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Post-StudioBook 2017


Astoundingly, it has been over three weeks since the end of the StudioBook 2017 fortnight. And so, now is probably the time to write my third blog post, to document post-StudioBook 2017 thoughts before the actuality of the experiences and conversations begin to become less clear.

I am excited and relieved to be back in Hull. Hull is the UK’s City of Culture for 2017, there is currently such a buzz here. It’s incredible to see the reputation; landscape and attitude of a city develop, grow and flourish within such a short space of time. On some level, because of the excitement and constant agitation of events, exhibitions and interventions here, it is easy to feel that what’s happening in Hull is a brilliant part of a wider art world. Living and working in Hull, I am constantly busy with part-time work as a gallery assistant at the exciting new Humber Street Gallery, as well as working in the studio to develop a body of new sculptures for an upcoming solo show in the city this November.

Saying this, I am aware (and participating in StudioBook has confirmed this) that working in Hull, UK City of Culture or not, I am somewhat isolated from the larger art world, in particular I am working at a distance from artists at a similar career level, and whose work explores ideas related to mine. StudioBook has made me realise that studio visits and trips to other cities with lively art scenes, and artist-led spaces such as The Royal Standard may be pivotal in early career-development.

In writing this third blog post, I also thought that it might be useful to document some reflections on week two of StudioBook 2017.

Nathaniel Pitt, interestingly the only male speaker of the fortnight programme, stood out to me. Nathaniel gave a talk on what it means to be represented. His talk was more of a personal account of his attitude towards how Marxism might be used as a curatorial thread throughout the exhibitions of a project space (Division of Labour, London), as well as how artists negotiate less savoury elements of the art market. Nathaniel’s talk was pithy and amusing, and I really respected his ideas and his honesty in sharing them with us.

Alex Hodby was the second speaker on the same day as Nathaniel and covered managing your finances and budgeting as a self-employed artist. This talk was extremely useful on a practical level. Reading back over my notes has led me to reassess my digital accounts, as well as to plan to take the step to set up a separate bank account for my practice.

On day three of week two, Susan Jones opened her talk, ‘Negotiating better – how to improve terms and conditions for artists’, stating that her life goal is to influence arts policy. Susan was director of a-n until 2014 and helped to secure a-n’s artist insurance offer. In her talk she argued that negotiating was not just about money but about an exchange of value. Further to this, Susan broke elements of the negotiating process down to easy, digestible points. These included looking at ‘things you must achieve’, ‘things you intend to achieve’, and ‘things you would like to achieve’ when negotiating with an outside party. It was really inspirational hearing about Susan’s achievements whilst working for a-n, and brilliant to receive advice and tips on how to successfully negotiate from such a qualified person.

The penultimate day addressed marketing. Catherine Braithwaite, who has worked as a cultural communicator for Tate, The Southbank Centre, The Whitworth and The Hepworth Wakefield covered publicity and marketing as well as writing a press release. Catherine gave really great personal anecdotes about campaigns that she had worked on, including those that were more and less successful. She addressed the ‘hierarchy of effects’, an advertising concept which claims that the public need six reminders a day to remember or to be engaged by something that they would otherwise be uninterested in. Catherine, like so many of the StudioBook speakers, was very open to conversation. Over lunch we had a great discussion about national galleries and issues around successfully engaging with the public within a gallery context.

The final day of a long but incredibly interesting, useful and engaging fortnight consisted of a Strategic Planning session with Mark Devereux Projects. This final part of StudioBook 2017 was so amazingly useful. Mark talked us through several steps over a roughly five-hour session (the length of the session at first seemed daunting). The ease and simplicity of writing this plan became apparent as the day unfolded, and was incredible. Writing and being talked through the plan in this way, broken down into such simple steps, was like therapy. I already had a lot of respect forMark and Liz and what they do, but after this session my respect for them increased tenfold. This MDP ‘Strategic Planning’ demonstrated Mark’s skill in his brilliant ability to see complex, and to most people very daunting things, clearly and calmly. This session alone would have made the fortnight worthwhile.

Thank you MDP and all of the StudioBook 2017 speakers for an incredible fortnight! Writing this has reminded me to reassess my notes and write a list of action points. I feel as though StudioBook 2017 has given me the tools and momentum to move forward professionally with my practice, as well as a great new network of interesting artists, and an invaluable insight into the minds and motivations of those working professionally in the arts sector. I’m excited to reconnect with the group in November for the install of our StudioBook 2017 exhibition at Old Granada Studios.