The first in a series of Creative Campus research workshops took place on 5 November at Castlefield Gallery, Manchester. ‘Beyond the Campus: Connecting Knowledge and Creative Practice Communities Across Higher Education and the Creative Economy’ is funded by the AHRC and run in partnership with Kings College, London and Manchester University. In this their first seminar, the emphasis was on existing models and collaborative work already taking place between universities and arts organisations.
A number of different relationships emerged during this information-packed day: a gallery benefitting from the research strengths at universities; universities as a neutral space for industry discussion; local authority as an incubator for new graduates; universities embedding posts within arts organisations, helping them to attract higher calibre researchers; galleries and universities collaborating on research and combined branding and an MA almost entirely based within industry.
Combined strength seems to be the benefit of the University of Northumbria and Baltic’s collaboration, whose partnership B x NU allows for a skill and knowledge exchange between university and institution. Emma Thomas (Baltic’s Head of Learning) spoke about how the association with Baltic helped to attract a high-profile artist, Christine Borland, to the post of professor for Baltic39.
Hyper Island runs an MA in digital/cultural management, entirely based in industry, which is funded solely by students’ fees and clients who pay the organisation for working with their students on briefs. This mutually beneficial relationship avoids the usual revenue streams from the Treasury or funding bodies and becomes highly self-sufficient (although Jim Ralley – Programme Manager at Hyper Island – was keen to point out that client relationships do take a lot of work to negotiate).
Value and the link between money and value was a reoccurring and less-straightforward subject for other speakers of the day, with an emphasis on the need to find a new way to talk about the value of creativity without relying on economic terms.
Dr Simon Moreton, Knowledge Exchange Fellow at REACT (Research and Enterprise in Arts and Creative Technology, an AHRC-funded knowledge exchange hub) gave examples of the collaborations they support between arts and humanities researchers and creative companies. He explained that a regular business model – creative idea = exploit for revenue = generate cash – does not always work for creative research. The problem of a research culture (and visual arts sector) that is measured largely by output of products rather than outcomes, and where there is a need to prove the economic value in creativity to ensure investment, was evident in many of the presentations.
Three speakers in particular were engaged in work that placed artists at the centre. Firstly, Cheryl Butler, Head of Culture at Eastleigh Borough Council introduced the associate artist scheme at The Point in Eastleigh, which works with Winchester University. This supports new graduates and emerging artists, offering space for rehearsal and mentoring. It also provides training in areas such as running education and community workshops, acknowledging the reality of making a living as an artist.
Susanne Burns, the Project Director for ArtWorks, an initiative from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, talked about their work on developing practice in a participatory setting. It’s interesting that, like The Point’s associate scheme, this research identifies a lack of training and skills amongst artists and the need to create a more confident sector. Working across five pilot schemes nationally, this seems an ambitious and timely initiative. a-n is a partner in ArtWorks Navigator, one of the pathfinder partnerships for the scheme.
Manchester Metropolitan University’s Alison Slater and Kwong Lee, Director of Castlefield Gallery, spoke about their research into continuing professional development (CPD) for artists, ‘Researching the Impact of Artists’ CPD in Greater Manchester’. Currently unpublished, this highlights some gaps in current CPD offered and the need for development that can be measured in terms of long-term gain rather than visitor numbers or immediate impact. Addressing this provision for artists seems especially pertinent as their needs will undoubtedly change and become more personalised or complex as funding decreases in many areas.
The Creative Campus network is interested in receiving papers, case studies and related research.
For details of all the speakers/organisations that contributed to the seminar, visit www.creative-campus.org.uk/first-research-seminar.html
Artworks is a three-year Paul Hamlyn Foundation initiative to support the training and continuous professional development of artists working in participatory settings.