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Contextual Statement

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To me, collaboration is the art of joint working, of contributing to a central project, learning from each other in the process and using that new found experience to push my personal practice to the next level.

The creation, implementation and birth of nau arts has been a complex, multi faceted collaboration. At various stages throughout the process each aspect of collaboration has been tested, worked through and resolved.

This statement examines what I have learnt in the context of all this activity. The project process and all the visual communication work performed to support and publicise the creation of nau arts was documented contemporaneously using Instagram and can be viewed here. There is also a web site for nau arts.

 

The take away

The past four months have been intense and exciting. I have been able to revisit my back catalogue of technical skills (accounting, legal analysis, business management) and use them in a new context. I have developed and built on my artistic skills. I have pushed myself physically and mentally and found it invigorating and inspiring.

I would single out my key learnings to be around

  • how to use visuals in social media communication to target an identified audience;
  • how powerfully new perspectives from others provides a stimulus to my creativity;
  • the power of the personal network; and
  • the value of maintaining a balance between good delegation and control

Collaboration as catalyst

This project has reinforced my believe that collaboration is a highly effective catalyst for change, growth and development.

Collaboration between any group of individuals can be greatly enhanced by co-location. For artists, this can be on a permanent or temporary, project led, basis. The creation of a space to facilitate artistic collaboration, a long term ambition, thus became my own collaborative project. The idea was to make a space where emerging contemporary artists could be inspired, create and then share their work.

A space for artists, by artists.

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@nauarts – Instagram has been used as the main channel to contact the target audience – posted 2 May 2017

The audience

The target audience is threefold.

Studio artists

looking for affordable studio space, open to collaboration and shared responsibilities, producing contemporary art and focussed on developing their practice. Controversially I did not apply an age test to this market as I strongly believe that one can become an artists at any point in ones life and past experiences really do inform future creativity.

Member artists

locally based artists, typically working independently, with some studio space but limited contact with other artists. Established practitioners will normally have developed a personal network. This tranche of my target audience needs to do the same  to develop their profile. nau arts will provide a friendly constructive environment to do this.

Friends

Supporters of the arts are valuable. Art lovers with an interest in emerging contemporary art are the final audience. They are the market that nau’s artists are targeting so nau must target them too. Their desire to discover new and exciting art to engage with drives the gallery programme. They are also catered for by offering private views, open studio visits, artist talks and art based discussion groups.

Collaboration as enabler

Initially I used the concept of collaboration as a catalyst for my idea and to identify a suitable audience. Who would benefit from a collaborative environment and practice philosophy?

When implementing the idea however, my collaborations were increasingly identified and formed with the intention of enabling the project. Who could I join forces with to make this happen? What could I learn that would improve my contribution and my work in the future?

I had to create an initial collaborative working environment – agreeing with members of my network, professional and personal, whether they wanted to be involved and to what extent. Here again, understanding and leveraging past experience and capabilities proved to be very valuable. Within that repositioning different types of relationship began to emerge.

  • Mutually beneficial practice and practical joint working between me and the prospective studio artists – we have formed our own network;
  • Professional relationships with local industry bodies such as Art Shape, Cheltenham Open Studios and Cheltenham School of Fine Art – this is an ongoing process
  • Mentoring relationships that bring benefit to me, the studios and I hope the mentor. My advisory collaborations have allowed my mentors to pass on their experience and get involved in this new and exciting project.

Impact on practice and profession

Building nau arts has increased my local and, to a certain extent, national profile. A few of the opportunities that have come my way as a direct result of the collaboration in this project are

  • taking part in Cheltenham Open Studios 2017 (‘COS17’) and having my artwork on all the publicity and press packs as the main image of the festival this year;
  • being invited to show the artwork in The Wilson gallery as part of the COS17 taster exhibition;
  • donating gallery space to the University’s MA Fine Art final year students for their interim show
  • tendering for the chance to facilitate the University’s postgraduate project programme – this is ongoing but will present many development opportunities if we are successful.

Finally, I have taken my existing interest in archival data and its analysis and adapted it to produce new art work that takes my practice into a different space.

This is shown in an online portfolio here.

Conclusion

The success so far of the establishment of nau arts demonstrates how effective collaboration can be.

The main lesson I will take with me from this experience is that I can achieve seemingly impossible goals but if you collaborate with others to get to the prize, you get there faster and more efficiently and finally, more people benefit as a result. Collaboration is therefore a valuable technique for my artist’s toolbox and deserves pride of place in it.