Pippa Koszerek: Project and manage
Pippa Koszerek, a Campaigns Researcher at a-n, lets us in to her early career developments with Hull Time Based Arts.
I did my undergraduate degree in a small, remotely located city in Yorkshire. At the time, artist-led, DIY and cultural politics were favoured over more traditional contexts. The notion of the art market was invisible. Process-driven performance and other forms of time based media held sway through an innovatively curated annual festival called ROOT by Hull Time Based Arts (HTBA).
In our first month of art college, our student cohort had been signed up to volunteer for this vibrant and at times eccentric festival weekend. I participated yearly throughout my degree, assisting artists, soaking in the atmosphere and assimilating event management knowledge initially through vague observation and hearsay and then through generous mentoring. I still think of ROOT as one of the best annual art festivals I've experienced, a loyalty that comes down to the range of experiences I gained from it over three years.
Through the example of our tutors, HTBA and the artist-run RED Gallery of Contemporary Art, as students, we were made to feel that being an artist was an entirely possible enterprise. We didn't need to wait until graduation to try things out and we could be part of both local and international networks just by being active and responsive.
Right from the beginning, students were just doing things. In my first year I had the opportunity to write a proposal and take part in a student-run performance event at RED. At that time everything seemed exciting and underground. Education was fun and intellectually exhilarating. I could see examples of artists being artists; being commissioned and being paid. Things happened, it was art and it was amazing.
I began organising events in my second year when disagreements with University management led a group of us to set up an alternative art school at RED. Hull Time Based Arts wanted to support us and invited us to do something during their next festival. We proposed a conference to bring together students, artists and lecturers from throughout the UK and I spent the summer being mentored by staff in their offices. I was completely out of my depth, but also completely engaged. In my memory I have a vague blur of learning how to write letters, sponsorship packs and liaise with panellists. The festival organisation was in full swing and I picked up many tips from the co-ordinators, festival assistant and marketing manager.
Through the conference, myself and several other students were invited to run and take part in a number of other artist-led events. We'd become part of a community through shared concern and ideals. Upon graduation I had two projects lined up and a driving ambition to be an artist on my own terms.
An ethos of sharing and mutual support pervaded the Hull art scene and a group of us were clear we wanted to remain in the city. There was an unspoken understanding that knowledge was to be passed down and that we could always ask for advice. I felt I could wander into HTBA or RED at any time. Perhaps it was that early link as a student, or perhaps it was the small scale of the local art scene, but these were definitely unique relationships compared with ones I've had with organisations later on in my career.
When in 2003, as part of the collective 54 Degrees North we decided to apply for funding to run a our own festival in a disused warehouse, HTBA's business manager and ArtLink Exchange's Fundraising manager both sat down with us and read through out funding applications. We raised a total of £25,000 and received additional in kind support from HTBA through the loan of technical resources.
In the early 2000s, debates around unpaid internships or abuse of unpaid work didn't really exist. Hull Time Based Arts did have interns and many went on to full time employment with them. I would say that HTBA was a model for how many current institutions could support volunteers and interns. Being in a small northern city, the relationship and benefits was clearly symbiotic, HTBA needed the local student and artist population, who were its key audiences and volunteers, and in exchange we needed it as a way of experiencing contemporary debates, gaining professional experience and being exposed to a constant passage of international mid-career artists. Hull Time Based Arts no longer exists and its archive is unfortunately not present on the web, however its impact on me and my cohort continues in our approaches to how we engage as artists within the wider art world.
First published: a-n.co.uk November 2011
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