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Supporting mid-career artists

Exploring the moments that matter at the London Creative Network Symposium

Last week, we attended the London Creative Network (LCN)’s symposium ‘Pivotal Moments: Professional Development Models for Mid-Career Artists’. Organised by SPACE, this one day event brought together a rich mixture of practitioners, development advisors and business support providers to explore models and opportunities for mid-career artists across the visual arts, crafts and photography.

Featuring a series of conversational exchanges between artists and individuals who have supported their development, each highlighted a pivotal moment where a residency, commission or support programme had enabled sustainability and growth of the artists.

During the afternoon session BOP Senior Consultant, Eleanor Jubb facilitated a discussion on business support programmes for artists and makers. This drew in part from our ongoing evaluation of the LCN programme - which we blogged about back in February.

Our takeaways from the day included:

  • A mid-career artist is difficult to define – participants often found it hard to define at what stage they sit in their career. Should this be based on the years they’ve been developing their practice, their annual sales, or their personal age? The delivery design of business support programmes needs to be responsive to this
  • Mid-career is a time to be particular about what you want to get out of your practice – having had some early successes and engaged with a wide range of support, the next steps were increasing driven by personal aspirations rather than wholly commercial motives
  • … But also a time to have fun – this renewed ownership of their practice permitted them to try out new ideas and methods through curiosity and personal interest
  • Relationships are at the centre of good support - the respect and even friendship between creative practitioner and adviser is important to enable trust. When right, these supportive relationships between artist and curator, commissioner or business adviser can last for decade
  • Professional development opportunities should be valued by artists - although provided at no cost to artists, development programmes often don’t fund artists’ time. Artists can find it hard to justify the time they need to invest. However, artists need to value their own development and see how it fits in with their professional aspirations. It takes confidence to know the investment is worth it.

LCN will be producing a publication, working with a-n, communicating the fuller ideas from the day.

Further insights on the impacts the LCN programme is having can be found on their programme video.

- Joshua Dedman, Researcher; Eleanor Jubb, Associate

Image credit: Levin Haegele