It has been liberating to meet so many artists, performers, poets and curators this past weekend. I am genuinely excited about what the future might bring and for me, this weekend feels like a turning point professionally. Since my creativity has slowed recently after completing a fellowship and residency back to back, I think this is just what I needed to jump start my practice. It has been fantastic to meet like-minded and supportive individuals, some of which I would love to collaborate with in the future. Whilst it hasn't been long since I graduated, talking to other creatives has also highlighted a level of isolation many feel after leaving university. This is an issue that I would like to tackle in my local area by starting a collective, so hopefully I can begin talks with the university and other organisations.
In a time of austerity where the arts sector continue to suffer financial cuts and arts-based subjects are omitted from state education, it is vital that organisations like UK Young Artists continue their efforts and share the importance of the creative sector with the public. This weekend has been fantastic, I am so glad that I was selected to be a part of it! If you wish to read more about the festival, please see below for my experience:
Day 1: Launch
When I arrived at the hotel, I had to quickly check the installation of my work at the university and Derby Museum. It wasn't long until I had to head to Riverlights for Julian Hanby (project manager) to kick off the evening with a fantastic talk. There was a great range of work at the Riverlights from The Boost Project that blew up depending on how many social media interactions it received created by Ant Hamlyn (link) to collage paintings exploring medium boundaries by Anna Garrett (link).
Afterwards, we moved onto the official launch held at the Silk Mill in Derby which stands on the site of the oldest factory in the world. The festival was officially launched by Derby's mayor, Linda Winter where free drinks and canapés were provided (great!). The launch finished off with a performance by Keto - What We Do in Derby Cathedral (link), which after a long day, it was nice to relax to some great music.
The Jury's Inn was spot on and with breakfast provided, it really started the day well. We had to sign up for workshops/talks/events with Laura Evans (marketing) in the morning. I signed up for Rosalind Davis' (link) talk on 'The A-Z of Surviving as an Artist' at Markeaton Street and was glad I did. She spoke about the importance of building relationships, networking, professional practice, maximising audiences and funding which is very useful.
I also attended an artist talk by Liz West (link), another UKYA ambassador. As a UKYA alumni, she has gained commissions with the Natural History Museum and the National Trust. Whilst it's great to hear about her successes, it was interesting to hear about her initial struggles as well. She spoke about everything from creative block and isolation to financial problems, particularly regarding her addiction in buying Spice Girls memorabilia (link) which she turned into an advantage by loaning to museums. I am sure I wasn't the only one, but it gave me a sense of hope that it is possible to survive as a practicing artist.
Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of Jamal Sterrett's (link) performance as it began in the centre of Derby and finished at Deda. Luckily, we had a sneak preview at the launch and I wasn't disappointed when I managed to see the last leg of his flex dance. The following performance was from ZukDance - A Live Concert Choreographed (link), a mixture of acrobatics, dance and music. Finally, I headed to the Derby Theatre Studio where I saw both spoken word and music artists in the evening.
Day 3: Stand by your work
All of the visual artists stood by their work so that they could speak to members of the public. As I had work spread across two venues it meant a fair bit of talking, particularly with my hanging installation at the Derby Museum. Having only exhibited in white cube spaces in the past, I found that my installation displayed in a Victorian stairwell really took on a new dimension. With the stained glass window back lighting the silk panels, they became iridescent at certain times of day and I was captivated by the contrasting qualities between the industrial and decorative. It's pretty amazing how spaces can really transform work.
That day, I also managed to pop into Derby Cathedral to see some stunning ceramic pieces by Sophie Southgate (link) with her vibrant colours and contrasting textures, as well as Pickford House to see Colette Griffin's video work (link) and Joss Williams object collection (link).
Last day. I headed to Deda to attend the talk Articulating Your Practice: The Art of Writing and Talking About Your Work by Rosalind Davis (link). Unfortunately, by this point I found out that I had laryngitis so speaking to one another when whittling down our practice to three key words proved difficult. Whilst I found this process simultaneously easy and difficult, I think my key words are purpose, longevity and materiality though this keeps changing even now! From a curators perspective, Rosalind discussed a range of topics from good practices when writing statements to common sense but often overlooked issues such as website structures, archiving portfolios and use of social media.
It wasn't long afterwards that we all gathered for a farewell talk in the Deda theatre. It was pretty sad and a bit surreal when we all parted ways. Eighty plus strangers brought together because of their passion for creativity is an odd thing but I will always be grateful for it. The only regrets from the festival I have is that I wish I had a decent camera with me and enough time to see everything!