Artists in Rural Contexts
Seminar at Coxwold Village Hall, Coxwold, North Yorkshire
Friday 2 October, 2015
Organised by Chrysalis Arts Development in partnership with YVAN, ‘Contemporary Artists in Rural Contexts’ was a day-long seminar in the village of Coxwold, in the Hambleton District of North Yorkshire. The day explored how contemporary artists are working in rural environments and with rural themes, are developing new platforms and ideas for creating and showcasing visual arts practice and new approaches to collaboration and audience engagement. The seminar showcased a range of innovative approaches from individual artists, curators and artist-led groups.
A major focus for the seminar was on demonstrating how artists can self-commission and initiate their own projects and activities, drawing upon the wealth of opportunities and potential partners available to them, rather than depending on external commissioners. The speakers were therefore chosen for their ability to be empowering and inspiring by sharing the work they have self-commissioned and developed to encourage other artists to think about new approaches to their practice.
55 artists and arts professionals attended the event and 11 artists received advice sessions
- Michelle Dickson, Arts Council England (ACE) Director for Touring & North, gave an overview on ACE’s perspective on rural cultural development.
- Jan Hogarth, artist and director of Wide Open gave a presentation on her individual projects, including her current project, ‘Quest’. She also gave insight to the Environmental Art Festival Scotland, its highlights and the struggles.
- Joanne Karr, artist, spoke of her ever-developing practice with a range of media. She explained about her individual efforts to get projects off the ground that have led onto exhibiting and working around the world.
- Simon Lee Dicker, artist, curator and founder of OSR Projects presented a variety of his projects including a successful partnership project called, ‘Weather Station’.
- Richard Povall, artist, educator and consultant with a host of experience of working in rural Devon, talked through projects that have worked with and alongside the rural community.
- Patrick Wildgust, curator of Shandy Hall in Coxwold gave an animated presentation of his work to curate a wide-ranging programme of contemporary exhibition, artist residencies and other creative activities at Shandy Hall.
- The project should start with the artist not the funder: All the presentations on the day were from self-motivated individuals who followed their ideas through. They self commissioned their work and their passion for what they were doing drove them forward, regardless of successful bids. Joanne Kaar: “The day I got the grant rejection letter was the day I started work.”
- There is a wide range of potential partners: Partners do not have to be other artists or creatives, you can work with all sorts of people from local to international. Keep an open mind about who might help support, develop and be involved in a project. Simon Lee Dicker spoke of the partnerships they created for the ‘Weather Station’ project and the partners that have continued to come on board throughout that project as it developed.
- A project can be a journey: A project doesn’t have to have a definitive end, it can be about the discovery. Jan Hogarth’s ‘Quest’ project is an example of this, it explores and celebrates local history, ritual and tradition while having conversations about the future of our environment and land use.
- An initial idea can develop into a much bigger project: Joanne Kaar noted that she doesn’t actually feel that any of her projects are finished she just may not be working on them at the moment. They all have the potential to keep developing, her grass weaving project developed to an international exhibition, something she would not have envisaged when she started out.
- Find your network: Each of the presenters had developed networks in their own way. Working rurally can also mean working in an isolated environment so it is important to have a good network. Some networks are completely virtual and can consist of people around the world, developing a similar practice to you, other networks are very local and are as simple as talking to someone in the queue at the supermarket, but it is all about making connections and pulling in support for your
Advice Sessions and Proposal Award Grants
Alongside the seminar, a series of advice sessions in developing proposals were run by Sara Trentham-Black. In addition, Chrysalis Arts offered three ‘proposal award grants’ of £300 to artists to develop proposals for projects relating to the theme of working in rural contexts.
These grants have been awarded to the following artists and include support from Chrysalis Arts to apply for funding as well as the £300.
- Sara Cooper – to develop a series of new artworks in response to the structural and spatial qualities of hedges, highlighting the skill and physical labour involved in the process of hedge-laying.
- Beth Savage – ‘Slickwater’ is a collaborative project of two artists looking at fracking in Yorkshire and its potential environmental and social impacts in the region.
- Christina France – ‘Ghostlines’ is a series of drawings and etchings developed from the artist’s father’s experience as a fighter pilot in WWII. The proposal is to develop the series into large format and site specific work in Yorkshire.