A: First and foremost I am an artist; my leadership development is framed by artist as leader, artist in governance, Artist Placement Group, autonomy for artists and audiences, and how and when to take action.

B: One baseline element of effective leadership is belief. What do you need to do, think or feel in order to believe in yourself? What characteristics and behaviours do you need to promote and action so others believe in you also?

C: My Clore time has refocused my commitment to working with ‘context is half the work’ and the ideas of the Artist Placement Group, and how identifying and communicating common ground from cross-discipline collaboration feeds my practice exponentially.

D: My Clore secondment explored dance at Dance East and learning through doing, including a great ballet class. Doing is great for dyslexic brains which are wired to think differently. Thinking differently = leadership innovation.

E: The Fellowship has expanded horizons from individual practice towards what’s beneficial for the arts sector and practitioners specifically. It’s important to explore equality and question who gets to be an artist. As Rhiannon White writes: ‘Who gets ‘developed’? The diversity question: who is and isn’t able to become a professional artist, and how can we change that?’

F: The Clarion movement said ‘fellowship is life’ and Clore is an exemplar of this. I feel fortunate to know that my fellows have my back, as floundering and failure couple with experimentation and the testing of new learning.

G: Feeling green (as in untried, unsophisticated, inexpert) in the face of new ideas and working practices can feel bruising, but cultivating a feeling of generosity to self and others facing the same can be a gracious act.

H: ‘Horizon scanning’: identifying opportunities, emerging issues, potential risks for holistic future planning. Opportunity: growth in arts for good health/wellbeing. Risk: who looks after the health of delivering practitioners?

I: As imagined leadership futures are formed into plans and actions, it may be that impostor syndrome appears alongside trying to remind us we don’t belong. Be insistent and keep going in your direction of travel.

J: Is artist as leader a juxtaposition? Art practice and leadership practice may feel contrasting but at the converging junctions the possibilities of reach, influence and impact result in a strengthening of the arts sector.

K: Locating our own salient point is to find our keynote which comes from exploring, learning and interrogating through conversation, experience and input. After reflection new knowledge emerges to inform practice going forward.

L: My late father was an avid golfer and would watch the big players on TV at any opportunity. I’ve always remembered Nick Faldo saying on winning a major golf tournament: “It’s luck – the more I practice the luckier I get.”

M: Metaphor helps with understanding complexity. A conversation at the first Clore residential with RBG Kew’s Ed Ikin about a single stem or multi-stem silver birch, regularly informs my thinking on existing practice and new directions.

N: Now is the best time – waiting for circumstances to be ‘right’ and everything to ‘be in place’ before starting is a fallacy. If it feels important, if it demands your attention, then begin it now – take the first step.

O: The Fellowship led to an overhaul of beliefs, values, activities, approaches to practice, modes of communication. This modernising is still oscillating, so there is an opportunity for real change, development and expansion.

P: Many practitioners belong to the precariat, a new class of worker who lives with instability and uncertainty as an almost constant state. Could Universal Basic Income help?

Q: The open questions used in coaching are amongst the most powerful mechanisms for reflective practice. Direct but not directive in their intention, they facilitate a much-needed space for thought and speaking out loud.

R: Clore is an intense development programme with learning curves coming fast and steep at times, so a period of rest and recuperation in whatever form that takes post-Fellowship will effectively help to cement learning.

S: ‘The Clore Stretch’: an invitation issued by our great facilitators Fearghus Ó Conchúir and Isabel Mortimer at the Fellowship residentials – to draw out, expand and extend our thinking into new ideas, reflections and connections.

T: My Fellowship involved a lot of travel; physically on trains and metaphorically in thinking and thought processes. Travel offers new experiences, input, people and places, all informing what action to take when the time comes.

U: There is some immediate understanding of Fellowship activities and experiences but really it’s the longer-term opening up and unpacking that will lead to further insights: tomorrow, next month, next year, next decade.

V: The completion of Clore may bring to the fore a fertile void. Trusting the process and staying with the void of not knowing will result in something new emerging, as the only constant in life is change.

W: There was a time when the Fellowship was very busy and I took a WhatsApp holiday. It proved just the ticket. In times of complexity it can be productive to reduce input and stimulus to a minimum.

X: Identifying what your x-factor is can be a really useful process: what is it in your approach, method, belief or strategy that could have the most significant impact on a process or outcome?

Y: Yes to ideas, collaboration and slow. Yes to research, conversations and exchange. Yes to new horizons, new projects taking off and exciting times. And yes to remembering it doesn’t all have to be done immediately.

Z: There has been lots of zooming in and zooming back out again over the Fellowship, getting the balance of big picture and fine details. The Clore Fellowship itself may be officially over but it continues also…

Nicola Naismith was selected as the Clore Visual Artist Fellow in June 2017, one of 25 Clore Fellowships for 2017/18 with recipients from across the visual and performing arts, heritage, museums, literature, cultural policy, film and broadcasting.

This is an edited version of a post on Nicola Naismith’s a-n blog The Autonomous Artist

Courtesy of Nicola Naismith. All the images for the alphabet can be seen on @nicolanaismith1 where the A-Z was first published a day at a time over the last 26 days of the fellowship

More on a-n.co.uk:

Nicola Naismith. Photo: Cath Cartman; Courtesy: the artist

A Q&A with… Nicola Naismith, 2017-18 Clore Visual Artist Fellow


Nicola Naismith, The Autonomous Artist

The Autonomous Artist: Nicola Naismith’s Clore Fellowship blog


Rosalie Schweiker, Sausage vs Mince artist, 2018

More mince, less sausage: making art that doesn’t look like art