, Bringing humility to leadership: Antecedents and consequences of leader humility, Human Relations, Volume 58 (10), 1232-1250, The Tavistock Institute, SAGE Publications, 2005.
2 The Lancaster Leadership Centre is one of the UKs top centres for research and teaching in the field of leadership studies. It is located within the Lancaster University Management School, which has scored a 5* in there last three consecutive RAEs. A prestigious new journal, Leadership, has been launched by two of the Centres main professors. Professor Tourish is on the journals editorial board, is co-editing a special edition of the journal on Communication and Leadership, and has published with one of its two editors, Professor David Collinson. He has also presented a research seminar at the Centre.
3 Bob Last interviewed by Chris Fremantle and Tim Nunn, 31 October 2006, Glasgow.
4 Ibid, 2006.
6 Robert Laycock interview by Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle, 24 November 2006, Newcastle.
7 Brocher someone who comes from or lives in Fraserburgh.
8 Carter, Paul, Edge FM, On The Edge Research, 2004.
9 Lacy, Suzanne, Imperfect Art: Working in Public: A case study of a ten-year project in Oakland, California, book proposal, 2006.
Humility and leading
Morris, Brotheridge and Urbanski, in developing their case for humility as a key characteristic of leadership, identify the three aspects that constitute humility as the ability to understand ones strengths and weaknesses, willingness to learn from others and exceeding ones usual limits [to] forge a connection to a larger perspective.1
Reiko Goto echoes this from within her own writing.
I am in a forest with many people. We are moving in a consistent direction, led by someone but there is no way for me to see the trail in front of us. I feel the warmness of someones hand in my own hand and the kindness of someones voice who occasionally guides us... After the experience even though I am not an expert, my values have changed. I care deeply. I am amongst others who have also learned. We are all moving through the world and at some level are also blind. At the end of the exploration can we tell who the leader was? Is it important? £££ Goto suggests that the experience of the journey is more significant than the identity of the guide. She does not wish to articulate herself as leader. She focuses on what the artist does and not their perceived status and influence.
Mark Neville undertook a public art project in Port Glasgow which resulted in the production of, amongst other things, a book.2 The aim of the project was to capture a year in the life of Port Glasgow, though not as straight social documentary. Neville describes the challenges, as a middle class Englishman, undertaking a project within one of the most deprived areas of post-industrial urban Scotland. He spent a year learning about Port Glasgow before he was able to realise the output. At the conclusion he distributed the book only to the people of Port Glasgow. Where Goto might suggest the journey having its own form, Neville set out with a clear form in mind, and discovered how to inhabit that form in a different way.
These examples articulate an entirely different persona of the artist or leader from one based on the charismatic. There is a sense in which both artists acknowledge a need for selfknowledge as well as a dependence upon other individuals in the process. The quality of their engagement is learning, rather than knowing and presenting. Paulo Freire explores the same point through the notion of false charity.3 Speaking in the context of a public pedagogy, he notes that understanding/learning must come from the oppressed and not be given by the oppressors. New learning arises from us critically recognising the causes of oppression and thereby gaining the energy and reason to expel the myths of the old order through transformative action. The energy must come from the individuals desire for change, from overcoming the fear of change, a process that cannot be led by an oppressor. It is an act of love and not of generosity.
Although Rob Fairley would probably not describe pupils in Caol Primary School as oppressed, nor the teachers as oppressors, the way Room 13 seems to work assumes precisely that the pupils use the space to determine their own purposes.
1 Morris, Andrew J, Brotheridge, Celeste M, Urbanski, John C, Bringing humility to leadership: Antecedents and consequences of leader humility, Human Relations, Volume 58 (10), 1232-1250, The Tavistock Institute, SAGE Publications, 2005.
2 Neville, Mark, Port Glasgow, photographs by Mark Neville, 2004.
3 Freire, Paulo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum Publishing, 1970, 2nd Ed, Penguin 1993.
The traditional conception of the artist, particularly evident in Modernism, is of the creative and autonomous individual. In our case studies the artist is operating with autonomy, but is also operating within groups, teams, and social contexts. In these cases autonomy is not also isolation. Rather one might argue that a key aspect of the work of these artists is to encourage those they work with to develop their own autonomous thinking.
Helen Mayer and Newton Harrisons approach to ecological challenges is rooted in an understanding of the need to create space for reflection on the personal dimension of bio-regional problems. They frame their work in terms of changing the beliefs of people about their relationship with the environment around them, looking not at control, but rather at co-existence.
In responding to an invitation by the Cultural Council of South Holland1 to advise them on the proposed development of 600,000 new houses for the centre of Holland, the Harrisons recognised the cultural significance of Hollands Green Heart the area of farming encircled by its major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag, Delft. They developed a proposal that focused on the Green Heart as an icon that in turn articulated a set of principles and limitations. The proposal was warmly welcomed, and then abandoned with a change of government. After five years the proposal was revisited on the initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Forestry. Newton Harrison takes up the story:
We found out that what the Dutch land planners had done was a stunning thing they had dismantled our icon... but they had accepted the working principles embedded in it: that major cities will be separated by parkland, but in their way. Their ecosystems will be made continuous, but in their way. Their way was not to make a bio-diversity ring, but to widen the rivers, in so doing make long continuous bio-diversity bands...
We found that we were successful in a new way. We started to design our work differently. When we designed our work, we would invent our icon. The icon would explain the concepts at work. It would be powerful in the sense that icons are. But to enable others to enact this work, we made it so that it was able to be recreated, redesigned and the icon dismantled and thereafter used in new ways. The issue was to keep intact the core integrity of the concepts.2
What the Harrisons promote through their work is not the traditional artists autonomy, but the ability for every individual touched by the work to think about their environment in new, perhaps autonomous, ways.
1 Harrison, Helen Mayer, and Harrison, Newton, A Vision for the Green Heart of Holland, 1994-95.
2 Newton Harrison, Public lecture, Grays School of Art, 24 March 2006.
Writing on the changing nature of European politics and culture, Marina Garcés raises the issue of criticality, proposing it as an embodied practice.1 She explores a shift from critique as a practice of debating questions, to a new relationship based in the need to take our highly evolved critical understanding of the world into practice.
To embody critique means to ask how to subvert ones life nowadays in such a way that the world can no longer remain the same.2
Taking understanding into action is dependent upon seeing that we are profoundly interconnected with the world. The notion of I is emancipated. It becomes we, integrated into a networked society in which we see ourselves in relation to the other, a part of the world rather than a consumer of it. Our individual experience is a starting point for immersing or drowning ourselves in actual experience, actively seeking relationships and connections.
It is noticeable how many of the artists we have discussed start with a deep analysis based on their own immersion and relationships with specific circumstances. This is evident in the work of the Harrisons, Lacy, Carter and Goto and Collins. APG formalised this through the concept of an open brief a three-month period in which the artist and host organisation established the grounds for further work through open-ended exploration, without obligation on either side. The work had to emerge from the relationship. The Harrisons describe this in relation to their own practice as a process of design of designing an icon that is the vehicle for thinking differently. The icon is a starting point to creating change. It will itself change.
Leading through practice in this sense is intentionally not providing the solution or resolution within a piece of work. It is often characterised by an absence of a resolution or artefact. Artefacts may appear as part of the process. It is an embodied critique because to understand requires us to experience by participating in the process that the artist initiates. It can be fun, absurd even, or mischievous. People often comment I was expecting more art.
McKee highlights circumstances in which the relevance of making art at all as a way of creating change is questioned. The artists themselves acknowledge that despite this lack of power to create change, they sustain a belief that being present is necessary and useful.
1 Garcés, Marina, To Embody Critique, Critique, Transversal: Multi-lingual Webjournal, European Institute of Progressive Cultural Policies, 2006.
2 Ibid, 2006
The idea of the artist leading through practice resonates in complex ways with a wide range of practitioners. Some recognise themselves, and others resist the idea of leading. Some are concerned that leading implies hierarchies, and others specifically want to engage with hierarchies and influence policy. Perhaps most importantly, some lead without setting out to do so.
We could say that one of the qualities of artists leading through their practice is intentionality that the artists know what they are setting out to do but this is immediately contradicted even in our own experience in On The Edge. Perhaps the real point emerges through the learning, and not the intentionality.
We ourselves seek to engage in this debate from a position of criticality: we are concerned with the framework of creative industries, precisely because of the lack of acknowledgement of the conditions of practice, the gap between rhetoric and practice, and the assumptions that the artist can deliver, uncritically, on political priorities. £££ To this end it is important that, although we have focused on certain forms of practice, these are not read as the best, the only ones that are relevant, or to be prioritised.
In setting out this typology of issues we have referred to aspects of the leadership debate. What comes through the examples that we have given is that artists do lead through their practice. The examples dont neatly fit into categories within the management debate about leadership, though this debate is changing and becoming more nuanced. David Butler goes further. Reflecting on the recent history of the arts, he argues specifically against becoming embroiled in models from business:
We are forced to use models from the outside, when actually our practices are very good.
... [thinking back to the 1980s and 1990s] it was exactly the time that large commercial organisations were moving to more flat hierarchies, and beginning to talk about creativity. But we were being encouraged to shift our practice to use top down business planning. Its almost like these business models were lying around unused and we were being given them as cast offs.
I think thats a real issue, still. When you then try to unpack something like leadership you dont try and say here are a number of models (off the shelf). What you need to be saying is, What is it that we are actually doing?1
We started with an open question: can artists offer something different to the issue of leadership?
The world around us is changing and artists practice is changing. In fact at any point where you try and describe practice as one thing, you immediately think of a counter example. Its important that there is example and counter example because its important that people have a say in what they think is art. Artists are interacting with the world and learning. Assumptions are being tested along the route.
1 David Butler interviewed by Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle, 24 November 2006, Newcastle.
On The Edge Research was launched by a major AHRC award in 2001. OTE is practice-led research. By this we mean that artistic practice is both a subject and a way of testing ideas and new approaches in the production of new knowledge through grounded experience.
OTE frames and develops a space between the field of practice and the academic to support shared learning and public pedagogy. This space acknowledges that cultural landscapes are constantly changing. Learning and articulating the relevance of the artists role through ongoing practice and research is therefore a constant, unfolding and dynamic dialogue.
The OTE research programme is increasingly working within a national and international network of artists, writers and policy researchers.
Cultural Enterprise Office (CEO) is Scotlands only specialist business development support service for Creative Businesses, Individual Artists and Industry Freelancers. It has four offices across Scotland Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen and is currently looking at expanding the service into new territories. It provides a high quality Advisory Service, up to the minute Industry Information and a Professional Development Programme of seminars and networking events to support the growth and development of the sector in Scotland. The service also provides training in core business skills such as Negotiation, Getting Started, Managing Finances and Portfolio Presentation. Developing leadership skills within the sector is currently a significant area of focus and investment in CEOs portfolio and remit. Leadership skills provide arts practitioners with the tools they need to sustain and grow their practice to make a significant contribution to the wider community.
PAL (Performing Arts Labs) creates cross-disciplinary development laboratories which produce radical thinking, collaborative practice and tangible results. PAL is a UKbased not-for-profit company devising unique international residential programmes over seventeen years. The company attracts talented practitioners across the creative industries; in the arts and architecture, in film, theatre, opera and music theatre, interactive media and new technologies, and in science, education and research. PAL identifies exceptional talents and challenges artists, scientists, educators, funding bodies and policy makers to extend the limits of their individual practice and to challenge the status quo. As of January 2007, PAL has acquired a growing talent pool of over 3,700 creative individuals, a proven methodology and a unique body of experience of 115 residential Labs held across the UK and abroad. Artist as Leader will enable PAL to broaden and deepen its practice and impact through identifying the core leadership skills of international artists working together with the decision makers from outside the arts who are engaged in this experimental programme.
Scottish Leadership Foundation (SLF) was launched in 2001 to focus on raising the quality of leadership in Scotlands public services in line with the new Scottish Parliaments modernising and Public Service Reform agenda. SLF has the specific remit to develop the leadership capacity and capability of all of Scotlands public services and whilst developing work on this wider remit, it has been giving particular support in the last year to Social Work and Mental Health services as they implement the new outcomes of the 21st Century Social Work review and the new Mental Health Act (Scotland). The SLF works closely with other leadership centres across the UK and internationally.
Anne Douglas is Reader in Art and Public Pedagogy and Director of On The Edge Research. She is based at Grays School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. As an artist researcher she is interested in the role of the artist in social change both as a theoretical/historical inquiry as well as a creative endeavour.
Chris Fremantle is a cultural historian. He is a research associate with On The Edge Research, and also works with Platform. He is a freelance producer in the visual arts. Previously he was Director of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. His interests are focused on the practice of curating, and the practices of artists engaging with and revealing social and ecological change.
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T/F: 0207 249 1800
Grizedale Arts, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 0QJ,
T: 01229 8600291, F: 01229 860050,
Hull Time Based Arts, 42 High Street, Hull HU1 1PS,
T: 01482 216446, F:01482 589952,
Kielder Partnership Art and Architecture Programme, Kielder Partnership Office, Bellingham TIC, Main Street, Bellingham NE48 2BQ,
T/F: 01434 220643,
Littoral, 42 Lodge Mill Lane, Turn Village, Ramsbottom BL0 0RW
T/F: 01706 827 961,
Locus+, Room 17 3rd Floor, Wards Building, 31-39 High Bridge, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 1EW,
T: 0191 233 1450, F: 0191 233 1451,
Public Arts, The Orangery, Back Lane, Wakefield WF1 2TG,
T: 01924 215550, F: 01924 215560,
Public Art Department, Southampton City Council, Civic Centre, Southampton SO14 7LP,
T: 023 8083 2925, F: 023 8083 2153
Public Art South West, South West Arts, Bradninch Place, Gandy Street, Exeter EX4 3LS,
T: 01392 218188, F: 01392 413554,
Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie
Public Art Forum, Halfpenny Wharf, Torrington Street, Bideford, Devon EX39 4DP,
T/F: 01237 470440,
RSA Art for Architecture, 8 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6EZ,
T: 020 7930 5115, F: 020 7839 5805,
Site Gallery, 1 Brown Street, Sheffield S1 2BZ,
T: 0114 281 2077, F: 0114 281 2078,
Anne Douglas, Chris Fremantle
First published: Research papers March 2007
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