A key aim for the bursary supported work was to host two intersectional creative surgery consultations with Southend women artists to review what the Agency of Visible Women could provide for women who often feel excluded from the artist community. The findings would in turn be translated into a collaborative publication. While developing our riso skills, we discussed our approach for this in a lot of detail, wanting to ensure that these events didn’t turn into a way of exploiting women’s knowledge and experience. Having both been to numerous ‘consultations’ where everyone gets paid except the artists, we wanted to find a new structure that wouldn’t follow this route.
The format that we both were drawn to was the the rather sneered at “coffee morning”, which would provide an informal framework to allow women to mix and discuss ideas while also experiencing some small aspects of self-care and time to themselves. We drew on the Agency experience of hosting reading groups, including one group I lead for women with disabilities, to inform our thinking about timing, location and access. Our experience has been that many women with disabilities have hidden impairments that require a different access approach, particularly for anyone who currently doesn’t self-identify as disabled. We looked at the best way to use the access element of our budget, deciding to employ a local young artist we both knew to support and help facilitate the sessions – and yes, we paid her, so a double win on access and artist pay. We also ensured plenty of cake – we know plenty of situations where artist workers make sure everyone else is looked after, but they never are; a slice of cake can’t make up for that, but it’s a starting point.
We had a great turn out at the sessions, and got lots of positive feedback, and fantastic contributions; what struck me was how many of us are experiencing very similar obstacles, and yet we’ve been conditioned to think these are linked to individual ‘failings’ rather than systemic art sector issues; we’re not working hard enough, not talented enough, not ‘whatever’ enough. So similar to the language used around all other areas of women’s lives which exhausts us and keeps us passive. And definitely something we want to communicate.
So we will…