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Experiment #1b: Conversations with artists

Submitted by Education on Wed, 03/06/2015 - 11:27

Hypothesis: Facilitating conversations between artists and project managers outside of our ‘normal procedures’ helps us to better understand the value of our work and our roles.

10 Experiments continued last week with an extension of Experiment #1, when I invited group of artists who are registered as educators with us to participate in a session which mirrored the one I ran with Bow Arts staff back in March.

Building on 10 Experiments’ premise of mobilising and using our existing resources differently, I was keen to think about how we can better share experience, skills and motivation amongst our network of artists and beyond. I am also interested in playing with the dynamics between project managers and artists beyond the usual parameters of project delivery. Research and findings from Artworks have informed these ideas, and before the session, I invited the group to have a look at a couple of relevant texts: pp 7-8 and pp 14-15 from Addressing the Dynamic by Hannah Wilmot and Changing the Conversation, a provocation by Anna Cutler.

During the session, artists and project managers undertook the appreciative inquiry exercise, once again used as a tool to step back and reflect on our experiences and also, as one artist put it, an important moment to ‘give yourself a pat on the back’. It was also a great opportunity to articulate why it is that we do this work, and where we share common values and motivation.

We then considered how we can involve artists in 10 Experiments, and how it can be used to support them.  Suggestions that emerged from these discussions proved that these interventions do not have to be labour intensive and provide a sound foundation for next steps. They include:

  • Experiments with evaluation – undertaking it immediately after the project, and then once again after a longer period; doing it with a group; placing a similar emphasis on evaluation as planning
  • Sharing practice – through further meetings between artists; a newsletter; artists’ blogs; a ‘confessional’ or ‘agony aunt’ forum; buddying with another artist to support and observe a workshop
  • Working differently with project managers – through peer crits; finding a way for artists to communicate their ‘wish list’ of projects to the team which could feed into conversations with schools
  • Thinking about strategies to value the time in school with children and remain in the moment.

Returning to the hypothesis, the idea of conversations between artists and project managers outside of the normal procedures provides fertile ground to continue this line of enquiry. One artist commented that they are ‘a very healthy process …to reflect and to extend our imagination’. They also provoke questions about the nature of our roles – as one artist said that they ‘would enjoy [project managers and artists] being ‘equally’ present, valued and maybe both seen … as practitioners.’  Somebody else suggested that they ‘add value and a level of professionalism and purpose to our roles.’

Finally, one person concluded that the experiment was:

  • Elusive in a good way.
  • Not terrifying enough?! (Am I too comfortable with talking to people?!)
  • Very exciting! Hope it will continue

Till the next experiment.

Lydia Ashman, Education Project Manager.


10 Experiments is an action research project. It provides a site for productive experiments to test new ways of working across the Bow Arts Education programme. These should contribute to a meaningful and sustainable framework for learning, experimentation and reflection that works within the context of Bow Arts.