Sunday, 29 November 2009

My MA project - blog number 1

On starting my MA in Arts Management my idea for a project was to get some sheds and use those as studios and also spaces to exhibit. I started to think about the context in which a studio or gallery is placed and whether that context influences the work - site specific work. On thinking about this I became sure that I didn't want to invite artists to be based in rural settings to make work in response to the setting itself. Rather I want to provide space where there is a lack of it.

Having read the Arts Council England's publication on Rural Arts, published in 2005, I started to wonder why rural arts seem to have participation embedded in them more than urban arts. Is there a bigger need in rural spaces for the communities to participate in the creation of the work rather than just viewing it and engaging through perception? Is this a clear difference and if so why? Are rural arts more advanced in breaking down access barriers and providing social need for all communities? On wondering these questions I started to relate them to my project and asked whether there is a difference in the engagement to the art if the art is made in a rural context to when national touring shows are brought to a rural space?

The idea for my project progressed in looking at how these questions could be facilitated in my study. My project was developed into a set of studios where artists could create work and an exhibition of curated work. These would act as experiments to evaluate how the audience reacts to the work and whether engagement and overall opinion is greater to one than the other. This conclusion would then be celebrated in a symposium of rural arts.

How will I invite and choose the artists to work on my project? How will it differ if I use artists from outside a rural context? In selection of the artists and their work I aim on targeting the overall perception of rural arts and raise the bar for high quality contemporary art in rural spaces. Therefore the geography of where the artists live will not determine the fate of the exhibition element of the project. As for the studios, the aim is to provide space for artists, emerging and established, in rural areas where there are no studios. For this project they will be open to artists living and working in Somerset, but the future of the spaces will be used to provide national and international artists residencies in Somerset. The fact that the spaces are rural will not determine the calibre of artist nor the medium in which they work. I'm keen to develop spaces that happen to be in rural locations but have the respect and acknowledgment of cultural spaces in urban environments.

The isolation of working in a rural environment creates issues for artists including opportunities to network, generating ideas in collaboration and support from those local arts organisations that already exist. Could my project include not only space for artists to make and exhibit work but an opportunity to engage on a wider scale with more rurally based artists to provide channels of communication and networking opportunities?

As for sheds, are they the most appropriate space to use? Do they provide an even bigger context to the work that would then distract from the work itself? Is a village hall more appropriate or does that also bring a common perception to what the quality of work will be? I plan on looking into semi-permanent spaces that can be moved and placed easily whilst being conscious not to alienate audiences that already face access barriers.

I am worried that I'm being very ambitious with my project however I feel that it must incorporate a networking event (how many and where is yet to be tackled) for artists working in rural isolation to come together with representatives from arts organisations, a space for studios in an area of rural environment where there are no studios but a need, an exhibition of work touring rural spaces and a symposium of thoughts and findings on rural arts. This is where my project stands to this date and I will be researching the need for all of the elements and strategically putting them together to form a cohesive suggestion for ways forward in the provision of arts spaces and activity in Somerset.

As for my dissertation I plan on looking into this idea of context dependable work and whether the context in which the art is made and shown changes to concept of the work and the way it is perceived by the audience that engages with it.

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