As a practicing artist and HE art educator I know only too well how challenging it can be for graduates emerging from art school, or others who opt for a career as an artist later in life to establish themselves and find an audience for their work. When I graduated back in the early seventies the situation was not much easier, but the challenges were completely different. In those days there were many fewer artists, and certainly less galleries or other platforms for contemporary art. In addition there was much smaller group of influencers or ‘gatekeepers’ (mostly male) who would effectively determine arts council purchases, grants and shows in public galleries etc.
The situation now is much more open and complex, with many more Art Worlds to participate in, and many more cultural producers who have the necessary skills to create new contexts and ways to experience contemporary art that can combine different disciplines and agendas. All the more reason then for artists to understand the different ecologies of these art worlds and how to position yourself in relation to a particular arena without disqualifying yourself from another.
I have been involved with new platform for several years now. I felt that an important aspect of the organisations original aim, to place contemporary in office spaces, was the potential to introduce corporate audiences that may be unfamiliar or even disinterested in contemporary art. Through experiencing looking at works on a daily basis there is the possibility of creating a relationship over time – almost unconsciously to a point where it leaves an emotional or aesthetic gap when it is no longer there. This soft form of advocacy has the potential to change attitudes and possibly create new collectors?
The initiative to sign up the artists who have exhibited their work to a professional development programme of talks and workshops is excellent. Arts Schools commonly offer or require students to attend professional practice lectures to support life after art school. However, for many students the more immediate demands of making work and completing written assignments and all the other important social things to be explored frequently occupies all the space and time available, and the imperative to plan for the future can often fall off the priority list.