NAN in conversation with Meltdowns
Ramsgate based artist-led initiative Meltdowns was awarded a NAN Go and See bursary in February 2008 to visit the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Aberdeen for research and development. In this NAN report, Emilia Telese talks to Stacy Keeler of Meltdowns about their experience.
Emilia Telese: tell us about Meltdowns!
SK: Meltdowns' artists provide a unique, exceptional arts organisation, with an emphasis on uncompromised creativity, accessibility and professionalism whilst maintaining a forum for education, research, artist development and cultural debate. From Ramsgate (UK) we serve the global creative and business communities. We operate the only fine arts foundry in the region which works alongside our accessible workshop facility and project space made available for artists, a sustainable studio block which is fully equipped and consistently affordable, consultancy and restoration advice and an ever increasing and award winning education programme. Our aim is to continue to marry both contemporary and traditional dialogue and to create a sustainable model for our philanthropic activities and to merge both the arts and business communities, whilst maintaining an artistic integrity in all that we do.
ET: What did you want to find out through your NAN bursary?
SK: Sustaining artist-led, independent, creative organisations is incredibly important us. Our visit to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop (SSW) was undertaken as part of our wider research activity. As their organisation was cited as being very similar to ours, we were investigating their set up and structure, and the presence of further similar independent organisations, with an attempt to create an international supportive network that is sustainable outside of public funding.
The intention was to highlight the dichotomy created with philanthropic artists' support activity and sustainability, especially in the current uncertain climate of available regular funding. Our focus was to question the inappropriateness of the application of existing business models and structures to a creative way of working within a 'creative industry'. The research activity would also highlight the differences between activities in 2 countries of the UK and whether the locality impacts on the organisations direction and strategic set-up.
ET: What did you do during your visit to Aberdeen?
SK: Our two day residential visit addressed our research aims through informal discussions with members of staff, a site tour and observations of the activities operational at the workshop facility. As the Scottish Sculpture Workshop is revenue funded by the Arts Council Scotland and is registered as a charity, the impact on organisational direction, output and project turnaround was profound. Confirmation of the benefits of financial autonomy, owning our own property and existing independently outside of public funding constraints was acknowledged.
Coincidently as a result of our visit, the Scottish Sculpture Workshop is now considering embracing more commercial activity through their foundry. Similarly, we are undergoing a restructure in terms of the legal status to become a company limited by guarantee, through establishing the facility as a trust.
ET: What did you get out of your experience?
SK: Strength of vision and clarity of purpose at Meltdowns were experienced as a result of our visit and an acknowledgement that although relatively speaking we are positioned within our infancy as an organisation, we have much to offer similar creative organisations in a professional sense. A positive supportive network has been established and an ongoing dialogue is anticipated to inform the organisational development of both facilities.
ET: What will this experience enable you to do in the long term?
SK: Initially, we have been invited to return to Scotland and provide consultancy advice with a view to improving operating systems already in place within their foundry area. In the longer term, a reciprocal exchange of ideas and processes will be implemented where discussions have already begun around the inclusion of glass casting technologies and providing advice on feasibility studies. Our aim is to continue to build on this working partnership, by developing strong links with our respective residency programmes and foundry activities, whilst maintaining and expanding the network of similar organisations.
In a broader sense, the NAN bursary kick started a major redevelopment strategy here at Meltdowns, which is really exciting. It provided a great case study for our development and recognition of wher we are and where we want to go. Receiving a NAN bursary has enabled us to undertake invaluable research that we would not have been able to fulfil otherwise. Forming the first project of this kind at Meltdowns, we are pleased with the outcomes and look forward to welcoming members of SSW staff to our premises soon. This experience has provided an insight into a similar organisation and has informed our current positioning within the creative industries. Thank you!
You can see NAN's profile of Meltdowns on www.a-n.co.uk/nan/organisation/42567
First published: a-n.co.uk March 2010
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