Sharing the Love: Partnerships and Open Relationships in the craft sector
On 14 February, when Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, addressed delegates at Arts Council England’s State of the Arts Conference in Salford, love was definitely in the air. He encouraged organisations to work in collaboration with one another. With Craft Scotland announcing five new project partners over the last month, it’s an ethos which certainly works for us.
However it’s not that simple. Whenever words like ‘collaboration’ or ‘partnership’ are said, they aren’t spoken as much as they are proclaimed, with a flourish of fanfare and fireworks. The details of the project - the partners, the funders, the straight-from-template press release quotes from project leaders - are unfurled like an imaginary red carpet being rolled out to mark the beginning of the road ahead. Whilst sometimes this is exactly as it should be, and with a background in arts marketing sometimes I’m the one ordering the fanfare, the one size fits all prototype for partnership working has had its day.
My view is that Craft Scotland is involved in hundreds of collaborations. With people. All over the world. They are fans, friends, critics, collectors, craft enthusiasts, self-proclaimed Craft Scotland groupies. Makers who have worked closely with us on projects or exhibitions will undoubtedly have heard me use the expression ‘share the love.’ I believe this is what is at the heart of any partnership - professional or personal, large or small - and it is key to our success.
When we asked ‘Team Philly’, the 26 makers who worked with us on the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, to provide us with comments on their general experience of working with Craft Scotland, time and time again makers would refer to how wonderful it was that we nurtured a team spirit. Makers who had not met each other prior to the show were rolling their sleeves up and helping each other to finish their stands in time for the show opening. La Famille Craft Scotland, if you will.
Mary Paterson, writer and curator at The Borough Road Gallery at London South Bank University, addresses it perfectly in her article ‘One size fits One’ for Arts Professional. In it, Mary highlights the differences between large bureaucratic organisations such as local authorities and universities, smaller organisations which collaborate as a matter of course or necessity, and how individuals collaborate. Mary refers to collaborative working as ‘being prepared to listen, and change our minds.’
Since my last Inside Craft Scotland feature four weeks ago, we have announced that we are working with five new partner organisations. At Edinburgh College of Art’s ‘The Idea of the Handmade’ Symposium we announced our forthcoming collaboration with ECA which includes the publication of the symposium findings. Whilst I was in New York last week visiting SOFA New York 2012, the deadline for applications from makers to work with us on SOFA Chicago 2012 and SOFA New York 2013 closed. We are currently accepting applications for our exhibition in November with Manchester Craft and Design Centre and our on-going involvement with Young Scot where rewards and bonuses are given to young people who give something to their communities. Two weeks ago I attended the opening gala of Made In Scotland at The Fleming Collection in London. Craft Scotland’s support of this exhibition marks the beginning of another relationship.
This Wednesday evening I’m going to be giving my first ever Pecha Kucha as part of the Spring Fling ‘Looking In - Looking Out’ series in association with University of Glasgow’s Solway Centre for Environment and Culture. I’ve been asked to speak about how I have built and sustained connections with organisations both locally and internationally whilst having little resource available. Without giving too much of my presentation away, my images are personal. They include images of people I’ve met through work, things that inspire me, professional contacts shaking hands, then smiles and hugs.
Partnerships aren’t powered by projects. They are powered by people.
Chief Executive, Craft Scotland
To book a place at ‘Looking In - Looking Out’: Sustainability visit the Spring Fling website.
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