Circuit, the large art gallery – youth sector programme run through Tate London – has just published a collection of eight commissioned research papers. Two of them come from CRACL members.
Nicky Sim reports on her PhD research (a collaborative doctorate with Tate, supervised by Pat Thomson and Emily Pringle). Nicky examined the partnerships between galleries and the youth sector. She notes, towards the end of Natural Allies or Uneasy Bedfellows?:
Sections of the youth and community work field can offer insight into more inclusive ways of working and can potentially support gallery practitioners to retune their understanding of their accountabilities (Graham, 2012b). Galleries need to cultivate space for these insights to be listened to and utilised in order to avoid the scenario where (in the language of a youth work practitioner) youth work expertise exists as a “sideshow” to gallery expertise. Youth workers frequently exercise knowledge of young people’s hyperlocal social fields, and cultivate an ability to connect with young people within these fields. These are traits that few art institutions naturally possess, but which are essential for developing meaningful relationships with young people. By working more consistently together, youth and visual art practitioners have the potential to reimagine the parameters of gallery-based informal youth provision and to reassert the position of creative, open-access and democratic youth work in civic space. But any localised, temporary examples of collaboration will only be able to gain traction as replicable and sustainable models of practice if they are supported by a much wider and more integrated collaborative field – at both regional and national levels. (p. 64)
Becky Coles and Pat Thomson have been following some of the young artists engaged in Circuit programming, looking to see how Circuit fitted into their lives. They say
Some young people were orientated to being paid artists, curators and creative professionals. Among our participants, they came from the more privileged backgrounds. They could live with their parents and be financially supported; they had better knowledges about how to build experience and networks and how to develop a professional identity suited to roles in the arts and creative industries. They used Circuit to:
- develop practical knowledge of the arts and their potential place in it
- gain symbolic capital from their association with a gallery
- and to find contacts in the art world.
Other young people, feeling themselves far from this competitive professional world, accepted that they would not make money from art and subsidised their lives as artists with other work. Some chose to take work, for example as a teacher, which took them away from their art practice. Others chose time to practice their art over professional work and lived a very frugal life. Neither group could afford to rent studio space. For this group, Circuit was a way to remain in contact with arts organisations and with communities of artists.
A third group, those with least family resources, wanted to find less prestigious but stable work in the arts, in marketing or community programming. A few planned their career strategy at university and
joined Circuit while still in formal education, as part of an attempt to gain experience and knowledge. However, others left university without a plan
and joined Circuit as graduates to find out more about the arts jobs market and to find work. They worked in bars, shops and call centres while trying to find stable paid work in the arts and were not always successful in finding it. Eleven interviewees left full-time education before or during the research either because they had graduated or did not complete their course. Only six of these eleven were earning their living doing the kind of work they wanted.
The research raises questions for galleries about what role they ought, or might take to help emerging young artists build careers and lives. (p 5-6)
This research is now in its fifth and final year, so there is more to come about these young artists.