Bank Street Artist Residency 2016
Setting up a Residency from Scratch
This was a self-initiated project which was a totally new experience and steep learning curve. However taking the initiative and asking pertinent questions from people who have experience is a good starting point. I knew that the objective was to create a lively, sustainable, beneficial environment for all the artists that would be participating. I was very fortunate that Antony Dixon supported me and helped coordinate certain elements.
This was the First Artist Residency on Canary Wharf Estate and possibly the first UK Residency on a Construction Site.
Skill Sets Required:
Personal and Professional Development
Problem Solving and Resilience
I knew that the residency needed to be both professional, challenging and vibrant. It needed a good foundation and a positive mindset in order to keep momentum over three months. I also realised that whatever hard work I put in would not necessarily shine though if the participating artists did not step up to the challenge and abide by the brief set of responding to Canary Wharf.
I felt it really important for the artists to all fill in a formal application which would include an outline proposal. There were no word limits set but this alone would define whether the artists would really be engaged with the environment or not. Once accepted there was a formal signed agreement and each Resident Artist had to undergo a Health and Safety Induction. Codes of conduct were sent to artists and displayed in the residency space. Any artist wanting to photograph on Canary Wharf Estate were asked to apply for a photography permit. I liaised between Canary Wharf Groups and the artist. There were always ongoing dialogues that could be held through emails or Facebook.
I felt that the residency would be a research and resource gathering excerise for the most part but also a place where the artists could come together at least once a week for optional crits and discussions to engage in a dialogue that would feed each and every proceeding week. I led this each week bar one.
I set up monthly discussions and optional crits to evaluate where each of the artists felt they had reached and how they thought they would wish to continue.
Meetings and Future Developments
Having initially met with the Director of the Construction site there were a number of issues that I felt needed to be resolved.
It appears that within the construction site meetings are the norm and are arranged all the time. Meeting for meetings. I felt as if this was always a safe way of discussing issues whilst maintaining a professional relationship and building a rapport.
Through a number of meeting I was able to develop a good relationshp within Canary Wharf Construction and start to offer ideas of how artists could interact with the construction projects and work alongside the Considerate Constructors Scheme. For instance on Wood Wharf an idea is to develop and reclaim a part of the estate and create a garden for local school children to design and interact with. I suggested that by allowing artists to interact with the school children we could also create workshops and bring art into that outside space. This project has now been approved through negotiations, presentations and good communication. These may also become site wide with Canary Wharf Construction who has other sites including the redevelopment of the Shell Complex on the Southbank.
I see something through and take responsibility. For this project there were multi levels of accountability. Firstly this is where my husband works so anything could reflect back to him. Secondly because I was project leading I was accountable to our hosts for virtually anything anybody said or did not just on the constructions site, in the residency accommodation but also whilst on the Canary Wharf Estate.
All this responsibility was built on the back off an incredible mound of administration. From writing countless emails to creating application forms, residency house rules, agreement forms. Setting up social media and blog website, creating an image and identity for the residency. At times it felt like I would never resurface from the monumental tasks. It also meant that whilst I was attending to all this I could not work at my practice so Time Management was key. To say that I spent the best part of two months pretty much solidly in front of a computer would be a starting point. It was very rewarding at times and at other times hugely frustrating particularly when waiting for communication to flow both ways.
Regular Crits and External Artists Interaction
One of the most valuable interactions that artists get is engaging with other artists. Whilst aware that I intended to factor in weekly crits, I also thought that by interacting with external artists would be an enriching experience. Having already introduced myself and Antony Dixon to Canary Wharf Arts & Events they had shown interest in our residency and wanted to come and interact on the last Wednesday of each month.
Additionally I wrote to a number of external artists that I know, including ex tutors of mine asking if they would be willing to come along to lead and interact with the artist in the residency. For the most part I had expected not a lot of response for various reasons but I was delighted when Sam Herbert agreed to come along for our very last Wednesday at Bank Street Residency.
We spent the day before installing our work and in the afternoon I had sent out invitations all the contacts I had made within Canary Wharf Group and invited them to come and see what we had been up to over the last three months. Sadly it was poorly attended but we had some very positive feedback from those that came.
This was an incredible opportunity to create a new artists' environment which very specifically required an artistic response. The challenges were predominantly the huge amount of administration involved as I had wanted this to be professional, structured with a lively outcome.
Planning was key to this along with communication with our hosts. I always followed any personal contact, such as meetings, with an email thanking that person for their valuable time. This way I built a good rapport, which meant that when I started to realise that the residency had potential to become a viable annual project I felt comfortable approaching the relevant people.
In terms of the artists participation I had initially stated at their induction that I had built the foundations and in terms of success it was up to the individual to put in what they wanted to get out. Some did engage wholeheartedly and found the experience very enriching whilst others did not.
Keeping the momentum going after the end of the Residency
Through the Facebook Group page I set up I have been able to easily communicate with the residency artists and vice versa.
I have arranged regular meet ups to discuss how work is developing. I am inviting the remaining artists to bring work along so that we can keep the momentum and interest going. I hoped by using this model the slow bun will allow more time for ideas to develop and mature.
Our first meeting was in November at Wimbledon using the project space. It was a really good, lively day with a good turn out.
The objective will be to exhibit in October 2017 somewhere in and around Canary Wharf, if possible.
Project leader and Artist in Resident
Bank Street Residency, Canary Wharf 6th July - 30th September 2016
To be involved in a residency that has been created and organised off one's own back seems a bit of an odd way of approaching it in my mind. However, I was really looking forward to the challenge of putting aside all the mountains of administration I had been involved with and getting back to research and planning ideas.
I knew Canary Wharf from previous experiences. I had responded to the environment in the past. I was looking at how my practice would fit within this very particular environment. Canary Wharf, like many places, is multi-faceted and it was this that really appealed to me. The outwardly affluent area has many layers that forms the foundations from the obvious large corporate banks and businesses to the minions that help sustain and create the environment. It was these elements that were of particualr interest. On my first revisit I immediately noticed a coffee stall, run by an organisation called Change Please, which I knew was supported by The Big Issue, a scheme that has been rolled out across London. In an environment which feels quite clinically clean and rich here was an ex homeless person being supported by both The Big Issue and Canary Wharf Group.
This was a very small section of a much bigger picture and looking to dissect and analyse how I could encompass so many areas was going to be a challenge. I looked to study and research the everyday workings of the environment looking at the commuters and the many different work environments from banking, retail to construction and pretty much as many different aspects as I could find. On the second group inductions I saw a falconer walking around with a large Hawk. Obvious in many ways as the presence of pigeons is negligible but not expected in many other ways. This got me thinking about how I needed to rationalise and process, study and respond to so many roles and placements around Canary Wharf.
With all this wealth of research and resurce material it will be a challenge to create a body of work that reflects all these areas. The thought is that there will be a show in the following year at the end of the next residency that takes place.