Moving on, Staying on: a free networking event

On Tuesday October 21, the University of Worcester opened its doors to undergraduates, graduates and members of the public interested in pursuing a career within the arts.

Organised by Worcester Arts Partnership (WAP) and led by council Arts Officer Steve Wilson, ‘Moving on, staying on’ dished out useful advice to artist hopefuls and provided a great opportunity to network with industry top-dogs.

With talks from a range of visual and performance professionals, including Mac Birmingham’s Daniel Whitehouse, Wendy Law and Rachel Bradley of West Midlands arts initiative ‘Turning Point West Midlands’ and Pitt studios founder and director Nathanial Pitt, the free event provided invaluable advice specifically targeted towards recent graduates crossing the uncertain (and pretty rubbish) path between graduation and surviving a creative life.

Anyone seriously interested in forging a career within the creative industry ought to have jumped at the chance to attend the free event, and a disappointing number of current art students showed (perhaps as they are yet to learn the difficulties of negotiating the art world?). For all those who fell subject to ‘life getting in the way’ (as it often does) a round-up of the most useful advice follows:

Make time to play

A career in the arts is serious business, and perhaps ‘business’ is the key word, but it must not be forgotten that good work evolves through time spent playing. Away from the routine of a University course and purpose-built studios it can be difficult to remember this. A simple solution? Factor in time to play – there are worse things you could be doing after all.

Network – even if you’re not in the mood

Introducing yourself to a bunch of strangers who all seem to know each other and, what’s more, immediately understand the work their looking at, can be a chore, I’ll admit. However, showing your face and actively engaging in networking events, exhibition openings and art meetings is an integral part of any artist’s practice. It grounds you in the world in which you are making work and feeds your creativity, so, even on the days when ‘networking’ = HELL, force yourself to go – your career will thank you for it.

Immerse yourself in creativity

Following the above, in order to better your understanding of the art world it is vital that you explore what’s out there. If you hate something, great! Figure out why and apply it to your work. The more active you are in engaging with the art world the more you’ll get out of it.

Develop a thick skin

Fondly named ‘bounce-back-ability’, growing a thick skin is an important part of surviving a creative life. Some people might show negativity towards you and there will be days when you dislike every piece of work you have ever made – go with it. Bouncing back is the physical action of understanding that failure is part of success.

Don’t volunteer for nothing

Volunteering is a great way of gaining industry experience and showing future employers you are hard working and good at what you do, but be sure to make working for free work for you. Set out what you hope to gain from the beginning and know when you’re being taken for a ride.

Be grounded in the here and now without worrying about your future career

Having a long term goal is important, but it can easily hinder your creative practice if you focus on what you want to do for the rest of your life too much. That sentence alone gives me tingles. Instead, focus on what you want to achieve today and how you’re going to continue to get there tomorrow.

Serious about a career in the arts?

Artist and former New Art West Midlands winner Sarah Sehra also spoke at the event a long side Nathaniel Pitt, highlighting the need for affordable studio space in Worcester. Anyone interested in renting a studio among 10 – 15 others should contact Sarah for more information and to register their interest:

Be sure to bookmark and sign up to the newsletter for a bulletin of artist events and opportunities. The next free event, ‘Editioning Artworks’ will take place at Birmingham City University on November 26. Visit the site for more details.

Finally, for all those feeling isolated, undervalued or simply a little lost in what they’re doing, here is a quote worth remembering, brought to my attention in a presentation from Daniel Whitehouse:

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Originally published on Native Monster. 



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