The Whitworth has three emerging artists who are paid members of the core group; Whitworth Young Contemporaries. There will be a series of posts from Sophie, Bella and Jamil as they talk about this unique model, the challenges of the role as well as skills and opportunities they have gained from it.
I am really excited to be working at the Whitworth as this is the first time I have been employed by a major art institution. I frequently visited the gallery while studying, so I have taken this as an exciting opportunity to be more closely involved with the organisation and discover more about its inner workings. Myself and the other artists, Sophie and Jamil have a unique position in that we are employed as an artist in residence but are also members of Whitworth Young Contemporaries.
My own practice focuses on hand embroidery and its function today as provocative embellishment or ornamentation. Researching historic textiles and stitch techniques, I interpret them sculpturally with contemporary materials. Since graduating in 2013, I have gained experience through a residency, leading workshops, design work and commissions. These opportunities have helped me further investigate hand stitch and playful material manipulation.
Now working with the Whitworth Young Contemporaries, I am gaining fantastic first hand experience of how I can collaborate with other artists and members of a youth group, as well as contribute to live music and art events. With encouragement and financial support from the Whitworth I have scope to experiment. For example creating an interactive, manual ‘glitch’ piece at our VideoNation event.
Having a paid role within the group has enabled me to regularly attend core group meetings and get stuck in planning for projects. It has also given me confidence as an artist but also responsibility to ensure I facilitate a positive environment for the whole group. All members must feel included and equal, comfortable to share their own experiences and confident to work actively and creatively together.
To improve the group dynamics further, it may have been valuable to have an informal presentation of our art practices to highlight what we can bring to the group and possibly even more transparency of our contracts. I also think more time set aside for social interaction could lead to more cohesion within the group. Yet our regular attendance as employed artists provides good continuity for other members and really helps when it comes to planning events.
As a paid member within the Whitworth Young Contemporaries, I have been invited to experience the gallery as an organisation more closely. It has been a treat attending site visits to see new exhibition spaces, invited to workshops training, as well as meeting curators. With this extra experience I am beginning to understand the gallery’s workings at a much deeper level.
Presenting, teaching and collaborating with colleges and local youth groups is opening up my own practice to new possibilities. Having introductions to schools and youth groups via the Whitworth gives an amazing starting point, context and validation. This gives us confidence as we approach planning the Whitworth’s opening. I am learning new ways to connect to the gallery’s collections and the Whitworth’s surrounding communities.
I hope after my contract ends to continue to have a strong working relationship with the Whitworth. The groups I have begun collaborating with are lively and enthusiastic, I am really looking forward to developing our projects together.