I am delighted to be the ACAVA Spode Works Studio’s first Artist in residence from now until January 2017.
ACAVA launched 43 new studios (75% of which are already filled) on the 24th September with a day of creative activity across the town. This included the launch of the Spode Rose Garden (the creation of which I have been involved in myself) and the Stoke Art Map- a printed document which will hopefully be republished year on year.
The residency aims to chart the impact of the Spode studios and the local art scene which has been growing here for some years now, but has recently started to pick up pace.
I introduced my residency with an exhibition on the launch day- in which I used myself as a case study. I displayed some recent work along with the budget, hours worked and equivalent day rate along with some other documents- such as my working tax credit calculation and calendar pages. The aim of this was to lay on the table the realities of working life as an artist. There is a taboo i have experienced where holding back and appearing professional alienates you from other artists and the typical low-wage worker, but to do otherwise feels like denigrating your own abilities.
With this exhibition I am saying that ability, value, skill, has no relationship with pay in this market. Artist Dan Wiggins displayed a number of works at the exhibition Paradise Now (Curated by Siobhan Mcaleer) One of which stated “The companies I deal with are slowly recognising that if I become the business person they wish for, I will no longer be the artist they seek.” I, and so many others I expect, feel slightly poisoned as an artist by the constant funding bids, evaluations, feasibility studies and lunch meetings. We then feel under pressure to ‘deliver’ and be good value for money- commoditising ourselves and scraping the bottom of the money barrel for the scraps of our own pay. The value for us is in how our work moves things forward, affects someone’s opinion or (the holy grail) changes someone’s life. The value is never the car/tv/holiday we’ll get to purchase with the fee.
So with my own values out in the open for all to see- I am embarking on this project to see how others value the work Stoke artists are doing, and have done historically. As the first of many residencies that will chart the progress of the art scene in Stoke, I feel a great sense of responsibility to capture the feeling of this present time, which is an exciting and decisive time in Stoke.