I am an Arts and Project Management MA student at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, which is part of Birmingham City University. Arts and Project Management refers to the planning and the organising of projects, events and event programmes within the Creative Industries.
The Creative Industries are described, by the UK, as:
Those industries that are based on individual creativity, skill and talent with the potential to create wealth and jobs through developing intellectual property.
I have worked with “not-for-profit” and “for-profit” organisations and would like to manage Arts events which involve Arts&Crafts, Gigs, Cultural experiences, Storytelling, Galleries, Theatres, Cultural planning or Arts Education. Of course, I am only at the beginning of my research here and am open to any opportunities which will give me a bit of experience and adventure!
I have started this blog as part of my Research in Practice module, (A blog as homework. Ace!). Putting my research into practice means I can both study ‘Managing Events and Project Management’ and observe what the benefits or flaws of certain theories might be in a practical, working environment.
The principle element of this module is that I complete an internship. I’m doing two. I am interning once a week at New Art Gallery Walsall and once a week with the Traditional Arts Team. I will be making a comparative study of these two Arts organisations.
– Most of these posts contain hyperlinks so you can follow them to find out more information such as YouTube videos of Bob&Roberta Smith or a Wikipedia entry about Ken Robinson, for example.
I took on board the information given to me by Graham, queried a few details about the story and wrote copy for the website this week. This ‘Hand to Mouth’ storytelling event happened at Ort Gallery and Café.
I started working with Graham Langley and some students at Bournville College. We are learning how to tell stories. This education programme is a great way for students to develop confidence, public speaking skills and have fun through telling stories. Graham told us a funny story and we re-enacted it in a performance tableau. We have been writing “story maps” which plot the story and describe emotions at each point of the story. The stories we’ve been telling have about 10 plot points which can be mapped out. This is a really helpful way of remembering the stories.
As an intern it has been useful to shadow Graham in different workshops and events. I am learning the ethos of the company along with what they actually do. This will all be useful when I want to market the product to our target audiences. I have also attended Tales and Ales at the Prince of Wales. To tell a tales at this event is my target at the moment. There are only a few people sitting in the cocktail room with ale and a fire, but my memory is not very good, so we’ll see how that goes. I have been researching different folktales I would like to use; Hans Christian Anderson, Jewish folktales and French ‘contes et légendes’ are my top choices! I think the skills I will learn through the storytelling are ones I can use in volunteering at Mary Arden’s Farm– I would love to tell Shakespeare stories to the kids in a powerful or entertaining way.
This was when I really began to “plunge.” I looked at a couple of uninspiring journals on research as a story or narrative and then I researched different art groups in Birmingham to find an internship. I had left it a bit late to look for an internship. It got to the point where, I’ll admit, I was stressed out. Other people in my class already had internships with really cool companies so I increased my search. I researched and visited Art galleries. I queried events on the phone just so I could talk to administrators who might know about internships. I had Afternoon Tea and a tour at the Ikon Gallery and went to a lecture at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. I emailed New Art Gallery, Walsall, Guthrie and Ghaniand Craftspace. I called Kaos Artswho then gave me the number for Friction Arts. I had not realised that before I started my little campaign to get an internship, I was nervous to pick up the phone to any organisations. I used to be an administrator in France and spoke to many different people, daily, in French and English. I was a bit embarrassed that I was so out of practice. So it definitely shook the cobwebs away. At least being able to say, “I’m studying Arts and Project Management at BCU” gave more onus to my enquiries. I have found, though, that having a one-to-one chat over the phone can get you more answers or lines of inquiry than just sending an email or a tweet. After a chat with some students on my course I realised how useful Twitter could be to my search.
I learned what the @ sign means (!) and started hash tagging everything that moved. I tweeted Birmingham Storytelling Café, I tweeted events I’d seen or attended at Ort Gallery and Café, I tweeted, Arts-wise, about where I’d been and where I was going. This all gave me a great excuse to see all the Arts in Birmingham. Not that I needed an excuse but I didn’t mind going on my own if I had to do it for University, no that that ever stopped me. In fact, some of the people on my course went to events I put into a BCU Masters Facebook Group I started up. I started going to an art class at the Ort. I still go there and the tea only costs 50p! The community vibe is great and it’s just the sort of Arts venue I love and I could imagine putting events on at that venue. (In retrospect I have now helped to organise an event there).
After a while I got some responses to inquiry emails; filled out some application forms, replied to some tweets and attended a networking event for the Arts at the Library of Birmingham. Although I had wanted to apply for a paid internship at The Rep and other opportunities at Sampad and Craftspace I had already agreed to work with two enthusiastic organisations by that week. I met with the Traditional Arts Team in Kings Heath to discuss opportunities. In the same week Zoe Renilson, Head of Education at New Art Gallery, Walsall, got in touch with me about an application so we met at the gallery. Both of these meetings had started with a vague notion that they might be able to give me a little bit of work experience which slowly, during the meeting, became “oh well, actually you could do this and this and this.” This was brilliant. The New Art Gallery, Walsall would allow me to develop my interests in Education, Events Management and working with children. The Traditional Arts Team is developing my performance skills as a Storyteller and both have this great idea of community and what their organisation should be for their community, be that the Traditional Arts community or the social community around Walsall. I am slowly realising the importance of the Arts involving people and encouraging the idea of having fun while you’re living and how not everything is about money. Finance is important and, with government cuts, an issue which can’t be avoided but the organisations’ creative missions are the main goal.
In October last year I went to a meeting about ‘Research in Practice.’ I wasn’t doing research in practice as a module until January so I was just going out of curiosity at that point. We had broken off into groups and one of my classmates, quite innocently, asked me what my practice was. I said none, “unless my previous job as a Living History Demonstrator (at Mary Arden’s Farm) counts.” She asked me why I was there. Well, everyone seemed to be going. They’d sent out an email to everyone, so I went. I remembered later that my lecturer had said it would be good to network and meet people on other Arts-based Masters courses. But it did make me think about belonging and that, if I’m not an artist who is researching their practice (which most people on the Arts-based Masters course seemed to be), then I wouldn’t count or I would be missing out on a learning experience everyone was getting. I felt a bit outside the artist clique so I distracted the group with images of Mary Arden’s Farm and hoped for no more follow-up questions.
This situation had made me think about why I wanted to study. I was searching for a more structured and supported way to get a more permanent or well-paid job in the Arts sector. Studying Arts and Project Management reminded me of a quote which often comes back to me.
‘There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred’ ‘…which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!’
It’s one of those ideas I pin up on my notice board because just starting something helps put events in motion. And on the day of that research in practice lecture the lecturer, Carol, highlighted a quote by Schon about how students have to ‘plunge into doing – without knowing, in essential ways, what one needs to learn.’ So the MA was my “plunging into doing” and that starting point was quite exciting because I think I permitted myself to be an Arts person, having definitely decided THIS is what I wanted to do and I believed it was leading to a productive and good place. I’d also realised that Arts and Project Management was my practice so, in order to research it, I needed to get a head start on Arts Events Internships.
 William Hutchison Murray, The Scottish Himalayan expedition, (Indiana, J M Dent & Sons 1951) [digitized 2008, accessed 28.2.14], 7
I was quite happy that Carol Wild’s module in ‘Current Issues in Art and Design Education’ was leading me to the idea that, even if you’re not a teacher, you can still be an educator. I was happy about this because I felt I fitted in with a large group of teachers better after I realised this idea. I was looking at a female Artist-Educator, Suzanne Lacy, for an essay entitled, ‘Educating in public: Creating community through the art of the American Feminist Artist-Educators of the 1970s, in their own words.’ Suzanne Lacy was a psychology major who decided to become a feminist and a performance artist. In a tutorial I mentioned to Carol that I liked that Lacy had moved from one field to another. Sometimes one can feel like they’re in a (metaphorical) box and feel like they’re not permitted to move. I didn’t think I thought that, but I did. The conversation was getting a bit close to the bone so I changed the subject but Carol did say, you are allowed to do what you want to, which shouldn’t matter but it made me feel freer somehow in what I wanted to learn. The emphasis on Visual Arts at Margaret Street made me forget that I am drawn to other Art-forms too. Theatre and musical theatre and music are the Art-forms with which I feel most natural and comfortable. The novelty of Visual Art is nice, though. There are so many opportunities to get involved in it, to see and even critique artists’ works at BIAD.
 Alex, Educating in public: Creating community through the art of the American Feminist Artist-Educators of the 1970s, in their own words (Birmingham, Unpublished essay, 2013)