Thursday, March 5, 2015

No artist is an island

Site crew Alex Wylde and JonJo McEvoy helped unload, before the next sculpture.

One of my students texted me today, to congratulate me for my work appearing in an article "Ten of the Best" in The West Australian newspaper today.

In my reply I thanked her for bringing it to my attention.

I also thanked Cherie for her support over the years it took me to make it.

(Years before she had also helped me obtain the kiln in which most of the work was fired.)

I later clarified my thoughts in a conversation with fellow studio artist Carol Rowling.

This is a summary and expansion of that conversation.

While my motivation to create good art may contribute to this small success, is only part of the story.

Success never comes overnight. The ninety-nine percent perspiration, one percent luck rule also applies in the arts.

But this too, does not fully explain how I was able to dedicate two and a half years to making one, two piece artwork.

One of the reasons why people work together, in any organisation. and in my case the Robertson Park Artists Studio, is it makes it so much easier.  We support each other, share in the lows and highs, and gives another reason to come into "work". documents the build.

We also share the financial, administration, cleaning etc workload of maintaining the studio, the physical space in which the artwork was created

Most discussions of Artists Studios or Artist Run Initiatives focus sharply on this aspects.

But again, these fail to capture a much more critical aspect.  Who supports us?

In the arts, audiences are an afterthought.  This is because it comes after the making.  Fair enough, let's set that aside for now.

Something is still missing from explaining the whole process of art making.

Our families and friends provide substantial financial, social, and moral support to us, in order of us to be artists.  They are often publicllly acknowledged.

But on their own, over an extended period the burden of supporting single-minded overclocking artists such as us, can eventually be too much.  I speak from personal experience.

So we have developed a larger support group.  Around eighty students attend the studio on a regular basis, providing both financial, social, and moral support for all five studio artists.  In return we share what we know and have learnt, plus share our studio space and time with them.  Many are also artists.

Then there is the families and friends of these students, who encourage and provide financial, social, childcare and moral support for the students, so they can come to the studio, to the classes and workshops.

All up I guess there must be around 350 people who have either directly or indirectly supported myself, while I created the 700 kg sculpture.

Then there is the board and 16 staff members of the nonprofit organisation that organises every aspect of the Sculpture by the Sea event. On top of that are 56 Consultants, Temporary Staff & Interns who assist them in organising and running this exhibition. Alex and JonJo in the picture above were two of these people.

Then there are over 300 people and organisations who have freely donated $250 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, to help fund Sculpture by the Sea.

Then there is my photographer, the photographers from the newspapers and journalists and Arts Editor...

So what is the total so far?  670?  700?

I'm honoured to be part of such a large and generous team.

So why does the 200,000-250,000 people who come to the exhibition see only my name next to the artwork?

Making spaces for Art

As a critic once wrote:

"... artists gotta to make art ... '

But where?

A few months ago I reached out to Maria Miranda, who is writing a PhD on artist's spaces

Really I can't recommend enough, that you read her blog

She has been uncovering all sorts of nocks and crannies where real art is been made around Australia.

I recommend you start at her earlier blog entries and work forward.

Maria also alerted me to the local  Paper Mountain's forthcoming second exhibition and forum on Artist-Run Initiatives (ARI), this time with a national focus. Unfortunately both their events look to be too narrow in focus: perhaps as would be expected for such a young organisation, focusing only on it's immediate (chronological and geographic) peers.

I know of at least half a dozen other local collective ARI and Artist Run Spaces (ARS)  which are missing from their list.

ARI is a new slogan and label for those artists studios with a government grant seeking agenda.

This may not have been their initial intention.

But if art projects are poorly planned and budgeted, then they quickly lead to incorporation (see advise at, elections, agenda and minutes taking, so they can then access government grants to bankroll their ambitions.  Not surprising Paper Mountain staff are feeling this pressure and have just released fundraising t-shirts with the logo: "Make Art Not Admin?".

I hope it's not too late for them to learn that artists studios work best on the KISS principal and it's always best to be inclusive, rather than exclusive within the arts community.

Let's hope Paper Mountain can pull themselves together, because their heart is in the right place.

So, let's go read Maria's blog: and
and learn about other long lived, quirky and fun artists studios and galleries.


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