24 November 2006

A Place for Creative Work

I have recently returned from a one day conference in London organised by EUCLID, (UK, European and International information and services for arts and culture) entitled: A Place for Creative Work: International Responses.

"Finding the right space to work as an artist or creative practitioner is still a challenge for many. This conference brings together people from Europe and the Americas who are involved in delivering particularly innovative and successful responses to this challenge." says the opening paragraph of the conference literature. This is what it did, and it was an eye opening experience for me to hear some of the projects that are taking place around the world.

Generally there was a lot of discussion about investment in people, not just buildings, and the need to create a human infrastructure as well as the bricks and mortar. There was debate about the need to shift the current paradigm so that creative people are recognised as valuable assets, not a luxury or a drain, and that there needs to be a global creative revolution! As I was listening to this I thought about all the shopping malls that are springing up in towns and cities and the increasing similarity between each of them. I thought about the planning departments who make the decisions about what facilities we 'need' that in essence define our very culture. It seems that we need to shop....all the time...in the same shops....everywhere. So I thought, who decides that we dont need a creative community to occupy areas within a city centre? Creative communities can regenerate areas, they can be a commercial resource as well as a tourist attraction. Shawn Patrick McLearen from Artspace USA (a non-profit real estate developer) sited exactly HOW WHAT WHY and WHERE, (which included figures) for all of us to gawp at with envy. According to Keith Hackett (a freelance consultant), the EU Lisbon vision is to nurture regional distictivness. Surely art and craft has a central role to play in this vision?

Tim Jones the Director of Artscape in Canada, another non-profit enterprise, talked about building creative communities, developing creative districts and clusters and cultivating creative cities. He believed that the way forward is to be pro-active and deepen the understanding about creativity. He was the person who said we needed a paradigm shift in order to develop a culture of creativity and innovation. People he said can change the world for the better.

The director of the Media Guild in Amsterdam, Andrew Bullen talked about the Guilds aims, which are to "stimulate the innovation potential of [the Guild] and multi media creative industries by bringing together, coaching and enabling talented starters, young entrepreneurs and established professionals to develop and prototype their ideas'. like the other speakers the space they inhabited is in a central location and was rescued from demolition. And like the others, there was nothing second rate about these spaces, they are contemporary workspaces for "creatives".

I just want to discuss one of the final speakers briefly, David Panton from ACME in London. He explained Barratt (the house builders) wanted to build apartments in a prime spot that, I think, had been targeted for business use. Barratt approached ACME and between them devised a way for Barratt to build a sister block that would be used as studio spaces. Their plan was accepted.

So if like Gus Casely -Howard (this months Crafts Magazine) you are fed up with "...craft not being as glamorous as fashion, or as marketable as design, or as credible as visual art [when] we all know that the craft market has a greater potential than the fine arts market , that more people want to buy craft than painting, that a greater proportion of the public want to participate in craft", we are going to have to give some thought to space, how we get some(much more than we have at present), and how we develop creative communities.....aren't we?


  1. I was wondering when someone would mention the 'call to action' article. Yes, I think you're absolutely right about the space issue, and that we need greater support from those with the capacity to support us.

    But on the subject of the article, I also think there needs to be some kind of 'student activism'; Frieze and Goldsmiths were both mentioned, but the success of Hirst et. al. was not down to the institution itself or any other established (establishment?) structures. They did it themselves (if you believe Michael Craig Martin who said as much in a recent Guardian interview).

  2. georgina follett10:15 am

    The point I think is about craftpeople creating new markets not tied to traditional gallery and commission structures, which often make craft seem unreasonable in terns of cost, it would give real independence to a community pf practitiners, and open up new markets, why haven't these models been seriously looked at within the UK and Scotland in particular.
    It is the infra-structure that dails to support the way we work, we have always had to fend for ourselves, but if the opportunity to actually aquire suitably designed living work spaces was developed, it would help raise the engagement and level of craft practice available to the wider audience. Someone star a call to the Scottish Excutive to begin this process of thought?