Visual Arts South West Leadership Programme

Creative Freelancers: A Force for Change?

What can an individual freelancer be? It’s a question that’s been taxing me for a while. Can notions of ‘adaptive resilience’ or even ‘leadership’ be applied to an independent freelance worker? Are they even more pertinent?

In the contemporary visual art sector, the challenges we face as freelancers are frequently those faced by individual artists; in a system that concentrates finance within organisations, our agency is constrained.

Artists’ predicament is nothing new, of course.  What is new, is the growing resource of independent project leaders and managers, curators, producers, arts activists, advocates and consultants.  It’s spurred on, of course, by changes in the arts ecology; changes that have resulted in smaller, fewer organisations and less organisational employment.  Versatile and dynamic, it’s a vibrant resource pool that brings huge potential for free and independent thought, challenge, innovation and critical leadership.

Thankfully for myself and 20 others, I’m taking part in a groundbreaking programme which recognises just this. The Visual Arts South West Leadership Programme (VASWLP) is pioneering because, alongside its desire to build strong leadership within and for the contemporary art sector in the South West, it sets out to promote the role of the ‘established freelancer’. Its insight should be applauded.

Many of the participants in the VASWLP are freelancers. Many are micro-enterprises. This is surely a sea change. Of those who, like me, are partially employed, all place at least equal emphasis on their independent freelance practice. What, if anything, should we infer from this?

Our programme leader has commented on the unusualness of having a room full of individuals and independents discussing vision and mission – for themselves and, more importantly, for the sector as a whole.

In our new world, what can an individual freelancer be?

What deep structural changes are needed in the sector to support and unlock the new, modern way of working?

It’s something that will continue to tax me.

Claire Gulliver is an independent project leader and consultant based in Devon and working across the South West. She is currently developing partnership working between the Arts Council-funded major museums in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset and is participating in the Visual Art South West Leadership Programme.

What's On

Ilse Black at Aspex Guildhall

Aspex

Saturday 01 October 2016 – Sunday 01 October 2017

Big Heart 2017

Various Locations

Monday 01 May 2017 – Thursday 30 November 2017

Sea Music Celebration Exhibition

Poole Museum, High Street, Poole, BH15 1BW

Saturday 13 May 2017 – Sunday 15 October 2017

Visual Arts South West

Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.

Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network

Supported by: