I first met Dhikshana Turakhia Pering when she joined my team as Head of Engagement and Skills at Somerset House, London, in January 2020, just as a pandemic engulfed the world.

We sadly only worked together for three months, but in that time we established a brilliant, supportive working relationship and I remain a fervent champion of Dhikshana.

I love her dynamic creative leadership, cheeky sense of humour, optimism, enthusiasm, and dogged determination to instigate change for the greater good.

She is down to earth, playful, brave, refreshingly honest and takes risks to clear the way for others to thrive and demonstrate excellence.

Dhikshana has recently been appointed as the first Director of Programmes for the National Saturday Club, leading the creative direction of their education programme of national events.

The National Saturday Club enables 13–16-year-olds across the UK with opportunities to develop valuable creative and practical skills, increase their confidence, and introduce them to pathways to further and higher education and rewarding careers.

Dhikshana Turakhia Pering, Photo Courtney Hugh Campbell

At Somerset House Dhikshana focused on a new strategy for the team, with a focus on young people’s engagement and skills development, coproduction of new work with their onsite creative community and content development around the cultural programme. During 2020 she led on what a post Covid-19 engagement programme would look like and the organisation’s Anti-Racism Pledge.

Dhikshana’s career has been built in London over 16 years, working in learning and engagement across the Science Museum, London Transport Museum, and Brent 2020 – London Borough of Culture. She has led teams and collaborated with different audiences, but has found her interest lies with young adults, skills development, and coproduction, and exploring the use of digital mediums and public space in a cultural context.

Dhikshana holds two master’s degrees in History and Art History from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and in Museum and Gallery Education from UCL Institute of Education, London.

She has lectured widely and given talks on master’s courses including at UCL Institute of Education, London, and at national and international conferences, seeking to share and learn from best practice, and actively be part of the change she desires to see.

Dhikshana is an active member and finds great solidarity, solace, and support in the Museum Detox network. Dhikshana was an elected Trustee of the Museums Association since 2016, actively working on sector-wide workforce developments and co-led and launched their Learning & Engagement Manifesto. In 2022 Dhikshana was appointed to the board of Clore Leadership.

Film still from the Future Producers’ Rising: A Manifesto, 2021, Courtesy of Edwin Mingard and Somerset House Trust

What’s currently inspiring you?

So many ways to explore this question but I’m going to start with joy. If I feel joy personally then all else follows well. It starts with schmaltz, from the rom coms, coming of age themes, the montage style flash forwards, the dazzling poppy bright colours, the list could go on. From an early age I was drawn to stories, music, television, and films that fit this bill, maybe it was to escape but it also inspired me and fed into my education and career. As I grew older, I was still drawn to this genre, but it became apparent that it was not representing me or my life and that is the shift I have seen in the last few years. So right now, I have just watched season 3 of Never Have I Ever, listened to lots of music produced by Jack Antonoff and reading Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades. If I could choose somebody to write and direct a rom com of my life it would be directed by Mindy Kaling and Parminder Nagra would play me!

What are you working on?

A moment of change that is about to bring the calm I am looking for, according to my recent Tarot Card reading. I have just finished nearly 3 years of being the Head of Engagement & Skills at Somerset House. My time at Somerset House has been wild and joyful (sometimes) all in one, and I am proud of what we have achieved in the Engagement & Skills team and wider across Somerset House Trust responding to society and what is happening right now on the ground.

I am super excited to be joining National Saturday Club as their values and practice align to what I deeply believe in, which is that access to the cultural and creative sector for enjoyment and employment should not be directed by who you know or where you grew up. To be able to align my passion and experience, while I learn and grow with the participants, tutors and partners and shape the future of the National Saturday Club programme with the wider team is an amazing opportunity. Also, can I say “Mama, I have made it” a quote from a brilliant young woman I knew called Khadija Saye, who sadly passed in the Grenfell fire with her Mama, but when I got the job, I thought of her and that quote.

What are your core values and drivers that you bring to your work? What do you care about?

In 2017 I had the pleasure to take part in the Clore Leadership Short course. It was a life changing moment in my life, I was sitting on my first board, looking at what my next step may be career wise, and about to have a baby. As part of the course, we had a coaching session and my coach and I decided to write a mission statement to help me focus and navigate a lot of change.

Since then, I have manifested this mission statement several times over. I have updated the language slightly, but overall, it has stayed the same. It guides me day to day even when I don’t realise it and incorporates:

  • Life balance
  • Being my true self
  • Working in and with a team
  • Having fun in a team and organisation
  • Giving young people a voice
  • Collaboration on a vision
  • A brilliant programme – well run, effective and has impact
  • Constantly refining a programme
  • Links to popular culture and issues of our time
  • Strategy and vision
  • Representation

Can you provide an example of how you have commissioned artists recently?

In my time at Somerset House, I have worked with artists in a coproduction model in several ways, a flag and film commission linked to our No Comply exhibition with Rose Nordin for OOMK and artist Seth Pimlott. Both worked with our first cohort of Future Producers to explore the themes and create the design of the flag and the storyboard and content of the final film.

While at Brent 2020 as the Young People’s Producer the young people I worked with led a public space design and policy project called Seen and Heard. The aim of the project was to design the space for use and develop a charter and policy guidelines to advise local authorities across the country on how young people should be consulted on development in their area and be part of the solutions to social issues such a knife crime. Collaborating with partners such as LSE Cities, design collective OOMK and developer Quintain, the young people gained skills, learnt about different sectors, made a physical impact on their community and a policy impact on how young people should be seen all in a creative way.

Future Producers’ workshop for Rising: A Manifesto, 2021, Photo courtesy of Somerset House Trust

How did you select them and what were the stages in the commissioning process?

I have been commissioning artists for coproduction with young people since 2015, this has ranged from exhibitions, digital content, and events. On reflection I can see whether my role was as the producer leading the planning and delivery, or the Head of Department guiding a team to commission artists, my focus is to create the right environment to enable three clear elements come together. The three elements are artist, young people, and institution together, creating exciting content that has representation and social justice at its core. I think of it like a fire tringle you need the oxygen, heat, and fuel, the content is the fire and the team that make it happen the scientists.

I set clear vision and guiding principles, so everyone is on the same page, as well as make sure as team we have collaboratively decided the vibe that we are going for across our programme to make sure there is consistency and clarity for our audiences to know what to expect. But none of this hinders the commissioning process as the content created is free to go on the unexpected journey of the coproduction, but the structures I mentioned give bumpers to slide everyone back on to track for what we are trying to achieve.

Once we have an idea about what the shell of the commission would look like we think about our networks, and wider, and then approach a few different artists to discuss the opportunity with and see if it fits for them. Things can chop and change at this point. After that we decide on who we are going with, get the boring paperwork out the way and work on session plans and timelines collaboratively and then get to the best bit making stuff happen!

Seen and Heard workshop, Courtesy of Brent 2020, London Borough of Culture

What advice do you have for artists who want to work with arts institutions and museums?

I would say reach out, say what idea you have, and what connections you may be able to make with the programme you have seen come out of the institution. Don’t spend ages on a big fancy document or brief, just share some very topline thoughts and then if it connects you may get a follow up meeting. If it doesn’t, don’t take it badly, it may just not work right now but you’re on their radar for sure!

A lot of institutions programme ahead of time (like 20 years!) so they may not be able to ever think how they can work with you there and then but learning and engagement teams have more flex. So maybe consider looking at ways you can connect with a team dreaming up and delivering exciting content for audiences visiting and to bring in new audiences.

Institutions can hold the process and practicalities for you (that boring paperwork) so the creative vison and engagement needed with the young people or community you’re engaging with can be focused on. Utilise the producer or manager you are working with to support in holding and advising on what their role can be so you can focus on the longer-term creative journey.

If entering a commission process that is a coproduction be ready to not have the final say or even know the outcome the ‘fire triangle’ model allows a collaboration that is uncharted, and the journey is as important as the final piece of work.

What risks have you taken in the past that did not go well but you learnt the most from?

A few – I started small and they have got bigger! I say to anyone I work with take a risk, make a mistake as that’s the only way we and things change and move.

In one job I thought I could change a database setting myself and ended up inviting a years’ worth of schools to sessions when we already were fully booked. I owned up with lots of apologies, and then my boss concluded that we did need to change the database, so I led on it!

Launching a brand-new programme in the middle of a pandemic (I thought we were coming out the other side, optimism on my part was high!) meant we could not set the programme up as we wanted. This resulted in a lot of online fatigue, things being paused which led to difficult conversations on all sides. After some evaluation and mediation, a clear way to move forward was presented and whilst still not perfect, there are some exciting next steps for this programme strand, and we would not have got there if we had not risked launching it in the first place.

The biggest risk recently well in the last few years that’s standing up for myself and making my voice heard. Not really a risk, right? We should just be doing that. Well one time I did it ahead of starting at Somerset House and it backfired. It led to me being ignored and belittled in front of peers and partners. It hurt a lot. I knew I could leave, which I did, but what I learnt from it was that while it was hard, and it didn’t change anything in the bigger picture, it did for me personally.

It showed me my voice should matter, but it should mater to me that I am speaking my truth and putting it out there. Since then, I have done it again and this time it was heard and changed has happened.

What would you like to change in the arts?

The duplication of programmes that are all trying to do the same thing. Some of that is down to lack of strategy in local authorities about what is being delivered in an area, some of that is down to arm’s length bodies asking for more programmes rather than joining up existing ones to have a strategic impact and finally it is funders that want new and improved programmes to secure more funding rather than seeing success and allowing funding to grow and create a strategic impact of existing programmes.

So, what would I like to see change is how we bring this all together, map it out and create a bedrock of sharing and signposting to great programmes and resources around the work of learning and engagement.

Can you tell I am dyslexic and like process and clarity? I also just like making sure no one must start from scratch!

What helpful resources would you recommend to artists?

Below is a list of organisations that will hopefuly help artists investigate organisations and bodies that are key to the work of the sector.

Resources to help navigate and deliver:

Museums Association is a membership organisation that campaigns for socially engaged museums and a representative workforce

OF/BY/FOR ALL provides tools, community, accountability, and coaching on radical inclusion

Creative People Places is a funding programme which focuses on parts of the country where involvement in creativity and culture is significantly below the national average

Paul Hamlyn Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK, supporting social change

Durham University; Creativity Commission Report and Recommendations is a joint research collaboration between Durham University and Arts Council England, set up to look at the role creativity and creative thinking should play in the education of young people

Gem enables learning across museum, heritage, and cultural settings

Engage are the leading charity for promoting engagement and participation in the visual arts

Examples of organisations doing the work:

Arts Emergency mentoring charity and support network for young people to enable them to flourish in higher education and the cultural industries.

Take Apart make great art with communities

Somerset House is home to the UK’s largest creative community working across art, technology, business, and social enterprise

National Museum Wales is charity comprising of seven national museums and one collections centre

Horniman Museum brings together art, nature, and its myriad collections

Glasgow Womens Library is dedicated to women’s lives, histories, and achievements

Museum of Homelessness exhibitions, events and research tackling homelessness and inequality run by people with experience of homelessness

Pitt Rivers Museum houses more than 500,000 objects, photographs, and manuscripts from all over the world

Company Three is a theatre company led by the ideas of their seventy-five members aged 11-19

Resolve Collective is design collective combining architecture, engineering, technology, and art to address social challenges

Ferarts is an artist-led collective platforming emerging socially – engaged creatives from diverse communities

Mindspray unites creative leaders to establish sustainable links between community, careers, and wellbeing

Culture& opens up the arts and heritage sectors through workforce initiatives and public programmes

Roundhouse provides thousands of 11–25-year-olds the chance to develop their skills and confidence through creativity in music, media, or the performing arts

Blaze Arts is a youth led, arts charity born in Lancashire

What advice do you have for people who want a career in the arts?

Don’t decide what your full career plan is. The arts, like the rest of the world are changing fast and the job you may do one day doesn’t even exist yet. The last three jobs I had were not a thing when I started my career in 2006.

Money is important. Work out what it is you need to live your life well and see negotiation of a fee or salary as a place to explore not just more money, but flexibility in how your work, where you work, annual leave and support in the form of mentoring or coaching for example. These things have value too and may enable you to live and work in a happier and more successful way.

My checklist of unlocking your power is…

  • Be your brilliant self… and own it
  • Be clear in your own guiding principles for life and work
  • Check the organisations you’re approaching to work with and for – do they fit with your guiding principles?
  • Connect with networks…most importantly the people in them
  • Listen to your gut…it speaks the truth (and tells you when your hungry)
  • Learn the groundwork, understand it from processes to how and why things are done as they are done – you can’t change the model if you don’t know how it works
  • Quiet leadership is a thing, and you can do it even before you have the ‘title’
  • It’s ok to walk away…that is power
  • Share the power…when you have it

Follow Dhikshana on Instagram @d.t.pering and visit Saturday Club


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Gallerist & Curator: LOUISE CHIGNAC


The artist Cecilia Sjoholm first introduced me to Louise Chignac, the Founder and Director of Canopy Collections.

Louise and I share a passion for helping artists get their work into the world in new ways, and both started new online initiatives in 2020, in the heart of the pandemic. It’s been wonderful to see Canopy Collections go from strength to strength and artists making a living through their endeavours.

I’m a huge believer in expanding opportunities for artists, and Canopy Collections is a great example of how careful curation combined with commitment to the experience for both artist and audience can create lifelong relationships and champions.

Read on to hear what drives Louise and what kind of support she offers artists…

Louise Chignac, Founder and Director of Canopy Collections © Ollie Hammick / Canopy Collections

Louise Chignac, Founder and Director of Canopy Collections © Ollie Hammick / Canopy Collections 

Louise Chignac (b. 1990, Paris) has a ten-year experience as a contemporary art curator, critic and consultant.

She started her career in 2010 as curatorial assistant to Guillaume Désanges (now President of the Palais the Tokyo, Paris). After studying art history at La Sorbonne University in Paris, she moved to London to complete her MA in Curating at Goldsmiths College.

From 2014 to 2018, she managed Cranford Collection, one of the most significant private collections of contemporary art in Europe. She has also collaborated with international galleries, including MOT International, London and Brussels, The Gallery of Everything, London, and Ordovas, London and New York.

In 2015, she contributed to the inaugural edition of the Art Night festival in London and co-edited its first publication, Expanding the City’s Boundaries.In 2016, she collaborated with Christie’s London on a major private collection sale entitled Absobloodylutely! and its original catalogue.

As an independent curator, Louise has exhibited the work of Francis Alÿs, Susan Hiller, Pierre Huygue, Derek Jarman, Laure Prouvost, Dan Rees and Ulay.

Chromoscape by David Batchelor available via Canopy Collections @ Ollie Hammick / Canopy Collections

What’s currently inspiring you?

People, and their home! Since launching Canopy Collections in September 2020, I’ve become fascinated by what people choose to display in their interiors, be they sentimental objects, postcards and pictures, an original artwork or statement design piece. Most of our relationships with clients start with discussions around living with art, rather than in a white gallery space, which feels more intimate.

What are you working on?

We just closed an exhibition curated in collaboration with Bowman Sculpture in the heart of St James’s, London, in which we presented eleven artists ranging from the 19th century to the present day, including Auguste Rodin, Barbara Hepworth, Emily Young, Richard J. Butler and William Cobbing. This project was born out of an invitation from Robert and Mica Bowman and it’s been a great pleasure to work with their team on creating such an original display that combined historical pieces along with new paintings and sculptures by emerging artists.

I’m now working on new collaborations, including on a bespoke programme of art events with BARNES International at their South Kensington showroom. Our first exhibition with them presents a new selection of paintings by German artist Jost Münster, which is open to the public until September.

We’ve also just announced an exclusive online collaboration with British artist David Batchelor, which is a great honour! The launch of ten lithograph prints on Canopy Collections coincides with his first museum retrospective at Compton Verney, to open at the end of the month — check it out online!

Installation view, Canopy Collections x Modernity Stockholm, an exhibition in London, 2022 © Ollie Hammick / Canopy Collections

Installation view, Canopy Collections x Modernity Stockholm, an exhibition in London, 2022 © Ollie Hammick / Canopy Collections

What are your core values and drivers that you bring to your work? What do you care about?

At the centre of everything I do is the human relationship, whether it is with artists, with clients or with our professional partners. The art world can be a rather difficult environment to navigate, whether you’re new to it or part of it. That’s one of the reasons why we created Canopy Collections, to provide a curated platform where everyone is welcome, to browse, to learn, to look for advice and to buy art, without the unnecessary faff.

Who are your mentors?

I’ve had the privilege to work with incredibly strong and intelligent women over the past ten years, especially with collector Muriel Salem and curator Anne Pontégnie. We worked together for five years at Cranford Collection in London and I still have a very close relationship with both of them. I learnt a lot from Muriel’s sharp eye, and from Anne’s attitude towards artists, her knowledge of the market and the world of institutions.

A very different experience — I will always remember working with Susan Hiller on curating her solo exhibition at MOT International in Brussels when I was 25. Without her knowing it, she taught me a lot. Her determination and precision were very inspiring.

A painting by Salomé Wu in a collector's home, London, 2022 © Sidika Owen
A painting by Salomé Wu in a collector’s home, London, 2022 © Sidika Owen

How do you discover artists and what makes you decide you want to work with an artist?

By coming across their work, always, whether it is online or in a physical exhibition, or an artist getting in touch with me! Then I look at their work very closely, their CV, and if I’m intrigued, I ask to meet them. I only choose artists who have a solid dedication to their practice, and whose work has a strong identity, recognisable amongst many. The selection process never happens overnight, it takes time to fully understand the development of an artist and to nurture a long-term relationship. It is also a responsibility and a commitment, as I want to present our clients with artists who have a great potential and whose work really is special.

Installation view of Words Don't Come Easy, Canopy Collections’ first exhibition in Paris, 2021 © Ollie Hammick Canopy Collections
Installation view of Words Don’t Come Easy, Canopy Collections’ first exhibition in Paris, 2021 © Ollie Hammick Canopy Collections

What kind of support or expertise do you offer or provide artists?

Artists need different things, depending on the nature of their work and where they’re at in their career. I’m currently working with over twenty-five artists, mostly based in the UK and all over Europe. They often come to me when they have new work they want to talk about or need advice on a new project, whether it’s a museum exhibition, a public commission, or a new book they’re working on. As much as possible, I do regular studio visits with them, and of course I curate exhibitions to introduce their work to a wider audience. Most of my job consists in keeping up to date with their artistic production, and then share it with other actors within the art world and beyond — collectors, advisors, curators… I believe there are plenty of ways to promote an artist’s work that haven’t been fully explored yet, and that go beyond the traditional white gallery space and market. I’m lucky to work with artists who share this vision and trust me.

Louise Chignac and artist Ellie MacGarry at her London studio, 2021 © Ollie Hammick / Canopy Collections

Louise Chignac and artist Ellie MacGarry at her London studio, 2021 © Ollie Hammick / Canopy Collections

How do you go about building a market for an artist?

There was a time when this was the main responsibility of the gallery, but over the past few years it has also become the artist’s duty: to have the right connections, to grow a substantial number of followers on social media and to be ‘successful’ (i.e., represented by a gallery or exhibited in a public museum) by the age of 30. I have a lot of respect for artists who excel at promoting themselves, but I also think it’s not for everyone. Building a market for an artist most often takes time, to me it’s all about commitment — for the artist to be committed to their practice, for their patrons or clients to be committed in their support and for anyone around to be committed to the conversation. There are many artists out there who haven’t had the recognition they deserve yet, but if their work is good, I do believe that commitment often pays off.

Since Canopy Collections doesn’t have a permanent space, a lot of our work when it comes to promoting artists is done through collaborations: Bowman Sculpture, the Van Gogh House, Modernity Stockholm, The Invisible Collection, Turnbull & Asser…we’ve had the privilege to collaborate with outstanding galleries and brands over the past two years, which contribute to raising our artists’ profile and reputation.

What risks have you taken in the past that did not go well but you learnt the most from?

Working with people I knew I wouldn’t get on with. It never works out in the long term, especially when it comes down to values. I feel so lucky I can choose who I work with now, and to have the best business partner in the world: Cécile Ganansia.

Cécile Ganansia and Louise Chignac, Directors of Canopy Collections in their London office @ Ollie Hammick / Canopy Collections

Cécile Ganansia and Louise Chignac, Directors of Canopy Collections in their London office @ Ollie Hammick / Canopy Collections

What are your highlights since starting Canopy Collections two years ago?

The launch of our very first online collection of course, and the moment we realised that it nearly sold out. Exhibiting our artists at the historic Van Gogh House in London. Our website being awarded by Site Inspire for its sharp and user-friendly design. Receiving a phone call, out of the blue, from a very established collector (who I can’t name here), to tell me our selection of artists was outstanding and that they hadn’t come across a better online gallery yet. And the fact that the Covid years have finally come to an end (I hope!).

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I’m a big fan of Eve Ackroyd’s paintings that conjure the everyday magical and mysterious inner worlds of women. Her paintings are simultaneously witty and haunting; Ackroyd’s women appear dreamy, defiant, aloof, brooding and beguiling. Long and languid women meld their exaggerated limbs with the domestic contexts they appear in. They wait, patiently wondering in the half-light, seeming to exist in between, they neither need nor depend upon us. Her moody mix of ice-cream and midnight colour palette summons evocative atmospheres, glowering exchanges and furtive glances, captured with a delicate lick of the brush.

Read on to discover what she’s grappling with in the studio and what fuels her engine…


Artist Eve Ackroyd, Photo by Rod Stanley

Eve Ackroyd (born 1984, UK) studied painting at Chelsea College of Art & Weissensee School of Art in Berlin. Recent shows include Fifth Floor Apartment, Turn Gallery, New York; La Banda, TV Projects, New York; Within Without, Project Art Space, New York; Interior Landscapes, Assembly Room, New York; Living and Real, Kapp Kapp, Philadelphia; Sweet Cheeks, Big Pictures, LA and Subject III, Cob Gallery, London. Her work has been written about for FT, Times, Brooklyn Rail, I-D, AnOther, Dazed & Confused, Artsy and Hyperallergic.

Little-song-(large)-copyLittle song, 2020, Oil on linen, 36 x 42 inches/ 91.4 x 106.6 cm

My mother and her sisters appear in my paintings, specifically my memory of them when I was a child. I saw my mother transform in their presence, to someone separate from me. In bedrooms clothes were exchanged and in kitchens the day-to-day of the domestic world were shared with an ease which made our home seem lighter and unburdened. Their chat sometimes turned to laughing whispers, a language that I couldn’t decode. Their bodies intrigued me, they were as familiar as my mothers, but when together an intimacy weaved between their bodies which intimidated me in its voluptuousness and confidence. I now understand the beauty and pleasure I felt was in witnessing them together in this way, separate from any male presence. My childhood memories of womanhood are contrasted with my now adult self, and this continues to interest and drive all my work. Much of my personal iconography is formed from these memories, 80s hairstyles, costume jewellery, triangular bushes, and painted fingernails.

In literature and film, I seek stories of female friendships – which I find the most compelling and complex of all relationships. I observe women in film, such as Vera Chytilov’s boldly coloured, visually distorted anarchic tales and Chantal Akerman’s real-time observations of women’s inner lives. I have also taken idealised forms from a 1970s Allen Jones calendar that hung in my home as a child, which both disturbed and fascinated me. I draw upon these worlds to create expansive imaginary places, contrasting potent images of my childhood imagination against my adult self, with its conflicting notions of femininity, motherhood and sexual expression. My women are flawed and bright, full of dissatisfactions, depressed but funny, sensual, and single minded. I always want them to be precise, funny and candid.

window-figureWindow figure, 2021, Oil on linen, 11.8 x 13.8 inches/ 30 x 35cm

What are you currently grappling with in the studio? 

Planning work – I’m impatient and when I get an idea I want to get going straight away, though I should plan more beforehand. I have quite a high ‘scrap’ rate and I think I could reduce this with a little more strategic thinking. It makes me a little sad to see a once beautifully primed canvas be unstretched and restretched. Having said that, I am getting better at accepting that the weeks of frustration in the studio often lead to magical, effortless periods of painting. I’m trying to reframe how I’ve previously felt about failure (for my sanity). Also not overworking things – leaving space in a painting and a balance, which I usually know straight away if it is there or not. Leaving the studio and readjusting to the rest of the day – not brooding on successes or lack of them that day. Going to bed and knowing that tomorrow is a new day in the studio.

What rituals do you have in the studio?

I get in around mid-morning after dropping my kids at school and walking my dog. I’m often greeted by a mess having left in a rush the day before, so I’ll clean my brushes, clear some space on my desk, make a coffee and often eat all my packed lunch by 11am.

I faff around a bit more, email, look through some images, make some quick sketches and when I can’t procrastinate any more, I get changed into old clothes and start painting. From then on, I’m engrossed in only that, I don’t stop to take phone calls. School pick-up time comes around fast, and I normally leave in a massive rush, but I always wipe the paint off my brushes and pour a little oil on the tips – I’ve ruined so many in the past and I really try to look after them now. I used to take a quick photo of whatever I’d made that day, and if I thought it was good, I would keep looking at it on my phone when I got home, but often I’d find I’d left the studio feeling happy but would then agonise over the images of the paintings- picking apart all the things that were wrong with it. It would often drive me to get in my car at about 10pm and go back to the studio to continue painting late into the night. Then I’d be too wired to sleep and looking back over the photos on my phone the morning after, I’d normally wish I’d just left the painting be, which would make me feel bad for days! So, I try not to photograph work in progress now, I shut the door and leave the work be, until I’m next in – hopefully in the cold light of day.

still-eveningStill evening, 2022, Oil on board, 8 x 10 inches/ 20.3 x 25.4 cm

What’s your preferred medium?

Oil! I painted in acrylic for a couple of years when I had a home studio in Brooklyn, and it felt like I was in a bad relationship. I know loads of great painters who make beautiful work in acrylic but I’m in love with oil paint. It smells great, is endlessly adaptable and I feel constantly challenged and amazed by what it can do.

Which artists’ work do you think about most often?

Now I’m looking at a lot of colourists – Craigie Aitchison, Milton Avery, Winnifred Nicholson. Favourite artists I return to look at again and again – Goya, Rene Daniel’s, Alice Neele, Philip Guston. Some of my favourite contemporary artists whose work just blows my mind are Salman Toor, Xinyi Cheng, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Tala Madani, Reggie Burrows Hodges, Lois Dodd, Christina Quarles, Sanya Kantarovsky, Jill Mulleady.

What new skill/s would you like to learn?

I’d like to have a deeper knowledge of colour and how different pigments are made alongside more technical understanding of paints, and how to mix beautiful blues that only shine when I want them to (blue is the colour I most often get into trouble with)! Other skills I desire – better bookkeeping, to be able to speak Spanish and not so much a skill but making more time to go out dancing.

couple-in-next-apartmentCouple in next apartment, 2021, Oil on canvas, 34 x 26 inches/ 86.4 x 66 cm

What are you reading, watching, or listening to, to fuel the creative engine?

I’ve just started Everybody by Olivia Lang, in which she writes about the quest for bodily freedom. I recently finished her book Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency – which is a collection of essays about the necessity for art. She writes with real curiosity and a lot of intimacy – blending many brilliant thinkers’ biographies alongside her own experiences. I just finished Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder in which a mother with a young child turns into a dog. I thought it was very clever, but I didn’t love it, though I do like metamorphic tales, especially with women. A couple of the best books I’ve read over the last few years and still think about are – Lustre by Raven Leilani and My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh – in them they’ve both created extremely compelling, complicated women. I think about the women in my paintings like characters in novels and I get a lot of pleasure and ideas in great fiction. I love reading the New Yorker and The Atlantic for politics, art and book reviews and brilliant long-form writing about things like ‘hot streaks’ in creativity and how big decisions are made. I get a lot of ideas for my work from films and often make quick sketches from memories of them which are often the starting points for the compositions in my paintings.

I used to go to the cinema a lot when I lived in NY – but since the pandemic I mostly watch them at home and intermittently subscribe to Criterion (with the help of a VPN). But I have much stronger visual memories of films that I’ve seen in the cinema. BAM and Metrograph both have excellent film series – and I got to see many of my favourite directors work there – Vera Chytilova, Agnès Varda, Claire Denis, George Romero, Chantal Akerman. Music keeps me happy in the studio – Mary-Anne Hobbs on BBC each morning, techno Tuesdays are the best. My sister and our shared Spotify playlist – though my kids share my account so there’s often some very strange Russian meme music that comes on and lots of Rihanna and Dua Lipa from my daughter (which I am more than fine with).

walkWalk, 2020, Oil on canvas, 12 x 14 inches/ 30.5 x 35.5cm

What helpful resources would you recommend to artists?

The excellent Artist Mentor Newsletter and Ceri’s great words of wisdom posts on Instagram. I love Heather Havrilesky’s newsletter – both her Ask Polly agony aunt one and her evil alter ego Ask Molly. A lot of tormented artists write to her, and she always has good (if very lengthy) advice on how to remain sane and keep on doing whatever it is you’re doing. 5 x 15 has some great free online discussions with authors, journalists and cultural icons and the podcast Talk Art – I find Rob Diament and Russell Tovey’s enthusiasm very infectious and they talk to loads of amazing artists.

Which guests would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Lucia Berlin, Missy Elliot, Anjelica Huston, Grace Jones, Leonard Cohen, Little Richard and Kurt Vonnegut. I’d keep the drinks flowing and watch everyone get rude

Follow @eveackroyd on Instagram or visit

All artwork photos c/o Andy Keate

Fundraising Manager: ALISHA KADRI


I was introduced to Alisha Kadri by Helen Wewiora, Director of Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, UK.

Alisha and I are both Trustees of Castlefield Gallery and have spent hours hatching plans and developing ideas together, with the aim of supporting the gallery’s future growth.

I love working with Alisha. She is a kind, funny, generous, bright, and brilliant creative, full of fresh ideas and a deep commitment to supporting the next generation of artists. She has a passionate vision for making the arts a fairer playing field and creating opportunities for young people at early stages of their careers.

Generating income streams for artists and arts programmes is a special skill, that requires an understanding and appreciation of artistic content, and of how the artist, concepts, materials, and engagement opportunities might ignite the interests of audiences, funders, sponsors, and patrons alike.

Enthusing funders requires the ability to build relationships, to connect, mirror and champion their aims and ambitions, to plant the seed of potential and develop lasting partnerships.

Fundraising and development people within organisations are key champions, helping creatives and institutions survive, thrive, and connect to wider audiences. They are often fundamental in our quest to publish and distribute challenging content yet are often unsung heroes and heroines.

If I could make one recommendation, it would be to get to know an Alisha! Or even better, share the love with your fundraising and development contacts, they can help make your dreams come true!

With over 10 years’ experience in the arts sector Alisha’s career spans across curating and commissioning work at Watford Palace Theatre and Slough Borough Council, through to leading Manchester International Festival’s philanthropic programme in 2019.

She currently leads on major donor investment for the University of Salford, where she secures high profile partnerships working alongside businesses such as Santander to develop talent strategies for employability, education, entrepreneurship, and internships, specifically targeting underrepresented groups such as women in business, BAME groups and students from challenging socio-economic backgrounds.

Alisha has been invited as a guest speaker at diversity and inclusion events most notably delivering talks for the Institute of Fundraising. Alisha also plays a significant role in leading change within diversity, development and inclusion acting as a consultant to the BAME NW Fundraising Network.

What are you doing, reading, watching, or listening to that is helping you to stay positive?

Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts is keeping me super positive – a story about memories. It’s quite light, but deep at the same time – which I like. I tend to listen to Russell Brand’s Under the Skin on a weekly basis to keep me grounded. I’m very lucky enough to live by a very big and very beautiful park called Heaton Park near Manchester. There’s a little area that has a couple of donkeys in it, so if ever I need a kick of positivity I go and spend some time with them!

What’s your special sauce when it comes to fundraising and development?

Arts / creative projects are my bag. I LOVE developing projects from start to finish and seeing it fly. Nothing better than that really (sounds corny I know!).

Janelle Monae, Castlefield Bowl, Manchester International Festival 2019, Photo Priti Shikotra

How have the events over the last year influenced your ideas and working methodologies?

I try my hardest not to sweat the small stuff, but in terms of working methodologies – do the things that ignite you. I really believe that if you balance your day with something that is going to set your spirit ablaze, you’ll be way more productive in the things that are a bit duller!

What do you think should change in the way arts organisations and educational institutions operate?

Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity! We need a more equitable system where folks can progress and see themselves reflected across institutions. Particularly for arts organisations, there’s a lot of target-setting and mission/value awareness, but I think more needs to be done to help diverse and underrepresented groups succeed. There just isn’t enough representation in leadership teams in the arts and organisations tend to fall back on the excuse that diverse talent doesn’t exist. Supporting the pipeline of talent from school onwards needs to be addressed. If young people attend their local theatre or gallery and don’t see themselves reflected in the organisation, how will they ever know it’s an industry for them?

What opportunities does the advancement of technology provide for fundraising and engaging audiences for the arts?

There’s such a big opportunity for artists to give audiences a ‘behind-the-scenes’, which is personal and the bit which can convert someone to become a supporter or uplift their donation. Crowd-funding campaigns have flown in the last year. Communicating to large audiences has never been easier but keeping it personal and ‘you’ is what will keep people engaged and coming back for more.

What do you want your contribution to be in future?

My contribution is about giving people a chance, helping them on their journey and seeing them own it. I would LOVE to see MEGA changes across the arts, more fairness and equality. If I can contribute in the tiniest way, then that’d be amazing.

Rubbena-Aurangzeb-Tariq-A-Sign-of-Communication-2013-Photo-courtesy-of-the-artist-1.jpg 6 Aug

Do you have a favourite project or initiative you’ve worked on and if so, what makes it stand out?

I led a project called A Sign of Communication in 2014 when I was at Slough Borough Council. I worked with a super talented artist called Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq to develop a series of workshops with the deaf community in Slough. The project flew, around 40 participants created sculptures – all of which were BSL signs. We started the project from scratch and at the end had a full house with 100+ people attending the exhibition. I really couldn’t have been prouder, and the project resulted in further Arts Council investment into Slough.

You’ve been involved in strategically developing income streams for several organisations – what are your top 3 key learnings?

  •  Listen to your donors (and your instinct) if something isn’t working, adapt and be honest.
  • Communicate – always better to have a clear and thorough line of communication, particularly for individuals, keeping close and making them feel special, is so important.
  • Understand your ‘Case for Support’ – if your mission / vision and values are watertight, it’s a lot easier for people to understand you’re about.



What risks have you taken in your career that perhaps did not go so well but you learnt the most from?

I would say, not listening to your instinct is THE biggest risk. I’ve learnt this the hard way in SO many capacities, personally and professionally. Understanding when things don’t feel right and making a change, is such an important skill. I’ve often dragged things out because I’ve not recognised things aren’t working quickly enough. Being agile is going to be ever more important as we progress beyond the pandemic.

What helpful fundraising and development advice and resources would you recommend?

A bit of a radical one, but I would advise road-testing ideas with people who don’t know anything about your project. If you’re developing a ‘Case for Support’, giving it to a friend, colleague or family member is a good one. They will tell you first-hand what is great or what needs to be improved. In terms of other links, I’d advise going onto YouTube and looking through Institute of Fundraising ‘How to’ videos or other fundraising videos. YouTube is a great resource!

Katie Tomlinson, Kathleen the Queen, 2018, Oil on Canvas, Obstructions, 2020-2021, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester

Do you have any advice for people wanting to work in the arts or education?

Research the organisation – make sure you’re aligned if you’re applying to for a project or job interview.

Keep your circle filled with people that will inspire, develop, and motivate you. I think we’ve all been through such a tough year and the arts and creative sector has been so deeply impacted. Staying positive and being true to yourself is what I believe is the way forward.


**Subscribe to Artist Mentor for a FREE fundraising masterclass with Alisha**

Developing a Case for Support with Alisha Kadri
Thursday 30 September
Click here to subscribe to Artist Mentor and secure your place

“If your mission, vision and values are watertight, it’s a lot easier for people to understand what you’re about.” Alisha Kadri

If you are in the process of making grant applications or want to attract sponsorship, this session is for you!
Alisha will walk you through the key factors to consider when building a positive case to attract funding.

*Please note, if you are already a subscriber to Artist Mentor you will receive a link to the session in the monthly Newsletter.

Follow Alisha on Instagram @alisha_kadri and LinkedIn


I admired Luke Jerram’s spectacular public realm work way before ever meeting him. Indeed, he often jokes that Bloomberg Television described him as “probably the most famous artist you’ve never heard of”.

Luke has an incredibly diverse, seemingly boundary free creative practice. I’m amazed by the range and scope of his ideas, the scale of ambition, impact and reach of his works, but also his dedication to connecting and engaging a broad audience. He is an expansive creative, who sees opportunities in every potential challenge or roadblock.

His creative entrepreneurialism enables him to partner with global organisations and collaborators, continuously innovating whilst supporting others, particularly young creatives.

Luke took time out of his busy schedule to answer answers my questions candidly in the first video below, reflecting on some of the habits that contribute to his committed studio practice, his creative process, how he earns income from his practice and makes the most of ‘failures’.

His responses reveal an approach, attitude and work ethic that facilitates creative problem solving and the capacity to manage multiple productions simultaneously. His personal system and studio set up enables him to be resilient and respond quickly and effectively to challenging briefs, budgets, contexts and environments.

Scroll down for the second video, which demonstrates Luke’s creative process in action, for a new project in development: Helios.

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Luke Jerram is renowned globally for his multidisciplinary creative practice, which includes sculptures, installations, live arts and public realm projects. Living in the UK, but working internationally since 1997, he’s devised and staged an extraordinary range of art works that have engaged and inspired people around the world.

His artworks are in permanent collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Wellcome Collection in London, and he tours his installations to art festivals and museums. Working with some of the most established cultural organisations to create his artworks, in 2019 alone, he had 117 exhibitions in 22 different countries around the world.

In 2020 was given an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bristol, made an Honorary Academician of the RWA and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

In 2019 he set up and funded both the Dreamtime Fellowship to support recent graduates in his home city of Bristol and the Bristol Schools Arts Fund to support secondary schools in Bristol impacted by austerity.

Luke Jerram, Museum of the Moon, Photo by Robert Sils

His artwork Museum of the Moon is one of Luke’s most successful arts projects that has caught the public’s imagination, presented in more than 150 times in 30 different countries. Experienced by more than 10 million people worldwide, the artwork has recently toured India with the British Council, been presented at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, Art Basel in Miami 2020 and exhibited in Aarhus, Denmark for the European Capital of Culture. In 2019 it was presented at Glastonbury Festival and even on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in Blackpool. With universal appeal, the exhibit has been breaking audience records in venues around the globe. 2.1 million people visited the artwork when it was presented at the National History Museum, making it one of the most popular exhibits in the institutions history. Published in 2020 his new book Luke Jerram: Art, Science & Play provides a fascinating insight into his evolving practice.

Luke Jerram, Park and Slide, Bristol, May 4, 2014

On the 4th May 2014 this giant 95m (300ft) water slide was installed on Park Street in Bristol as part of Make Sunday Special and the Bristol Art Weekender. Running for one day only, 96,573 people signed up for their chance to get a ‘ticket to slide’ and through a ballot, only 360 lucky people were issued with tickets. Security clocked in 65,000 people who came to Park Street to watch the one-day event.

Luke Jerram, Play Me, I’m Yours, 2010, NYC

Touring internationally since 2008, Play Me, I’m Yours has reached millions of people worldwide, with more than 2000 street pianos installed by Luke and his team in over 65 cities across the globe, from  Tokyo to New York, bearing the simple instruction to ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’. Located on streets, in public parks, markets and train stations the pianos are available for everyone to play and enjoy. Play Me, I’m Yours invites the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment, and to share their love of music and the visual arts. Decorated by local artists and community groups, the street pianos create a place for exchange and an opportunity for people to connect. The project was recently presented in Brisbane, Australia and Augsburg, Germany.

Luke Jerram, Sky Orchestra over London, 2011

Sky Orchestra is an experimental artwork bringing together performance and music to create visual audio installations within the air and within the mind. Developing music specifically for sleeping people which is delivered at dawn from out of the sky the artwork is created by artist Luke Jerram in collaboration with composer Dan Jones. Taking off at dawn with speakers attached, the artwork creates a massive audio landscape which plays directly into people’s homes below.

The Sky Orchestra last performed in Bristol 2020, with a new composition commissioned by Bristol Old Vic; the music is available from Bandcamp, raising money to support young musicians in Bristol.

The Sky Orchestra has also performed in Derry, for the UK City of Culture 2013 and in London to herald a year to go to the 2012 Olympic Games. They launched the 2007 Sydney Festival and in 2006 in Stratford-upon- Avon for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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This film reveals the process of developing Luke Jerrams’ public art commission Helios, for London.

In Greek mythology Helios was the god and personification of the Sun. This new artwork was conceived in the UK’s third national lockdown, in the middle of winter, when we all needed a little warmth and sunshine in our lives.

Based on complex geometry Luke is working with engineers and fabricators to design and create this floating sculpture of the Sun; 10m in diameter and 5m high, the giant floating Sun artwork will be made of steel and moored to the walls of the docks in London. Created as a hemisphere, the lower half of the Sun will be created from the reflection in the water. Glowing gold in the daytime, the artwork will change in the day, as the sun illuminates it, creating reflections. At night the artwork will slowly begin to come alive.

Internally illuminated and emitting mist, the artwork will bathe the docks with warm golden light. It might look like a fireball at night or as though a meteorite has crash landed. A surround sound composition about the Sun will be created which will available as a free download to be listen to through the public’s headphones. Information about the artwork and the music will be available on the dockside. The music will blend NASA sunlight recordings, sun mythologies, sound of fire and heat. Artistic development, CAD designs, structural analysis, costing, prototyping and testing have all been carried out for this new and complex work. Luke is consulting with naval architects, structural engineers, CAD designers, arts fabricators and even sub aqua divers about the creation and installation of the artwork. Phase 1 has been completed and they are now awaiting funding for the fabrication.

Bridges not Walls, Eisteddfod, Llangollen, 2021; Artist Luke Jerram stands in front of Llangollen Bridge, Photo c/o Shropshire Star

This new temporary installation artwork has been commissioned by the Eisteddfod in Llangollen, for presentation 9th July- 4th August 2021. With support from the Welsh Government, this will be Luke’s first major commission for the country.

The Eisteddfod has a long and rich history of working with different communities and nations across the world to bring people together to share their creativity and a message of peace.

“When I first saw Llangollen Bridge I fell in love with it. It’s so iconic and at the heart of the town. Across the world, bridges have always been used as both a physical and symbolic way to connect people – which fits perfectly with the aims and ambitions of the Eisteddfod. I can’t wait to see the patchworks the creative people from the local community send in, in order to turn the bridge into a work of art.”

The 60m long bridge will be wrapped both sides in giant patchwork to reflect the crafts and cultures of Wales, but also the participating nations of the Eisteddfod. Transforming the bridge into a work of art, the colours are inspired by the incredible fabrics worn by the festival performers. The artwork brings the Eisteddfod’s creativity out from the festival field, into the town, transforming and animating Llangollen for the whole world to see. From every angle the bridge will be an incredible sight to see, changing with the light and weather conditions. Even the water will be transformed with its reflections of colour from the bridge.

Follow Luke on Instagram @lukejerramartist and visit


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Senior Content Designer: ROSIE WANEK

I had the pleasure of working closely with Rosie Wanek at Somerset House, London. Rosie was Head of Exhibitions Management and together we worked on an ambitious programme, delivering large and mid-scale ticketed and free exhibitions, installations, and events, across the whole site.

Rosie is blessed with being a curious, surprising, compassionate creative, able to combine eclectic research and original thinking with meticulous project management (I am still in awe of her Excel skills!). She makes fascinating connections between incongruous objects and subjects, highlighting the themes and details the rest of us miss, in a subtle yet compelling way.

She is an honest, caring, and considerate leader, empowering those she works with, always running a calm and steady ship, even in turbulent creative storms. I learned so much from her and would happily jump on board, wherever she steered the bow, in still or choppy waters. She is also patient and determined enough to whizz up  the most amazing, desirable clothes in her scant down time.

Rosie Wanek, Photo Jonathan Powell

Rosie is a Senior Content Designer at Event Communications where she leads on the content design and interpretation of new visitor experiences for culture and tourism projects around the world. Rosie is driven by an interest in using stories and media to connect people which she has brought to her work as a freelance curator and trainer. Previously Rosie worked at the V&A and Somerset House, leading on the development and delivery of exhibitions programmes diverse in scale and content within the UK and internationally.

What are you doing, reading, watching or listening to now that is helping you to stay positive?

Making things and reading things keep me afloat outside work – one offers a direct connection between creativity, materiality and the bodily, the other provides an imaginative space for reflection on our humanness – these are things I really value. Cutting out monthly international travel and commuting has really helped me give more time to these things and find a bit more balance in my life which has been welcome.

I’ve been designing and making most of my own clothes since I was a teenager – I love the combination of authoring my appearance, how I feel physically and the practical challenges of working with materials (I am a super-tactile person – sometimes I think I was drawn to working in museums because it means I can legitimately touch the objects – with gloves on of course!). Recently I have been developing a series of ‘dumpling’ (read quilted) garments to stay warm and smart whilst working from home. I’ve also started to make my own bras which is a whole new exciting journey.

Designing and cutting patterns demands all my concentration but when I am making up a garment I listen to podcasts – I am particularly drawn to things which connect intimate personal stories to our wider social context. Two favourites are 99% Invisible and Earhustle. I am also particularly excited about a new discovery Kerning cultures which shares a wide range of stories from the Arab world.

As much as I have really appreciated less travel in some respects, I really miss the excitement of going to new places and especially eating new foods. So, I have been researching and cooking (and messing up) tasty new things from Japan, Mexico, India and elsewhere – we are so lucky in London to be able to get so many ingredients. I’ve also always read lots of fiction in translation from around the world and I’ve really missed hunting for new things to read in a real bookshop (ideally Foyles on Charing Cross Road where the staff picks are the best!) – I especially enjoyed Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami, Dark Satellites by Clemens Meyer and lots of travel writing from Eland Books.

And lastly there is nothing more joyful – or good for clearing the mind – than swimming in the lido on my back looking at the sky, so I have been doing that as much as I can.

Kimchi and Chips, Halo, The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, Somerset House, London, Photo Somerset House Trust

What are you working on right now?

So, I can’t say exactly because the project is under an NDA, but…I can say that I am working for Event Communications on the redevelopment of a museum about the history of a place in Asia. I am leading on the content design/interpretation for the visitor experience. It has me thinking a lot of about the politics of history writing, and the power of design to shape how we think about the past and present.

Over the years I have found that having a few side projects outside of my main occupation really helps me retain perspective on my own work and the sector more broadly, it can be so easy to get lost in the vastness and million details of big projects. So currently I am mentoring a fashion design duo who are developing their practice and preparing for an initial presentation of their work in progress at a gallery in the Netherlands. Accompanying them on their journey as they think through their design philosophy, shape their practice, and start to look at how this might express itself publicly in an exhibition format is so exciting and inspiring.

What are your core values and drivers that you bring to your work? What do you care about?

I suppose at the bottom of it all I believe that arts and culture are key for creating more generosity between one another, a sense of connection and investment in the success of others – and where possible empathy. It’s a place where we can look beyond the things that might appear to divide us and inspire us to think and make in new more generous ways.

I believe this lies as much in how the arts is organised and run as the content created.  Everything we do creates ripples of meaning with real life consequences which we are responsible for, so I value things that are really considered and critically thought through, processes as much as content. The result of the project is important, but the experience of working on it also hugely meaningful – this is particularly true when you are touring exhibitions internationally where you are to a degree an ambassador for the institution, culture, and country you are representing.  As part of that, respecting your audience and working partners is paramount – respect that they are choosing to spend their time/money with you, respect the variety of their motivations for being present.  I aspire to this informing every aspect of my decision making, we are there for them.

Eloise HawserRing Vortex Imaging Phantom, 2018, Medical imaging phantom, glass and steel plinth, Phantom on loan from Sheffield University and Leeds Test Objects,
Part of the Charles Russell Speechlys Terrace Room Series, Terrace Rooms, Somerset House, London, Photo Tim Bowditch

How has this last year affected your ideas of what you want your contribution to be in future?

There is so much about how we behave to one another that is harmful for ourselves and the planet that has long troubled me deeply – this year has seen some of these ongoing issues express themselves in specific events attracting wider attention.

For a while, my focus was within the gallery/museum walls, wrangling with how to make the best use of the exhibition medium to create stories all could enjoy – but in the past five years what has come to trouble me more is the role arts organisations/museums have in shaping society itself – these are not the benign entities they try to present themselves as.

Working closely with international teams and particularly spending time in India with my partners’ family over the past ten years has provided a strong contrast to the context in which I grew up in terms of how knowledge (and culture) is created/perpetuated and presented.

This winter I was reading Julian Baggini’s How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy and thinking particularly about the implications for our diverse society of the fact that museums are the expression of a type of knowledge construction specific to philosophy underpinning western culture.

This aspect of museums is one of the factors limiting the range of perspectives and experiences expressed in mainstream culture.

In master-planning-thought-experiment-mode I’ve been asking myself: What might spaces where knowledge and culture are created and shared look like if they took as their foundational starting point different and/or a mixed senses of how knowledge (and culture) is created/perpetuated/presented? And what might this mean for the shape of society? I get that this sounds all a bit academic, but I believe it’s important to really dig deep and challenge the foundations of what we do if we want to create real change.

Oh, and in terms of working practices there are all the Zoom calls too! – and, sure, it is fantastic how much you can get done on Zoom, but I strongly believe quality time spent face to face with your collaborators remains incredibly important for building and maintaining strong trusting relationships. I am a very ‘in real life’ kinda person. Not least I suppose because I think we are embodied humans and there is nothing like experiencing our embodiment together for cultivating connection, generosity, and respectful behaviour to one another.

Post Modernism, V&A, 2011, Photo Carmody Groarke

What do you think should change in the way arts organisations operate?

Oh, so many things! The arts are facing some of the biggest funding cuts and I think arts organisations really need to come together as a sector (linking up with Higher Education) and work on presenting their value to society (including the economy) in a way that is compelling to the government to secure funding – we are storytellers, we should be able to do this better!

I wish we could break down/rework some of the entrenched production methods that divide sectors within (and beyond) the arts and make creating interdisciplinary experiences difficult.

The gulf between what arts organisations say they want to do for their audiences and what they achieve is often vast. Arts organisations are still far from being fully inclusive and representative either in staff or the stories told. I think in part this is a legacy from the biases of our deficient education system and arts organisations should be doing everything they can to reach out and counter this – making as many people as possible, from as young as possible, feel that their organisation is a place where they can be vital contributors.

What opportunities does the advancement of technology provide for both exhibition making and engaging audiences?

New communications technologies have been great for bringing people together in many ways – from supporting international collaborations without travel that is expensive and costly to the planet, having dialogue with potential audiences and creating and sharing new forms of content.

They offer new ways to gather and tell stories – untethered from objects and artefacts – which is exciting because there are so many people everywhere for whom important aspects of culture are not best expressed through the object-based epistemology that traditional western museums are based on.

However, I think it is super important that arts organisations approach these, and other new technologies, with caution. Especially with the full awareness that they are not innocent/benevolent tools that serve only the purpose of the user but are highly politicised and fundamentally alter the meaning of the content we load into them.

When I was at university, I came across the writings of Marshall McLuhan, who was not fashionable at all at the time, but really shaped my thinking. With the rise of social media his ideas have seen a renaissance in the last years – his frequently quoted phrase ‘the medium is the message’ has never been more important.

The Fabric of India, 2015, V&A Photo Gitta Gschwendtner

What do you want your contribution to be in future?

Hmm, this is a bit of a work in progress currently (see above!). On a day-to-day basis I hope that I always bring a useful mix of creativity, imagination, humanity, and practicality to all the projects I work on. 

Process, Part of Print! Tearing It Up, 2018, River Rooms & Lancaster Rooms, Somerset House, London, Photo Rosie Wanek

Do you have a favourite exhibition/project/event that you have curated and if so, what makes it particularly special to you?

Not really, there are lots of projects I loved for different reasons. Interestingly it is not the biggest or most high profile that make it to this list…

  • Process – was a zine festival Somerset House presented with fantastic Somerset House Studios residents OOMK! – this was a delight of a project on a shoestring budget. Walking around the festival you could see zine makers and visitors alike were having a wonderful time connecting over a shared passion. It was really refreshing as I’ve worked on a lot of very large projects where you don’t get much immediate contact with the audience.
  • Fabric of India – I really enjoyed working with the curators to draw out makers stories and processes, especially researching and setting up filming with some fantastic artisans in India – we produced the most viewed digital content the V&A had created to date.
  • Tour of Masterpieces of World Ceramics – I toured this show to three comparatively small venues in Germany, Syria and Turkey. The exhibition clearly meant a lot of each of the venues, it was the jewel in their programme for that year and I loved working with those teams, building connections as we overcame the many many challenges we faced together.

You’ve been involved in creating and managing multiple touring exhibitions – what are your top 3 key learnings?

So, in this order…

1. Get the best understanding you can of the culture you are working with – both the broader culture of the place, and the culture of the institution – and use this to build strong relationships. The more you know about ways of working, how decisions are made and by who, taboo topics or ways of expressing things, what will open conversations, what will close them down, the easier it will be to collaborate happily and productively avoiding/overcoming the inevitable challenges smoothly.

2. Try to understand what the value of the exhibition is to the host venue, and their audience. What is the institutional narrative around this exhibition? Why did they (really) choose to host it? What role does it play in their programme? How does it contribute to constructing/maintaining their brand? The answers to these questions are often not immediately evident but can be very helpful for enabling the venue to achieve their goals and understanding why they might at times want different things to you.

3.  Embrace the contract (or its equivalent). Sure, it often isn’t fun, but think of negotiating the contract as an opportunity to find out what you really both want and work through differences of agenda in a comparatively safe space – before you are under real pressure trying to install the exhibition/print the catalogue/manufacture the merchandise. That said, be very conscious of point 1 and 2 when you do approach this…you might need to take a slightly different approach, either way it is worth having those types of conversation early on to avoid bigger challenges later.

Perfume, A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent, 2017, (Installation view), Somerset House, London, Photo c/o Somerset House Trust

What risks have you taken in your career that perhaps did not go so well but you learnt the most from?

Touring exhibitions internationally, especially to political unstable parts of the world, is never without risk – some risks bigger and more real than others. I have had a few nervous moments witnessing hair raising things in my time that proved useful lessons (no I will not say more on that!).

On a more personal note, though, a few years ago I left a full-time job overseeing the development and delivery of an arts programme to take a short-term curatorial contract. This felt terrifying, not least because I was wracked with imposter syndrome, but without that leap though I would not be doing the more content focused work I do now.

What helpful resources would you recommend to artists?

Resources – tricky, I think though that there are inner resources that artists can draw on to help. The imbalance of scale between an artist studio and a large arts organisation poses huge challenges for both sides – they are subject to such different demands and restrictions. Trying to understand where your collaborators are coming from and staying professional – on both sides – will really help get the best results for all. I think that the tips above relating to touring exhibitions can also be usefully translated to artists working with institutions/arts organisations.

North: Fashioning Identity, 2018, East Wing Galleries, Somerset House, London, Photo courtesy Somerset House Trust

Do you have any advice for people wanting to work in the arts?

The arts are varied, offering a wide range of working environments and jobs, try to get some insider knowledge to work out where you might be able to contribute best and be happiest. And remember job titles only mean so much look at what the job involves and go by that.

Don’t be disparaged if you don’t feel you belong – keep going, be bold and say what you think (strategically). I very much felt out of place, particularly at the start, but what made me different is also what has given me some of my most valuable successes.

Seek out mentor figures – I can’t overstate the value of having more experienced allies to reflect on your work with, give you a nudge or a boost of confidence where you need it, or suggest avenues you might never have thought of.

‘Keep your eyes on the prize’ – this is totally a Ceri quote – but it is the perfect expression of how important it is to be clear about what you are trying to achieve, and what are the priorities. Be ready to let the things/processes go that just aren’t that important to secure the things that really matter – this is also a great tip for touring exhibitions and collaborations between arts organisations and artists.

Make sure to document the projects you work on (in whatever capacity that may be) so you can use those images later in your career and reflect what you have done.


Follow Rosie on Instagram @greyrosiew @event_comm and visit


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Head of Programme: ELINOR MORGAN

Elinor Morgan is lucky – her face perfectly reflects the kind of person she is; warm, generous, kind, considerate and thoughtful. She radiates positivity and optimism, and is a real pleasure to work with and fun to be with. She attracts good people, with a great ethos, that make great work.

She is a champion of artists, audiences and creating extraordinary things for everybody, everywhere. She believes in situating artists, learning, critical reflection and dialogue at the front and centre, exemplified in her work at MIMA, Eastside Projects, Wysing Arts Centre and Outpost gallery.

I like the vibe of the things she creates, and the commitment she demonstrates to making colourful things resonate and sing, in a thoughtful and determined way. If I could, I’d travel to see her work more often as it’s always curious and compelling.

Elinor Morgan, Photo courtesy of MIMA

Elinor Morgan is Head of Programme at MIMA, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Since 2008 she has curated residencies, exhibitions, public projects and education programmes across the UK working at organisations in Norwich, Cambridge, Birmingham and on independent projects in London. She has led and supported public art projects and developed freelance projects. She co-edited ‘The Constituent Museum’ (Valiz, 2018), a reader on how arts institutions might work differently with their publics. Elinor enjoys writing and editing essays, articles and reviews.

What are you doing, reading, watching or listening to now that is helping you to stay positive?

I have Type 1 Diabetes and a job which demands a lot of energy so I have needed to get smart at balancing my life with things that bring me joy and boost my energy. Talking with artists brings me life and stimulation so I make sure I build in lots of conversations, whether focused on specific projects or open-ended, into every month.

I read and listen to a lot of fiction and find the space of narratives soothing and stimulating. I am part of a small and powerful book group which brings me much joy – our meetings are relaxed and often hilarious – and I love reading things selected by others. Wednesday is Film Night with my partner George and we enjoying traversing film-geek terrain. Learning new things always makes my brain zing and I particularly enjoy mapping the arts against social and political contexts, so as well as voraciously gobbling historical and social podcasts and audio books, I am currently doing two evening classes: one on British art in between 1900 and 1950 and one on decolonising gardening histories.

With the increased screen-time and stasis of my life in Covid, I have needed to be outside a lot and I am very lucky to live by the sea. I have taken up sea swimming, which gives me a physical, mental and emotional hit of shock and bliss, and through this I have met so many wonderful women who are all drawn to the same activity for different reasons. I have been learning a lot about gardening and spent a lot of time digging, planting and growing both by myself and with others on a shared allotment and through volunteering at a magical place called Dark Star Plants. The longer cycles of gardening slow my brain down which is essential.

Wayward, Middlesbrough Winter Garden, 2019, Photo courtesy of MIMA, photograph by Hynes Photography

What are you working on right now?

Reopening MIMA, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art! I almost can’t think about this because it’s so overwhelmingly exciting. I have been longing for the day that we can welcome people to our beautiful galleries, Kitchen and Garden again – to see people interacting and to hear and smell the life breathed back into the building.

We’ll be opening with a jubilant exhibition with Sonia Boyce in which a large sculptural structure by Sonia acts as a vehicle for the work of Saelia Aparicio, Simeon Barclay, Anna Barham, Emma Bennett, Kev Howard, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Harold Offeh, Flora Parrott, Penny Payne, Alberta Whittle ad Kenizzi Yamalimbu as well as lots of works from the Middlesbrough Collection at MIMA. The structure is clad in wallpapers made by Sonia since the 90s and the exhibition also includes a newly-commissioned video that she made with skateboarders from Tees Valley-based collective Girls Skate North East and ukulele-playing skateboarders in Birmingham.

The skaters play in urban environments, using their bodies to understand space and architectural surfaces and you can see Sonia’s fascination with improvisation threading through all parts of the show and into this newest piece. The project was imagined with Eastside Projects and it’s a real gem. Last year we also managed to collect one of Sonia’s really important works: Devotional Wallpaper and Placards, 2008-2020, with support from Contemporary Art Society. This piece gathers the names of black British women involved in the music industry, proposed by many people since Sonia began the project in 2008. We’ll be showing this as part of the exhibition.

I’m also working on a big exhibition about the legacies of the production of synthetics in the Tees Valley for MIMA in Autumn of this year. It’s a complicated story with lots of tendrils into social histories, material sciences and ecological impacts. This includes new commissions with Katarina Zdjelar, Onya McCausland and Annie O’Donnell as well as lots of scientific and social history artefacts. The brilliant academic Esther Leslie is working with me as a critical thinker and advisor on the project and my colleague Lynne Hugill from the MIMA School of Art & Design is bringing lots of knowledge about new, non-toxic materials and circular economies in fashion.

Katie Schwab, All Our Own Work, 2018, Image courtesy of MIMA, Photo Hynes Photography

What are your core values and drivers that you bring to your work? What do you care about?

People. It’s always about relationships and ethics. I want to do things that are meaningful to people and that create opportunities for others.

How has this last year affected your ideas of what you want your contribution to be in future?

I don’t know if I can answer this question yet. The first three words that I wrote down are:

Inequality Ecology Division

I believe that public art institutions must create the spaces and conditions for people to come together and make new understandings of the world. They should be places for imagining and enacting social change to creatively address our perils and crises. That’s why I do what I do.

Tom O’Sullivan and Joanne Tatham, A Proposal To Ask Where Does A Threshold Begin And End, 2017, Photo courtesy of MIMA 

What do you think should change in the arts and how can we actively contribute to bringing about this change?

Oh dear… so many things need to change in the arts. And of course, connected to this, so many things need to change in society. Actually, my experience of stepping outside of gallery and museum contexts is that we are normally further down the road on discussions that other sectors and sometimes in actions too. Life in Britain would be immeasurably improved by making art a central part of every education.

The main thing I object to in the art sector is empty rhetoric – the performative political statement that signals radical change and doesn’t shift the structures. It’s easy to say things and harder to really do them over many years with many people. To genuinely address access, equity and diversity in the arts we need to be making art embedded into every school environment and making educational and training opportunities that are accessible to people from all backgrounds. We need to be looking at long-term strategies to diversify work-forces and creatives: we should have our eyes on programmes with primary schools; on employment contracts; on how budgets are spent. We need a whole systems approach and we need different people in powerful positions.

I am particularly invested in and proud of three programmes at MIMA that I believe contribute to making change:

In 2019 we worked with the inimitable research group Black Artists & Modernism to audit the Middlesbrough Collection (with works from the 1870s to today) for contributions by artists of African, Caribbean, Asian and MENA Region descent who were born in, lived, worked or studied in the UK and to undertake close readings of work. With only 2% of the collection meeting these criteria, we’re sadly in line with the other collections across the UK audited by BAM. We wanted to start with deep research and statistics from which we could set clear targets for future work and with which we could build imaginative programmes to start a process of repair through new interpretations and the support, representation, and acquisition of artists of colour. Working with Ashleigh Barice, Sonia Boyce, Anjalie Dalal-Clayton and the BAM team has enabled us to change commitments and practices within MIMA.

Close Reading workshop with Black Artists and Modernism, courtesy of MIMA, photograph by Kingsley Hall

Our work with elders and their care-givers is really important to me. Through partnerships with social housing providers in the Tees Valley we connect artists with people living in residential care to develop creative programmes that are so joyful and that support social connectivity. Many groups have taken over the communal spaces where they live that are really well-equipped and often under-utilised by residents. The legacies of this programme have been incredible, with residents supported to set up constituted groups and gain funding to develop their own follow-on programmes.

Since 2017 we’ve worked with disability arts organisation DASH and with MAC and Wysing to develop a network of institutional support for Deaf and Disabled curators. It’s about supporting the development of creative people who haven’t had an opportunity to work on sustained projects with institutional resources and making space for their practices and voices through public programmes. It’s also about the institutions committing to anti-ableist approaches, learning and improving. The creative work that has come through this has been powerful and the learning has been intense and reciprocal. The network is about to grow and will support more disabled curators. I have loved working with others on this and found working with our associate curator Aidan Moesby incredibly insightful and valuable.

Fragile Earth, 2019, (Installation view), Image courtesy of MIMA, Photo Hynes Photography

Do you have a favourite exhibition/project/event that you have curated and if so, what makes it particularly special to you?

I have recently been feeling the deep loss of Donna Lynas, the late Director of Wysing Arts Centre, and as such have been reflecting on my time there. We did lots of unusual (understatement!) projects there and the wildest by far was the first Wysing music festival in 2010. I arrived just in time to support Donna and artist Andy Holden to realise the very ambitious festival of artist musicians playing across three stages, two of which were artworks in their own right. It was a scale of stress I’d never felt before, but ended with the most incredible feeling of elation as people experienced Wysing’s huge and rambling site and made new connections and friendships. The festival has continued ever since, taking many different forms, and I think it’s the perfect legacy of Donna’s visionary and ever-shifting artist-centred approach to running Wysing.

Working at Eastside Projects was another incredible adventure. Being there you are immersed in creative possibilities and I love how the gallery engages artists and thinks of the city as its material. Another project that meant a lot to me was Gowlett Peaks, a fleet of foot project I set up to present a series of solo shows and events above a pub in Peckham. The pub was run by an incredible duo – artist Flora Parrot and publican Jonny Henfrey– and I loved the feel of it. Running stuff above a pub is great fun and the audiences socialised and engaged with the work in a really comfortable relaxed way. It came at a really important time when I wanted to create more space for one-on-one conversations with artists.

The book I edited with others between 2016-18 fuelled my thinking and taught me a lot. It is a tome and the process was hard but having something like this behind me, and publishing the networks and conversations that are behind my work gave me confidence in what I do. I think of MIMA as a whole project in which everything is connected including the structures that underpin the creative work, so I won’t pull threads out of the tapestry here. It has been amazing to grow with the organisation and put down deep roots here that enable a different approach to time and a deeper set of reflections on the place.

The Constituent Museum: Constellations of Knowledge, Politics and Mediation: A Generator of Social Change (Hardback),
Authors/Editors: John Byrne, Elinor Morgan, November Paynter, Aida Sanchez de Serdio, Adela Zeleznik 

What do you offer or provide artists in the curatorial or creative relationship?

The word support is huge and hard to pin down. I hope that I create structures that help people to focus and develop something – an idea, an artwork, a piece of writing, a set of relationships – differently than they have previously. I hope I create space for their ideas and methodologies to come through. I hope that I work as a connector and broker. I hope I am transparent and generous. I hope that I challenge people and ask them difficult questions. I hope that I am there for people long-term. I love working over a long period with artists and getting to know what they’re interested in and what skills they have before diving into a big project. I work in a very context-specific way so it’s really important that people have opportunities to understand MIMA’s role and responsibilities and how they might contribute before they commit to working with us.

Mikhail Karikis, For Many Voices, 2020, (Installation view), Image courtesy of MIMA and the artist,Photo Hynes Photography

What risks have you taken in your career that perhaps did not go so well but you learnt the most from?

I have learnt everything by doing it and I’ve been really fortunate to be supported and trusted by those I have worked with. I’ve had to really stretch myself and struggle along the way. I’ve made loads of mistakes and done things in strange ways before figuring out how to do them better, and I have always tried to spend time reflecting by myself and listening to feedback from others.

It would be foolish and boring to imagine that I know what is going to happen with projects! It’s not about mapping every outcome but about setting up parameters for something to have a life beyond what I imagined possible. That’s the nature of collaboration and dialogue and striving to develop new ideas and work. My aim is to continually develop new skills to get better at supporting other people to do their best and most thoughtful work.

Otobong Nkanga, From Where I Stand, 2020, (Installation view), Image courtesy of MIMA, Photo Hynes Photography

Who or what inspires or lifts you up?

All of the artists, designers, writers, researchers and curators with whom I have the honour of working. The team at MIMA. I learn from people every single day. Working with Otobong Nkanga recently was amazing as her work gives so many prompts for thinking about structural inequalities and ecological crisis. I love the fact that her ideas find form through intricate, beautiful making and that she uses these processes to deal with cruelty and exploitation. Her works always have a proposal or proposition at their core.

What helpful resources would you recommend to artists?

Eastside Projects’ Extra Ordinary People associateship programme offers heaps of opportunities and support. DASH’s sessions for Disabled artists and creatives are super supportive and generous. Read a whole range of interviews with artists through MIMA’s Hearing From Artists series. G39 is an ace space for artists’ development in Cardiff. A few organisations have been holding virtual studio visits for artists over the past year, including MIMA and Wysing. The Artists’ Union England and a-n offer brilliant resources and advice for artists.

Chiara Camoni, Sisters, 2019, (Installation view), Image courtesy of MIMA, Photo Hynes Photography

Do you have any advice for people wanting to work in the arts?

Everything I know, I have learned from trying things out and from listening hard to a whole range of people. My tips are:

  • There are many routes. The art sector might look impenetrable but there are multiple art worlds and so many ways to be an artist or art worker.
  • Your peer group is everything – invest in the people who support and critique what you do. Meet and talk regularly wherever and however you can. If you don’t have these people yet, prioritise ways of seeking them out and connecting.
  • Do your research. Listen, watch, absorb and reflect. Make sure you know where and how you want your work to be experienced and seen.
  • Make personal connections with those you have an affinity with and be patient and persistent – if you think you have interests in common keep trying to have a chat. Don’t cold-call with a standard proposal as this approach won’t be respected.
  • Be kind and compassionate: I often think of David Foster Wallace’s graduation speech where he highlights how little we know about people when we make assumptions about them. You have no idea what the person in front of you in the supermarket queue is living with and experiencing.
  • Make your own party! Don’t wait for an invitation: initiate whatever you’re able to on whatever scale and invite others to be part of it and see/hear what you’ve done.

Follow Elinor on Instagram and Twitter @elnrmrgn @mimauseful and visit

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Creative Director: GAYLENE GOULD

Artist Zak Ové introduced me to Gaylene Gould in 2018, whilst we were working together on the exhibition Get Up Stand Up Now at Somerset House, London.

Gaylene was Head of Cinemas and Events at BFI Southbank at the time, and we met to discuss joint programming a public event, showcasing key films by Zak’s father, Horace Ové CBE. I was struck by Gaylene’s positivity and her warm, open, considerate, and grounded demeanour. I recall thinking that I wish I’d met her sooner.

I connected with Gaylene’s passionate belief in parity, equality, social justice, and her spirit of generosity combined with a can-do attitude. Curiously, unbeknown to me at the time, we were both ruminating quietly on new possibilities for our own creative practice and leadership responsibilities.

Since then, we have both taken a leap into the unknown, having left our senior roles in art institutions at roughly the same time to chart new territories and redefine our own contribution to the sector. We share a love of learning, of taking risks, a commitment to coaching, and of the power of making space for creativity and each other.

Gaylene Gould, Photo Nina J Robinson

Gaylene Gould is the Founder and Creative Director of The Space To Come which creates interactive art projects that aim to generously transform our connections to ourselves, each other, and the world. Her collaborative practice explores the healing and growth potential of sharing space, stories, ideas and knowledge.

What are you doing, reading, watching or listening to now that is helping you to stay positive?

I’ve carefully curated my cultural intake during the pandemic. The world is full of high drama right now so I’m imbibing intimate human stories, contemporary myth and ‘new world’ thinkers.  I was lucky enough to be on the BAFTA film jury this year so saw some wonderful films. It seems I’m not the only one drawn to the intimate and profound this year. I had my heart blown open by Chloe Zhao’s Oscar-tipped Nomadland, Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari and Darius Marder’s The Sound of Metal starring the finest actor of our generation IMO Riz Ahmed. After the rightful noise created by #BAFTAsowhite, it’s great to see East and South Asian film talent getting their due. Also, scaredy-cat that I am, I was so thankful for Remi Weekes British social-horror His House that I watched it twice.

My bedtime audio books gave me much needed perspective by offering contemporary versions of ancient myths. Hat tip goes to Monique Roffey’s The Mermaid of Black Conch, Hawaiian writer Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks In The Times of Saviours and Ben Okri’s The Freedom Artist.

And if it wasn’t for new-world philosopher Bayo Akomalafe I think I would have festered in a pit of despair. His online course, which took place through the darkest days of the pandemic, helped me grasp the transformative potential of these global ‘cracks’ and shifts. His work reminds that a truly sustainable new world will emerge from these places.

Listening to Ourselves, Curtis & Curtis, Photo Nina J Robinson

What are you working on right now?

I have just launched my creative (ad)venture The Space To Come, a company that tests ways art can connect, heal, and transform our relationships to ourselves and each other. TSTC brings together two of my life-long practices – coaching and curation. I’m curious how artists, healers and the public can co-create sensitive spaces to reflect, repair and reimagine new relationships.

I’ve been cultivating this practice for a few years but, given the crumbling state of the old world and the urgency to create a new one, the time is now for this work. Sometimes the “space” can be an interactive art project, a participatory workshop or a residency within a community. For instance, we’re about to curate a series of conversation dinners between the people of Newcastle-Under-Lyme for Appetite to encourage more intimate and compassionate connections. Meanwhile we’re developing a live programme with the Arnolfini gallery that will invite “felt-sense” experiences of artworks inspired by my radio 4 documentary Transcendence How Can I Feel Art Again?

Essentially our projects seek to use artistic forms to practice compassion and deepen our emotional intelligence.

Listening to Ourselves, Gaylene & Gaylene, Photo Nina J Robinson

What are your core values and drivers that you bring to your work? What do you care about?

I believe there is a desperate need for compassionate societies. Compassion is more than a fluffy add-on. It is kindness in response to suffering. If stitched into our personal and social relations, compassion can radically transform how we approach ourselves and each other. Violence is a common response to unacknowledged suffering. If we can find transformative ways to first acknowledge that there is suffering, including our own, then there might be the possibility for collective renewal. Arts’ fascination with the unresolved, the search for beauty where none should exist, the spotlight on our flawed fragility, is a great starting point.

How has this last year affected your ideas of what you want your contribution to be in future?

Like many others, this past year has been deeply exposing. The removal of distracting temptations while living so closely with death has been disarming. I suppose we have now experienced what day to day life is like for much of the world.  I’m grieving, for the unnecessary deaths, the result of an uncompassionate leadership, while buoyed by the voices of resistance that are coalescing.   I am now clear that the Old World, the one built principally on shame, fear, prejudice and greed, is crumbling and it’s time for a new one to emerge.

When I launched The Space To Come I felt like I was coming out. I’ve always felt at odds with the makeup of the world and my constant and failed attempts to fit in. My work is now about actively cultivating the values – awareness, compassion, connection, generosity – that could create a new foundation from which to build afresh – ideally before we terraform Mars.

Listening to Ourselves, Steve & Steve, Photo Nina J Robinson

What do you think should change in the arts and how can we actively contribute to bringing about this change?

A new world founded on new principles would allow for new art to flourish. I dream of a time when the study of our emotional, ancestral, and imaginative intelligence comes before the study of stuff. Imagine if we were taught to listen and connect in healing ways, be comfortable with vulnerability, learn how to support wider ecologies. Art would then take a different place in society.

Art could then be woven into the fabric of our lives rather than be viewed as “content” or investment. Artists would be respected as the chroniclers, matchmakers, builders, healers, truth-sayers, doulas and undertakers that they are. A painting could take our breath away in aisle 4 of Aldi and we could be served an operetta on the bus home. Spoken word poets would open PMQ’s and a dance-off would close the day. Our schools would let children lie on their backs and tell stories as well as stick to the lines of a book.  Amanda Gorman’s poem at Biden’s inauguration encapsulated so much more than hours of speeches ever could. She helped us collectively feel, release, and emotionally process an extraordinary period of our lives. And that’s the whole point of art.

We can help by releasing art into the wild, setting it free from the hallowed halls and allowing it to inspire more expansive and urgent conversations between us.

Do you have a favourite exhibition/project/event that you have curated and if so, what makes it particularly special to you?

The Space to Come’s first online project Listening to Ourselves feels like the foundation to the work we will explore here. It’s an audio-visual project that combines photographs of people, lockdown friends in fact, seemingly in conversation with themselves. Two soundtracks accompany the images. One is a new soundscape with suggestions of how the music can be used to inspire a more intentional conversation with yourself. An intentional conversation is a way to explore our own in-the-moment thinking. It’s an experiment in developing self-awareness or self-befriending. The second audio piece is a recording of me having such a conversation.

The pieces were developed and created with photographer Nina Robinson and Gianmaria Givanni/ANNN who is an architect and a sonic spatial composer. The piece invites people to try the exercise then send back an audio response which we will weave into a new audio piece.

Listening to Ourselves explores all my key inquiries. How might we build more intentional connections with ourselves and others? How might artistic practices inspire more instinctive responses? And how might we bring together disparate voices to create new, aware communities?

This work may seem like an exercise in self-care, and while that might be an affect, the roots are social and political. It’s about testing out a new basis for new types of relationships. We’ll need those in the new world.

Listening to Ourselves, Beki & Beki, Photo Nina J Robinson 

What do you offer or provide artists in the curatorial or creative relationship?

This practice offers all collaborators – artists, healers, and the public – the opportunity to share something we haven’t shared before in a new way. With The Solace Salons, I brought together coach/therapist Jackee Holder, creative researcher Dr Sindi Gordon and myself with choreographer Freddie Opoku Addaie, comic John Simmit and composer and visual artist Liz Gre. Together we devised a new form of ‘performance workshop’ where the stories explored were brought by the participants. This way of working requires the artistic collaborators and the participants to be courageous and vulnerable. This is a nascent process. It’s felt. We must be kind to ourselves and each other as things won’t necessarily work in the way we imagined. It also forces us to be alive to what is actually unfolding.

What risks have you taken in your career that perhaps did not go so well but you learnt the most from?

Being the youngest child I was a born risk taker. I often move before I have anything fully worked out. I recently left my job as Head of BFI Southbank in order to decolonise my career in a sense. I wanted to move past a certain kind of ‘Old World’ idea of linear progress and development. This led to the formation of The Space To Come. The trouble is when I try and explain the project, many don’t understand it! So, this might be a risk that doesn’t go so well. But I am learning the most fundamental lessons of my life so far such as inquiries are not outcomes. Inquiries are to be explored which means I need the courage to step off the beaten path and then to cultivate the attention required to pick my way through unbeaten territory. If I want to create a new way of living I must first prepare to let go of everything.

Mission to the Land of Misplaced Memories, 2014, Gaylene Gould / dubmorphology, Tate Britain

Who or what inspires or lifts you up?

Conversations that allow us to say things or reveal parts of ourselves that we wouldn’t usually. Within each of us there is a library of experiences and emotional complexities.  Conversations with friends, family, shop assistants, the person in front of in the coffee queue….Satiating my salacious interest in people revives me. My broader passion in stories and art stems from this desire for human understanding and a deeper awareness.

What helpful resources would you recommend to artists?

Learn to have really great conversations with yourselves and others. Have rigorous conversations with yourselves that help you constantly review your held positions. Soothe your internal critic by practising Kristen Neff’s self-compassion exercises so you can hear your quieter voices. Practise spending time in unbeaten territory alone – even if it’s simply walking down streets you don’t recognise. Reveal your vulnerabilities to people then ask them kind, expansive questions in return. There are many resources that can help with craft but I think the work of creation is about activating a curiosity and befriending your own vulnerabilities.

Well Fed curated conversation dinner event, Photo Nina J Robinson

Do you have any advice for people wanting to work in the arts?

The Arts (capital A) is in a very contentious place. The growing commercial pressures can be distorting and the funded sector can be restricting and protectionist. Artists and cultural workers interested in new, expansive territories can find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Understanding the operating systems of these worlds whilst articulating and cleaving to your own value base seems particularly critical right now. Lucky for us, a brave new world is coming so it’s time to invent more values-led, compassionate spaces to exist in.

Follow Gaylene on Twitter @gaylene_g Instagram @gaylenegould / @thespacetocome or visit / 


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Gallerist Interview: PAUL HEDGE

Paul Hedge is the co-owner and founder of Hales gallery, located in London and New York.

Over the last three decades he has skillfully ridden the relentless waves of change in the art world.

As an evangelical arts enthusiast, he has an irresistible way of communicating the transformative power of art. He is deeply curious and has developed an encyclopedic knowledge of artists, movements and the cultural contexts that have shaped them. He is a warm, generous host, and captivating storyteller.

In every exchange, Paul’s genuine love and appreciation of the artists he works with is evident. He is truly delighted when anybody connects with the artists and artworks he shines a light on.

I appreciate Paul’s eye, his programme and that he sees opportunities where others see obstacles. I have so appreciated his generosity, time and support over the years.

Paul Hedge, at Hales London, 2017. Photography by Charlie Littlewood

Paul Hedge was born in Stevenage New Town in 1961 and is the Co-Owner/Founder, Hales (London/New York). He studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths college in the early 1980s, gaining a first-class hons degree. He was a co-founder of the short lived but innovative Scratch Gallery, one of the first pioneering, artist led spaces in London, located in New Cross.

In 1992, after art school and nine years working as a postman, Hedge, along with his business partner Paul Maslin, opened Hales. The gallery produced numerous influential shows in the 1990s with artists including Jake and Dinos Chapman, Mike Nelson, Hew Locke, Sarah Jones, Richard Woods, Hans op de Beeck and Tomoko Takahashi. In 2004 Hales relocated to The Tea Building, a former warehouse space at the heart of in London’s Shoreditch, a site that the gallery occupies till today. In 2016 Hales, opened a gallery space in New York’s Lower East Side, relocating in 2018 to the district of Chelsea.

Today, the gallery represents a wide array of international artists and artists estates and is a regular on the international art fair circuit.

During his time in the art world, Paul Hedge has served on the boards of The Contemporary Art Society and The Society of London Art Dealers. He has lectured extensively and has acted as an advisor to artists and collectors.

Paul Hedge and Paul Maslin, Deptford, London,1996

What are you doing, reading, watching or listening to now that is helping you to stay positive?

I generally take a very positive approach to anything and everything. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think”. If I ever had the desire to have a tattoo then this quote would be at the centre of it!

The Specials version of this 1949 classic penned by Herb Magidson with music by Carl Sigman is a tune I have been returning to (among many other things) for a headphone moment over this lockdown. It’s a cheerful number with a simple message.

Of course, I understand that it is not possible to enjoy everything in life, (I too have my dark nights of the soul) but I generally believe that good things can be drawn from seemingly very unpromising moments and this view is supported by my experience. This simple song drives me on. I say to myself, “get on with your mission Paul, and do it with cheer and good grace!”.

I’m currently reading a very eclectic group of books which I’m dipping in and out of. I have been reading  material associated with the curator Lawrence Alloway’s exhibition, Situation which took place at the RBA galleries in 1960.It is quite an important show for those of us interested in the development of abstract painting in Britain.

There is so much to know…it never stops!

My 83-year-old mum sends me a bible verse each day which I look at first thing in the morning. The bible is quite a read!! One day she might send me bloodshed and slaughter and the next day is all peace and love!

Other than that, I’m reading gardening books. I’m currently getting my head around garden designer Nigel Dunnett’s essential guide to naturalistic planting. It’s very engaging! The Sheffield botanists are making all of the big leaps forward.

Rachael Champion, Interstate 495 is a Terminal Moraine, 8 September – 13 October 2018, Photo by JSP Art Photography

What are you working on right now?

I have become aware that there is an audience for what I have to say about my thirty years working as a dealer in the art world. It’s not been a predictable journey and more of a roller-coaster of events than anything else. I think my working-class background makes me a rare beast among art dealers and so as a consequence, I have been writing about my experiences with the aim of encouraging others. A book maybe??

I have also latterly discovered Instagram. I was never very keen on social media but I have inadvertently developed my own idiosyncratic diary style of presenting an image with a related short text each day. It’s a (sort of) analogue approach to the digital world and runs quite separately to Hales social media. I have made it what I want it to be and I am comfortable with that. It’s quite nice to be able to present contemporary art in the context of other things. Cooking, gardening, studio pottery, interiors, in fact anything is fair game I think.

Hew Locke, Where Lies the Land, Hales London, 26 September – 9 November 2019, Photo by Anna Arca

What are your core values and drivers that you bring to the gallery? What do you care about?

Most commercial art galleries are a labour of love and that is how we have always run Hales. I personally care about it! Every detail! All of it!

I talk about Hales in the plural as we are a very tight knit team. There is much more to Hales than me. We like each other and we enjoy working together. Over the course of my career, I have seen the London scene grow from punk-style DIY into a highly competitive capitalist driven marketplace. I often ask myself how somebody with essentially socialist values should behave in the face of that?

Simply expressed, I would sum up my response in this way: Be aspirational, be honest, be efficient and be kind!

Paul Hedge and Trenton Doyle Hancock at Mass MoCA, 2019

How has this last year affected your ideas of what you want your contribution to be in future?

Anyone who says they have breezed through the time of Covid is not being entirely truthful.

The pandemic has put the cat among the pigeons and has posed an existential threat to an art world reliant on travel and gatherings. I have been looking at my personal carbon footprint. It is much bigger than I would like. I am thinking more carefully about how I can do my job in the face of possible catastrophic climate change. It is certainly making me rethink.

This quiet period of reflection has also been good in regard to re-thinking the positioning of the artists and estates that Hales works with. I would like to be able to say that we (at Hales) have shone a light upon artists and placed them within a context that people can understand and enjoy. Part of my job is to shine that light as brightly as possible!

What do you enjoy the most about running a commercial gallery?

When Hales opened in 1992, we had little cash but we decided that above all, we wished to avoid any reliance upon conventional sources of funding. Essentially, we felt that the freedom afforded us by being able to make decisions independently of political interference or dictates from on high would be a preferable route to take.

At the time this meant that we earned our livings from the frothing of cappuccino, the cooking of pasta dishes and the preparation of sandwiches. In essence, we ran a café to fund exhibitions in our gallery. It was extremely hard work but gave us a great deal of autonomy.

The café is no more but it served us well. It gave Hales time to get off the ground and we continue to reap the rewards of that decision made way back then. I am proud about the manner in which we began our venture and I enjoyed my role as chef/curator/dealer for many of those years. However, I am also glad that our success allowed me to focus on the art and I am eternally grateful that I no longer have to rely on my culinary skills in order to run a dynamic gallery.

What do you feel proud of?

The fact that Hales has been an enterprise of resourcefulness and innovation and continues to thrive as a business after thirty years. Often the most artistically adventurous galleries leave the business structures to one side and collapse because of a lack of attention to the fiscal basics. The reverse is also true. I am proud of the balancing act that we have performed and continue to do so. I think that we have changed the course of many artists careers for the better. We may even have contributed to an understanding of art history is some small way. I am personally proud that I was able to progress from my former job as a postman and hold it together sufficiently to develop a vision for Hales which in turn led to where we are today.

Maja Ruznic, Name of the Voice, 10 September – 24 October 2020, Hales London

How do you discover artists and what makes you finally decide you want to work with an artist?

All I can say on the matter is that I have to fall in love and be obsessed with the work initially. I do not see any way to avoid this personally. In reality, myself and the two directors, Sasha Gomeniuk and Stuart Morrison, bring together our discoveries and we think things through together. Decisions are never made lightly.

Paul Hedge with Basil Beattie, Frieze London 2019

How do you gauge which artists and artworks will be interesting to audiences?

Our job as a gallery (at least a very simplified version) is to:

a) get excited about artists ourselves

b) present and contextualise their works along with our findings to others

c) encourage contagion and financial exchange

It sounds straightforward but it really isn’t easy!

Ask yourself, who are the people who make up the audience for the art shown at a commercial gallery? Are they the clients of the gallery?….or does the gallery have a responsibility to whoever decides to walk in on any given day? Or both? Again, ask yourself, are the works on show for the sole purpose of sales? or are commercial galleries a free service provided for the public? In my view, a gallery run for profit (which benefits both the artist and gallery team alike has unknowingly agreed to partaking in an extraordinary feat of dexterity and balance. As my uncle (who worked as an electrician for British rail all his life) once asked me “are you a shop, a showroom or a museum?”

I am still puzzling over that question!

Carolee Schneemann, More Wrong Things, 2017, Hales London

What kind of support or expertise do you offer or provide artists?

I think embarking on a career in art can be likened to leaping from an aircraft without the requisite understanding of how a parachute operates. Artists require that sort of freedom but it certainly has its dangers! Galleries try to provide a means of safe landing. Commercial galleries do much more than enact financial transactions but it is impossible to pin point exactly what will be needed for each career at any given time.

The best relationships between galleries and artists are ones of an unspoken understanding. Having said that, often the most direct support a gallery can provide for the artists is money. Money = freedom…at least in theory!

Paul Hedge and Omar Ba at Omar’s Supernova Exhibition, Hales London, 2017

How do you go about building a market for an artist?

This is the area of a gallery’s work I feel most able to contribute something meaningful to.

I think about this night and day…sometimes literally night and day (especially during lockdown)! I can only skim the surface with my answer here. I would like to supply you with a more nuanced reply, but it would run to pages of text…another time maybe?

Here are the basics. It is clear to me that art history has been written from a particular perspective which is not terribly sympathetic to many of the things and the art I care about and hold dear. Artists are often over looked and unjustly forgotten. It really doesn’t matter at what point in their careers that this might take place. Their work is neglected for a reason but it is rarely because it isn’t good or important. Race, gender, class are all issues that Hales has been concerned with since its inception and are often (but not exclusively) reasons for a historical re-assessment, re-analysis and finally re-presentation.

I often ask myself, why has this career been overlooked? What has this artist done that is important? What makes them stand out? Which particular moments are most relevant to a contemporary debate?…and finally, how can we at Hales present this in a dynamic way so that a wider audience can understand its relevance?

Contemporary art dealing is as much about providing an interesting narrative that runs parallel with an understanding of the work itself. Timing is also key. Often younger artists require more direct attention. A helpful word at the right moment can go a long way to progressing a career! In mid-career, artists need to have more control over their output. A gallery can help by assisting the artist to prioritize where their work will be best placed for the longer term.

Omar Ba, Supernova, 2017, Hales, London

What risks have you taken that perhaps did not go so well but you learnt the most from?

It seems to me that entering into anything at all from the position of strength is unlikely to be a big risk. If you have pots of money and gamble with 5% of it then the risk is small and the result of losing is not likely to inflict irreparable damage. Not surprisingly, things are often weighted in favour of those with substantial resources to draw upon. What does one do in the face of such competition?

At almost every stage of developing Hales we have had to take some highly risky decisions, but at each juncture I draw upon our togetherness and the resourceful attitude we have developed as we find a way to deal with the problems. Taking risks has led to many successes and it has undoubtedly made us stronger and taken us to new heights.

Virginia Jaramillo, Conflux, 10 September – 31 October, Hales New York, Photo by JSP Art Photography

What new strategies are you trying or considering in the current climate? How will you measure success?

In my lifetime, this has been the first global pandemic that I have faced (thank goodness). It is hard to know what to do in the face of it, except talk with my colleagues and artists regularly and try to put what we come up with into practice.

The art world will inevitably learn to live with Covid but it is likely to trigger a root and branch reassessment of our current business practices and usher in a new way of doing things.

This presents opportunity. I like to think that the Hales team is independently minded enough to be at the forefront of that innovation and also smart enough to recognise the breakthrough’s made by others which can be adopted to improve our own lot.

Sunil Gupta, Christopher Street, 30 April – 1 June 2019, Hales New York, Photo by JSP Art Photography

What insight from your experience in the art world would you like to share to empower others?

It goes full circle to your very first question…and my reply “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think”!

Try and take pleasure in what you do at every stage. Granted, sometimes it isn’t easy. It takes perseverance. Remember to take time to reflect on your achievements whilst simultaneously attempting to shape the future.

I often think to myself, how can I begin to effect change for good with the resources I have available right here right now? This approach has helped me immeasurably throughout my career.



Follow Paul on Instagram @_paul_hedge_ @halesgallery and visit the gallery website Hales Gallery

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Curator interview: MATTHIEU LELIÈVRE

I first met the dynamic art historian and curator Matthieu Lelièvre when we found ourselves stationed in neighbouring gallery booths at an art fair in Basel in 2009. I was representing Ceri Hand Gallery alongside my wonderful Gallery Manager Lucy Johnston. Matthieu was representing Hamish Morrison Galerie, alongside the lovely and charming Founding Director Hamish.

We quickly discovered that we all bonded over a serious commitment to our artists and the hope and joy they bring to our lives, whilst sharing a gleefully devilish sense of humour. Our squawks of delight in the banal certainly helped break the waves of inevitable crushing tedium and paranoia experienced intermittently during the run of the fair.

I kept in touch ever since, visiting Matthieu in Berlin and Paris, following his intrepid adventures in the artworld and enjoying his programming immensely. We continue to connect over a shared love of visceral, darkly playful interdisciplinary artworks and working with artists who challenge perception and societies norms.

I admire the pace that Matthieu works at and enjoy his ability to consistently conjure something from nothing. I connect with his grit and determination to effect positive change for artists and audiences. His willpower and delight in decolonising the institution and engaging a more diverse range of creatives and audiences in a collaborative dialogue is much needed right now.

I also love our conversations. His generosity in sharing and exchanging knowledge and skills is the kind of expansive thinking and community building attitude I believe wholeheartedly in. I am always keen to know what he does next and love seeing him lifting others up wherever he goes.

Matthieu Lelièvre, Copyright E Vion-Delphin, Artwork by Jean Jullien

Matthieu Lelièvre is an art historian and independent curator for contemporary art. Since 2018 he has served as Artistic Advisor at Contemporary Art Museum in Lyon (macLYON), developing a programme dedicated to international emerging artists and international relations. Simultaneously, as a writer and an independent curator, he is currently developing several exhibitions, performances and workshops with artists and organisations in Brazil, Italy and Tunisia.

Previous experience ranges from curator and head of collections for museums and galleries such as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, independent foundations and commercial galleries, including Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac In Paris and Hamish Morrison Galerie in Berlin.

From 2016 to 2018 he joined a private foundation as its Artistic Director to build the prefiguration of its artistic and artist residency program, while initiating a collaboration with the Fine Arts Museum of Orléans, developing several exhibition’s projects of emerging artists in dialogue with the museum’s collection and the city’s history. In 2019, he joined the Palais de Tokyo to co-curate the 15th Lyon Biennale Where waters come together with other waters.

Matthieu graduated from a MA in Museum Studies at the Ecole du Louvre and a MA in art conservation at the French Institut National du Patrimoine and has served on several boards and juries.

What are you doing, reading, watching, or listening to now, that is helping you to stay positive?

It is a very good question! It is very important for me to constantly discover new things and as it is impossible to attend to concerts, exhibitions, meet new people, I really had to question myself on how to keep learning and discovering in this restrictive context, especially now that everything is and must be online. So, I subscribed to several newspapers and I gave myself some challenges like learning Russian and reconnecting with a love from my youth: video games. It gave me of course the opportunity to dig even deeper the subjects I am working on.

Jasmina Cibic, « The Gift », 2019, 3 channel video, Courtesy of the artist

What are you working on right now?

A lot of different projects. For the Contemporary Art Museum in Lyon, which I accompany as an artistic advisor, I am still working on the exhibitions we opened last October, and I prepare some new projects, for example the first solo show in France of London based Slovenian artist Jasmina Cibic, or later solo show of Jesper Just and Mary Sibande in 2022.

Simultaneously I am working with a Rio-de-Janeiro based foundation, InclusArtiz, developing a residency program for Brazilian artists at the MADRE in Naples, Italy, and we should start the program next fall if everything is going as planned.

Also, I am working on several projects with the Tunisian art scene, work I have been developing for some time now. Next spring should open a solo show of Thameur Mejri at the B7L9, the art centre of the Kamel Lazaar Foundation in Tunis.

How has this year affected your ideas of what you want your contribution to be in future?

The purpose of a museum today. At the Contemporary Art Museum in Lyon, I am accompanying the institution to develop some ideas and values, thinking around the museum’s role in society, questioning the established standards of our programmes, for example thinking of ways to co-create with new publics. Questioning the process is a never-ending job which is also fascinating because the pandemic really pushes us to renew the practices. I have worked for different structures including teaching and working with the art market. These past months have just reinforced my desire to have a curatorial practice with can help society opening its mind, based on a social dialogue. Taking the opportunity as a producer of content to defend some values and causes. In three words: to be useful.

Edi Dubien, macLYON, 2020, Copyright Blaise Adilon

What is one of your personal favourite exhibitions you have curated and why?

The most recent one which opened this autumn at museum of contemporary art, Lyon, in France. Man of a Thousand Natures is the first museum solo exhibition of an extraordinary self-taught artist named Edi Dubien. There is a lot of happiness and pride in this exhibition. Edi Dubien, through a marvellous series of drawings and sculptures shares his thoughts and experiences about an abusive childhood, a beautiful and constructive vision of Nature and some fierce messages about gender transition. In this context, we are working with fantastic people like Eva Hayward a writer and a faculty member of the Department of Gender and Women Studies at the University of Arizona, and sociologists and activists defending the cause of trans and intersex children and teenagers.

Beside presenting extraordinary artworks to the public and a beautiful show, the exhibition and its program serve a strong and progressive purpose which turns the museum into a platform of discussion and exchange but also brings consciousness and give voice to trans and intersex people. So, my pride comes from the fact that we succeed in delivering both at the same time a marvellous exhibition and a strong and useful message.

Can you describe what you ideally want to achieve when curating an exhibition? What would you hope that people experience and learn from experiencing one of your creative outputs?

Serving the artist in spreading his/her message. Helping young artists finding their audience and helping them in the process of professionalisation. When I open an exhibition, I don’t feel excited because I receive feedback that it is “beautiful”, but I am when I am told that it is interesting, challenging and that the show raises questions in the mind of its spectators. In that way I think of the spectator as an actor of the exhibition. I identified several topics and social issues I feel directly concerned by and I am doing my best to be useful, being a voice or an ally to these causes I consider to be important to defend. I don’t believe that art should necessarily “bring people together” I think it should open minds, bring awareness and self-consciousness. Give a space of expression and affirmation. That is why I am very attentive to work with women, LGBTQI+ and diversity, racial and gender…But working in public institutions forces us to work on other subjects, less personal for the sake of the diversity and the spectrum of the audience. That is why I love the opportunity of co-curating and collaborating with other professionals.

Thameur Mejri, Walking Target, 2020/21, Courtesy Galerie Selma Feriani

What do you offer or provide artists in the curatorial relationship?

The good side of having worked in commercial art galleries helped me to question and find my role in the chain between accompanying the artist being an artist, helping him/her developing their project, finding their audience, promoting it, placing the works in private and public collections, and helping them getting the attention from curators and press. Even anticipating the questions of the future like its conservation once in the collections. That range of experience gave me a lot of different skills to work with an artist during all the steps of their professional life. At the same time, working for commercial galleries, I was not interested in the process of selling but rather helping the artist building their career, so now, even as a museum curator, I am always paying attention to the global, not just getting a work done for the purpose of the show, but helping the artist’s process, to think, anticipate, produce, and place his/her work. I develop also quite often a very strong connection with the artists I work with, always remaining if not a friend, at least an advisor, a collaborator and sometime a mentor, connecting, writing for them. As I am working on several precise topics, the road does not end once the show is opened.

What risks have you taken in your career that perhaps did not go so well but you learnt the most from?

The good thing is that, with the right attitude, learning from your mistakes can bring so much more, than the damages or pain caused by the actual mistakes. There are not so many things I would have done differently because they brought me where I am today. That will sound cheesy, but I think that in a career the biggest risk is to not take risks. And if you have regrets, you are also learning to use this consciousness to adapt your choices and find more energy to move and act. For me I could give the example of having trusted at some point the wrong people, but I learned so much from that, that I really cherish the lessons. I learned for instance more about the reasons why I am doing this job, and how art can serve a bigger purpose in our societies.

What was the last artwork you purchased and why?

During the lock-down Paul Pretzer, a fantastic painter I worked with in Berlin, 10 years ago and who is quietly and beautifully developing his career in Spain yet remaining at the same time very true to his aesthetic, posted a picture of an artwork on Instagram. I asked him about the story behind the painting, the price, I considered it for ten seconds, and I jumped in. I had the feeling that it could help him, but also… it helped me. Literally cheering up, (it’s a very funny and cute painting…) and gave me back the feeling that despite the distance, art keeps people close to each other.  During the COVID-19 crises many artists are severely impacted by the reduction of possibilities, cancellation of residencies and exhibitions as well as the slowing down of the sales in the galleries.

What helpful resources would you recommend to artists?

Mostly to care about the people and to build strong connections. On the contrary of some romantic idea, Artist as a profession is not a job you do alone.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to work in the arts?

I’d like to address mostly to people who might think that working in the arts is not for them. Mostly people who hear about it but have the feeling this is a world they do not belong to. I want to say that their lives, their experience, and vision is probably going to serve a bigger purpose and help other people.

Follow Matthieu on Instagram @matthieu_lelievre and Twitter @matthlelievre  

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