Turning point is now being delivered through a network of self-determining regional groups, each supported by a paid coordinator and with access to funding for specific projects such as research. These groups will eventually be deciding what new projects and schemes are supported.

As few ‘independent’ artists appeared to be being invited to these forums, the AIR Advisory Group offered in May 2008 to provide a contact and consultation point for these regional groupings, to ensure that the wider voice of independent artists are an integral part of the decision-making process.

Formal consultation between AIR and Turning point was stalled until April, when National Turning Point Coordinator Simon Zimmerman attended a meeting of the AIR Advisory Group. Within a progress report, he confirmed that the Turning point strategy would be delivered through a pilot scheme running to 2011. The intention is to generate as national network formed a “constellation of regional groups”, providing a hub of intelligence and place to test future thinking, with “policy informed by the sector, enabling joined up advocacy on behalf of the visual arts”.

The pilot will test different approaches to partnership working and assess how effective and feasible they are. The functions of each regional group, that are responsible for establishing their own terms of reference within “national guidelines”, are to cultivate a shared vision of change, deliver strategic programmes, inform future thinking and advocate for the sector.

Amongst groups that have been meeting since last year is one in South East England with former London Arts officer Amanda King coordinating. Other active regions are Yorkshire, East Midlands where a coordinator is already in post and the North East where Julia Bell was appointed in April. Three separate groups in Liverpool, Manchester and Lancs/Cumbria, all within the North West region, are working towards TP objectives. The degree to which independent artists are actively involved in any of the regional Turning Point groups, forums or consultations is as yet unclear. The offer made last year by the AIR to nominate artists from the AIR membership to South East and East Midlands regional groups was not seized upon.

In parallel, four national initiatives within Turning point are now underway: developing regional and national collections of contemporary art, forming the blueprint for workforce development in association with CCS, and building markets for art outwith London. AIR is committed within its development plan to seek more opportunities for artists to contribute to decision-making processes. The Advisory Group endorsed the 2008 McMaster report, that recommended at least two artists should sit on arts boards and committees.

The Advisory Group is interested to hear from any AIR members who have been involved in any of the regional Turning point forums or discussions so far. Do you feel they are an effective way for visual arts strategy to be developed? What are the barriers for you in getting involved in this important network whose decisions will ultimately affect your work and the environment for it in the future?

Please pass your comments to the AIR AAG as they attend AIRTIME or Open dialogue events around the country or contact them via [email protected] with Turning point in the title.

a-n.co.uk June 2009