Director's Diary

Keep up-to-date with the VASW programme through Network Manager Gordon Dalton's diary.

5 April

Hello, and welcome to my very first diary as the new Network Manager for Visual Arts South West. I’m extremely pleased to be joining VASW and look forward to continuing and developing their extraordinarily successful work.

That success is down to the efforts of you, the many diverse artists, organisations and audiences covered by VASW. I would like to give special mention to Grace Davies who I have the daunting task of taking over from. I hesitate to say replace, as that would be impossible. Over the past five years, Grace has steered VASW in exciting uncharted directions, providing advocacy and opportunity to a wide and diverse arts ecology. VASW’s loss will be the National Trust’s gain, as she takes up the role of Contemporary Arts Programme Manager in Swindon. I’m delighted she will still be deploying her many skills in the South West region and beyond.

I will be getting up to speed as fast as I can, with visits across the region. I’m looking forward to the SWARM event in Penzance, Glasgow International, catching up with our Artist Mentoring Programme and Going Places schemes as well as meetings across the CVAN network. On a personal note, it’s Artspace’s 40th Anniversary at the end of the month. My first studio post art college was in the McArthur Warehouse in Bristol, before moving into the Brooke Bond building now renamed Spike Island, where I will be having regular meetings with our Web Editor, Julie McCalden.

I look forward to working with you all and continuing to strengthen the South West’s art ecology as a place of innovative best practice.

Say hello and keep in contact, online or in person:
[email protected]



21 March

It's my last week, and I'm in the throws of tying up all loose ends and ensuring that everything is ship-shape for Gordon to begin. I'll be writing an interim report for Arts Council England, reporting on budgets and creating a 'manual' to help Gordon through the first weeks of the job. I can't help feeling a little emotional about saying goodbye especially as I write my last post as Director of Visual Arts South West. Thank you for all of your continued support and interest - it's been a blast. Good bye!

14 March

We're delighted to announce Gordon Dalton as the new network manager for VASW. He's a really experienced professional who always brings flair and energy to his work and so I'm certain he'll be a great asset to VASW.

We're really pleased to also announce that Outset SW funds will go towards supporting:

 - An Imran Qureshi installation & educational activity at Truro Cathedral produced by Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange

 - A Hedwig Houben commission produced by Spike Island and will be acquired by Plymouth Museum & Art Gallery in their permanent collection.

 - A collaborative project by Juneau Projects, produced by Spacex, Exeter.

Congratulations to you all!

7 March

I'm really excited about being on the panel for Outset Sw - an organisation set up to support philanthropic giving for the visual arts in the South West. We've received a huge amount of applications for this fund, and so I'm sure it will be tough. I'll also be supporting the interview process for VASW's new Network Manager. Again, we received a high volume of interest, which is exciting and challenging. We'll be announcing the appointment as soon as possible.

29 February

It's a pleasure to be going to rural farm in Devon to spend a day with Debbie Kingsley, who's been working with me on the Visual Arts Plan for Plymouth. I'll also be off up to Leeds for the 'Valuing Artists' event hosted by CVAN Yorkshire & Humber at Leeds City Art Gallery, where we will be networking, and considering ways in which we can ensure artists are valued by society.

22 February

This week includes a day with the WI of all things! I'll be talking about VASW, alongside the team from Love From the Artist, they're an organisation dedication to producing great quality artists cards and importantly paying artists fairly for their work so that they can earn sustainably for every card that is sold. I'll also be on the panel assessing the VASW Travel Bursaries and off to Portsmouth to visit Aspex and Art Space.

It is with a mixture of sadness and excitement that I announce that I will be leaving VASW to take up the post of Contemporary Arts Programme Manager at National Trust. I'll be leaving at the end of March and my post is advertised here http://www.vasw.org.uk/jobs/network-manager-vasw.php

15 February

A day in the office followed by a few days holiday.

8 February

I'm looking forward to meeting up with colleagues at Hestercombe Gallery for a workshop event on Philanthropy and the Visual Arts - there's a great line up of speakers and an opportunity to discuss the future of Outset South West so I'm looking forward to some interesting conversations. I'll also be catching up with Julie, our wonderful Web Editor about future plans for the site. In addition, I'll be planning and catching up with paperwork.

1 February

I'm fired up after a weekend of South West gallery hopping and seeing some great work by fantastic artists. Especially exciting was the sheer volume of people in those spaces - I was jostling just to get a look! So it's all the more apt that this week I'm reviewing how we can continue to support the development of those organisations, through our work at VASW - whether that's looking at business models or at audience experiences. I'll also be chatting to colleagues at the BBC - looking at how their Get Creative campaign is getting people making art across the nation. 

25 January

I've got several meetings lined up this week including with our colleagues in Dorset to move forward plans for visual arts marketplace development in the county. I'll also be talking to the new Head of Brand, Development and Communications Tim Bleszynski at Arnolfini about supporting philanthropy & fundraising in the region. I've booked a visit to Devon to check out Coombe Farm Studios, and a brand new studio with artist Mat Chivers. I have a great deal of paperwork to catch up with and so I will endeavour to undertake this too!

18 January

I'm preparing for our steering group meeting, which will be held at Hestercombe in Somerset. We'll also be hearing from Tim Martin about the exciting plans afoot for Hestercombe. I'll be back in London on Thursday meeting with the New Expressions board, and also Arts Council's Visual Arts National Lead Peter Heslip to work out how we can continue to support the development of artists working in museums into the future.

11 January

Another week of meetings in Bristol, Exeter and London. I'm looking forward to our mentoring introduction session on Wednesday where all the mentors and mentees come together to kick start the programme. In London I'll be meeting with my CVAN colleagues to discuss our regional programmes, and national initiatives.

4 January

Wishing you all a happy new year! My year starts off with a bang - straight into meetings with Arts Council England to look at regional priorities and how we can support organisations into the next phase with NPO application time already looming (2018 and beyond). I'm also travelling to Plymouth to meet with VAP and run a visioning session looking at how the next Plymouth Art Weekender can be achieved (amongst other things). I'll be tieing in a few other meetings whilst in Plymouth, about New Expressions and the Plymouth Visual Arts Plan. I meet with my VASW team too this week - with Chair Helen Legg to discuss our next meeting and future work plan, and also our wonderful web editor Julie McCalden.

21 December

A few bits and bobs to finish off before Christmas & then signing off for almost two weeks. Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

14 December

This week I'm in Dorset at Poole Museum to meet with Dorset-based museums and visual arts organisations to look at how we can continue the legacy of New Expressions and encourage new collaborations for artists and museum projects. I'll also be collating our newsletter, paying invoices, organising new year events and previewing content and ideas for the new year both online and for real events and activities. The VASW team will be taking a break over the festive period from 23rd December - 4 January, but of course you can still check out all of the lovely content and information we have on our website.

7 December

It was wonderful to see so many of you for our annual regional event last week, and I loved hearing from our terrific speakers - I've been chewing over some of the ideas raised all weekend. We'll be publishing recordings, writing and pictures next week on our website so you can re-live it online and experience the debate for yourselves.

This week I'm back in Plymouth with Jane Sutherland from Creative Skills, and we'll be sifting through and matching potential mentees with mentors. Already the pile of submissions is HUGE - so I imagine it will be quite a task! I also have an appointment with the national Museum Development Network, presenting to them about the New Expressions project and proposed Special Subject Network (Museums, Artists, Audiences) in the hope that we can continue to work closely together and develop new projects. I also will be evaluating, editing and accounting for all of the recent activity and events.

30 November

It's the week of our annual regional event 'Rethinking Practice: Discussions on Contemporary Art Practice in the SW and Beyond', and so of course I'm busy pulling together the last minute preparations. We'll be tweeting from the event on Thursday with the hashtag #VASW15 so you can keep updated with the conversation, even if you're not able to be there in person. We've also commissioned a writer to create an article about the event, and we'll have our dictaphones there making MP3 recordings which we also hope to share, along with photographs with the network soon after. 

I'm also meeting VAP (Visual Arts Plymouth) on Wednesday for an evaluation meeting, and to elect new 'Activators' to the group. This week is the last week to apply for mentoring - so don't forget to get your applications in!

23 November

I'm off out and about again this week with trips to Hestercombe, Bath, Bristol and Birmingham. I'll be talking to colleagues Peter Stiles and Jo Lanyon about the development of a writers network and programme, I'll be visiting Curation students at Bath Spa University and the Architecture Centre in Bristol. I'm in Birmingham for a New Expressions board meeting looking at next steps now that the NE3 programme is almost at an end. I'll be ensuring that the final touches are organised for our event in Plymouth, and continuing to promote and prepare our artist mentoring programme.

16 November

There's lots of organising and planning jobs for me to do this week - for our annual regional meeting on the 3 December, but also for events we're planning with the Museum Development Network. We are still ironing out glitches on the new improved aspects of our website too. On Thursday I'll be in Bristol's RWA for a consultation session organised by the Crafts Council, exploring how we can support and develop the crafts sector better in the SW - I'm looking forward to catching up with colleagues and progressing this conversation.

9 November

I finally have a couple of days at my desk to sort through all of the finances, get my head around the new programme, action some of the decisions from previous meetings and move forward on these. I'll be writing our newsletter and making sure that everything is in place for the regional meeting on the 3 December. It's amazing that this took less than 2 days to sell out! I'll be investigating ways that we can record the sessions to share with the rest of the network.

2 November

This week I'll be talking with Outset SW about what they've been up to. I'll also be in Plymouth to disseminate and discuss the evaluation of the Plymouth Art Weekender and exploring the potential for another event next year (fingers crossed!). I have a number of meetings to discuss Critical Writing projects, travel bursaries, and MDO and CVAN working together.

26 October

Sorry folks - I'm taking a holiday this week, back on the 2 November!

19 October

I'm in Southampton this week to discuss John Hansard's move to it's new building (October 2016) and looking at other ways of including them in our work. We've been lucky enough to have both their Director and Curator as mentors this year, and we hope to continue their involvement. I'll also be visiting Bridport Museum to check out Nancy J Clemence's New Expressions project. As our new website system goes live this week, I'll be working with my colleague Julie McCalden to ensure that this is launched smoothly. I'm also due to meet our new national CVAN evaluator, Karen Smith, to discuss how she can support SW regional evaluation too.

12 October

We received great news that our funding application to Arts Council England was successful, and so I'll be revving up to get going on the next set of projects which includes Mentoring, Critical Events, Writing partnerships, travel bursaries and more. We'll be publishing details of how you can get involved soon, so do keep your eyes peeled. This week we also talk to MP Ben Bradshaw as well as a full steering group meeting.

5 October

Another week of meetings and planning! Firstly, off to Bristol to talk with Arts Council England's Head of Museums John Orna-Ornstein about the New Expressions programme and the development of a subject-specialist network. I'm in Swindon on Wednesday to meet with the Curator of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery - who have a terrific collection of 20th Century & an emerging collection of 21st Century art - about acquisitions, contemporary art commissioning and VASW. I'll also be recruiting speakers for our regional meeting, and planning for our next steering group meeting, which includes a session with Exeter's MP Ben Bradshaw - where we'll ask him about how to build better political support for the arts.

28 September

This week I'll be taking part in the New Expressions 3 final family event, where we'll reflect on the 15 projects and look to the future - where should we take it next? I'm excited that as part of it we'll get to see John Wood & Paul Harrison's NE3 project 'Erdkunde: The Study of the Earth', and also Do-Ho Suh's New York Apartment Installation, as well as Emma Smith's NE3 commission at Tyntesfield. I am working on the annual regional event, trying to hop over a few obstacles (mainly wrestling with dates - now likely to be 3 December) and on Thursday 1st October I'll be speaking at a symposium event in Birmingham entitled 'Welcome to Midville: Art, Money, Market' and I'll be talking about the New Expressions programme and the role of mentoring. I'll also be writing my monthly article for Big Issue (out next week - don't forget to buy your copy!) and preparing financial reports.

21 September

This week I'm in Cornwall, talking with colleagues from Tate St.Ives about a writing programme, and with Cornwall Workshop about the forthcoming event as well as plan in Cornwall for a future international contemporary visual arts event. I'll be chairing a discussion about the influence of artist peers when working in a shared studio environment at Salisbury Arts Centre with artists Michael Pennie, Jo Taylor and Sarah Purvey coinciding with their recent touring exhibition. I'll also be meeting with Take A Part to discuss their partnership symposium which will take place in May.

14 September

I'm meeting Tim Martin the Curator at Hestercombe Gallery in Somerset to discuss their plans for development, and possible events next spring. I'll also be going to the Artist Development Day in Exeter ledby Stuart Crewes in partnership with VASW and Bike Shed Theatre. I'll be speaking to colleagues about our forthcoming regional meeting (on 27th November - save the date!) and in London on Thursday talking to national Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN) colleagues about sharing learning and evaluating the network.

7 September

A week of travelling - I'll be in Plymouth on Monday to meet with the Plymouth Visual Arts Programmers Group, who have exciting plans afoot. Whilst there I'll catch up with other colleagues about ongoing projects. I'm in Dorset on Thursday to discuss the Visual Arts Market Place (VAMP) project - developing exciting plans to develop the potential for an art market and other art related economic opportunities.

1 September

September already! As the new school term begins I'll be making my way up North to see David Bridges New Expressions Project, and to meet with Axisweb, who'll be making our New Expressions film. 

24 August

I will be working with the New Expressions team this week to interview a film maker, who we hope will capture the spirit of the whole national project. We want the film to offer tips, advice and capture the learning experiences from participants as well as audience reaction to the projects.

17 August

A week of keeping my head down and getting on with programme evaluation and future programme development.

10 August

This week I'll be pulling together evaluation material from our last year's programme, as well as actioning ideas for future programme. I'll be wading through finances and invoices and making sure that my paperwork is up-to-date. I'll also be in Bristol meeting with The Architecture Centre and with Spike Island.

3 August

After a week away on holiday (West Wales) I'm refreshed and ready for action. Good job too as this week is packed with travelling meetings and loads to catch up on. I'm in Plymouth on Tuesday meeting the Plymouth Visual Arts Programmers Group, who have exciting plans afoot and I'll be working with them to help develop their ideas. I'm also meeting Victoria Harding in Plymouth who heads up the South West Museum Development Service, and we'll be looking at how we can work better together to support more artists projects in museums.

On Wednesday I'll be in Bristol at Arnolfini, discussing ideas about a young people's talent development programme with Create Gloucestershire, Take A Part and John Hansard Gallery.

On Thursday I head north to Nottingham and The Workhouse, where artist Tim Shore's New Expressions 'New opportunities Award' project launches. I hope to squeeze in a visit to Nottingham Contemporary too, and of course interwoven in to my week is the usual emails, phone calls and administration.

20 July

A week in Devon for me. I'm in Exeter on Tuesday with the VASW steering group - having a quarterly meeting. We'll be discussing plans for the next year, including ideas for the regional meeting to be held in the winter. We'll be electing a new member and I'll be updating the group with work and progress from the last quarter.

I'll also be in Plymouth for the 2nd New Expressions field visit, where we look at taking risks in artists commissions. I'm really looking forward to seeing Keith Harrison's New Expressions exhibition at KARST. Finally, I'll be presenting the draft of the Plymouth Visual Arts Plan to the steering group.

13 July

This week is a week for being in the office, gettting my head down into finishing the draft Plymouth plan, organising budgets, finance and evaluation work. I have meetings with the guys at lovefromtheartist.org,  and with partners from across the region looking at potential around the Arts Council Collection.

6 July

Seeing Tristram Aver's resplendent installation at Newstead Abbey as part of the New Expressions programme last week was a real treat, and certainly made me think about the collections in a different way. He'd produced a beautiful publication too, adding extra context to his practice. 

Today I'll be in Exeter talking advocacy with our peer-to-peer group and topics include telling the story to LEPs, developing effective communication with local communities, working with local press to tell our stories as they develop, linking effectively with HEIs, harnessing our board for effective advocacy and qualitative and quantitative evaluation - so lots to get our teeth into! I'm at The Architecture Centre on Wednesday finding out more about how they operate, and I'll be visiting Aspex in Portsmouth after to talk about their learning programme, in particular 'Futurators'  - the young people's insight into becoming a curator. I have plenty of paperwork to keep me occupied in and around this, and we're also compiling our newsletter. Do look out for this week's Big Issue which contain's a new feature that I'll write monthly profiling visual arts activity in the region.


June 29

The beautiful South West countryside whizzes past me as I write this on my way to Plymouth, where I will meet with Culture & arts representatives to discuss our progress on the Plymouth Visual Arts Plan. It has been so fascinating gaining different perspectives about their aspirations for Plymouth. Particularly encouraging to hear of extraordinary ambition, and a real passion for their city. 

In addition to Plymouth planning, I'll also be preparing for our next advocacy peer-to-peer session where we'll look at tangible support that we can offer each other to develop.

Tomorrow I discuss how Museums and Visual Arts can work more closely to support a stronger, more ambitious  visual arts offer for audiences in the South West and beyond. This conversation will extend on Thursday when I'm in Nottingham at Newstead Abbey with my New Expressions colleagues for a board meeting, and also the finisage and book launch of New Opportunities Award recipient Tristram Aver's 'And Stand Amidst Ruins'.


June 22

Though there was lots of travelling, last week was invigorating! Meeting visual arts people in Plymouth for a visioning workshop provided rich food for thought, and visiting Upton House for the New Expressions Field Visit was a real tonic - experiencing the delicate work of Yelena Popova as well as old masters such as El Greco, Canaletto and Bruegel.

This week I have lots of research, analysis and report writing to do, both in contribution to the Visual Arts Plan for Plymouth, but also for the development of VASW's programme. I'll be hosting the Publishing your Art Writing event on Wednesday at Plymouth Arts Centre, and in Spike Island on Thursday.


June 15

It was inspirational to experience the enthusiasm and positive energy of Plymouth artists and organisers last week at an initial event to discuss the Plymouth Art Weekender - I'm looking forward to seeing all the ideas culminate at the end of September. Whilst I was in the city, I also had research meetings with key arts people about their ideas for the future of the visual arts in Plymouth.

It was also very good to talk to our current pick of the week editor, Pippa Jones, about getting some exciting initiatives underway for Gloucestershire & Bristol. 

I have a packed schedule this week with lots of travelling as usual. I'll be back in Plymouth on Wednesday running a visioning workshop with a group of key visual arts representatives at the wonderful Radiant Space/Rumpus Cosy. I'm also attending the New Expressions 'Field Visit' event at Upton House 'Collaborative working with Artists, Volunteers & Historic Houses'. In addition to all of this I will be planning, writing and budgeting for forthcoming programmes.June


June 8

This week I'm in Plymouth interviewing artists, organisational representatives and individuals for the Visual Arts Plan, and attending the VAP Open Forum. I'm also meeting with ACE staff to discuss how we can support Philanthropy in the visual arts in the region. I'll be getting on with long overdue tasks including website updates, evaluation report writing and ongoing research.


June 1

This week I'll be steeped in planning; writing a grant application and budgets for the next year's programme. I'll also be attending an event on 'Arts and (In)Equality' hosted by the fantastic Create Gloucestershire with a very engaging line-up. I'l be researching Plymouth's cultural landscape and investigating it's potential, which will contribute to the Visual Arts Plan that we've been commissioned to write along with Debbie Kingsley. On Saturday I've been invited to talk about VASW in Cardiff; supporting the development of a similar model for Wales. I'll also be compiling information for the newsletter so don't forget to send us your news & events.


May 11

This week I have a number of key meetings:

In Exeter I'll be meeting colleagues from across the region for our VASW peer-to-peer advocacy workshop looking at how we can advocate better for what we do. We'll be asking questions such as 'Who are we advocating to?' and sharing success stories as well as learning from experiences that didn't work so well.

I'll be welcoming our new steering group members to their first VASW steering group meeting and AGM on Wednesday where we'll review the last year and future plans.

I'm in Wiltshire on Thursday meeting staff from Trowbridge Arts.

I'll also be finalising this month's newsletter and putting the finishing touches to our annual report and our plan for the next 3 years.


April 20

We had a wonderful review session with participants of the mentoring programme; I was delighted to hear how well everyone was getting on and to hear of some of the progress made. It's always going to be a bit of a risk pairing up an artist and a mentor but thankfully our pairings seem to have been well matched. It was interesting to note that mentors had got a great deal out of it as well as the mentees. There's obviously a demand for it too, so we hope to run another round of the programme in the near future.

This week is another busy one;  in London today at the British Museum interviewing potential candidates for the New Expressions consultancy post; the successful candidate will work with the NE team to research the potential for a specialist subject network. Tuesday is a Plymouth day - meeting the lovely team at Take A Part, to talk about their forthcoming Social Engagement Conference, and with Plymouth Culture to talk about visual arts in the city. I also have meetings in Bath discussing philanthropy in the South West, in Exeter for a New Expressions board meeting and hopefully spending a few minutes at my desk catching up with administration.


April 13

This week I will meet with mentors and mentees from our mentoring programme for an evaluation and review session in Spacex. I'll also be meeting with ACE to discuss our forthcoming programme. I'll be talking to students at University of Gloucestershire about life after Art School in the South West, and I'll also be collating reports for New Expressions on our NOA projects. I have a stack of emails to catch up on and I'll be refining our action plan for the forthcoming programme. I'm working on some features for the website too (the next one is about Residencies) and I'd be very pleased to hear from anyone who would like to contribute content for a feature on our website.


March 23

I enjoyed everything that last week offered including talking about VASW on the Funkin' Arts Radio Show for The Source FM radio on Saturday morning - my first arts radio experience! You can listen to the interview at 22m 15s in.

I have two major meetings happening this week; on Monday I'll be in Exeter with regional peers, discussing Advocacy; sharing tips, experiences and advice. Towards the end of the week I'll be travelling to Cornwall for a meeting on Residencies, in partnership with Tate St Ives. In between I'll be continuing my planning for the next 3 years and meeting with visual arts representatives in the region. I'll also be preparing next weeks monthly newsletter, so if you have any information you'd like to promote, don't forget to upload it via the forms on our members page!


March 16

A big thank you to all of the people that made last week's events such a success. Some pertinent issues were raised and with so much talent and experience in the room, it was a great opportunity to learn from each other, as well as from our wonderful speakers. I certainly got a great deal out of it! Find out more in my notes below.

This week I'll be helping Visual Arts Plymouth appoint a coordinator for their weekender event and on Thursday I'll be chairing 'A Time and a Place' Symposium at New Brewery Arts, Cirencester where we discuss Artist Residencies with artists and organisers from 5 residency projects. It looks as though it will be a fascinating discussion, so if you haven't already book your tickets now! 

I absolutely have to get my head down too and catch up with all of my paperwork (which can sometimes be challenging with so much else going on!). Don't forget there are loads of enticing events and exhibitions going on this week, all of which you can discover on our website.

Notes from Spinning Plates Fundraising Workshop for Small Organisations
Our fundraising workshop, delivered by the fantastic Amanda Rigali from Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy gave insights to individuals and representatives of small organisations. There was a great mix of people, mostly from small organisations or artist-led initiatives. Most people there had responsibility for many aspects of organisational operation, not just fundraising and so the tone of the event responded to the multiplicity of demands of the the attendees.

I jotted down a few key hints and tips during the workshop, but Amanda's presentation gives a brilliant overview of current challenges in fundraising today.

Hints and Tips:

  • Fundraising – needs to be strategic – you need to have a plan. Ad hoc applications are not well received.
  • Bad applications are not worth it – a waste of time - they need to be considered and strategic.
  • Private money – personal relationship – not strategy – not government funding – a different relationship.
  • All activity starts with you – not the giver.
  • Therefore, fundraising has got to start with you too.

Notes from Money, Ego, Creativity, Audience: The Art of Producing
This event, which was attended by over 40 artists and producers, drew on some of the challenges, issues and resolutions from artists and producers. We heard stories from Helen Cole, Artistic Director of In Between Time; Claire Doherty, Director of Situations; Artist S Mark Gubb; and Katie Keeler, Executive Producer of Theatre Bristol who generously shared their experiences of projects that had gone well, and times when they had been faced with a multiplicity of problems, caused by Money, Ego, Creative conflict or Audience. They talked through how they had dealt with these issues, and some of the considerations they faced. There was many interesting words used to describe the role of a producer: 'midwife', 'collaborator', 'advocate' and 'critical friend' to name just a few. There was a lot of discussion around expectations and risk taking. A great piece of advice was given: when difficulties do arise, it is important to go back to the heart of the project - what were the original aims?

Our conversation continued through some scenario setting and group discussions, each revolving around particular problems that might arise during the producing process. It felt like a good way of understanding how other parties in the project might react, and how their expectations might be different to others. It threw up interesting quandaries and I loved hearing the ideas and thoughts of other people. With a mixture of visual arts practitioners and producers as well as those from the performing arts, the whole event certainly gave much food for thought. Lovely to get feedback such as "it made me aware of possibilities I hadn't thought about previously"


March 9

I'm excited to have such a busy week ahead of me. I'll be co-hosting our fundraising workshop Spinning Plates Fundraising Workshop for Small Organisations today with Spike Island and Amanda Rigali from Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy, and preparing for our sold out event Money, Ego, Creativity, Audience: The Art of Producing, at Arnolfini on Wednesday.

Alongside these events, I'll be sorting through all of the VASW steering group applications (thanks for all of your applications - what a talented and interesting set of people we have working in the sector in the SW!)  and I'm also working on future events and ideas for forthcoming activity, not forgetting keeping abreast of finances, emails and administration. All systems go!

In case you missed it, our newsletter went out last week with news, jobs and opps from across the South West's visual arts sector. If you're not subscribed yet, why not take a look and then sign up to receive our monthly update? You can also keep up-to-date by following us on twitter and facebook - once you've 'liked' us, don't forget to hover over the like button and click 'get notifications' to get our content in your newsfeed.


March 2

Hooray! March is here, the sun is shining and spring is in the air. What finer way to celebrate than to apply to be part of the VASW steering group? Better March on though ('scuse the pun) - the deadline is Wednesday at 5pm.

This week I'm working on the finer details of our forthcoming programme, as well as lots of sorting of details including next week's events. I'm also in London meeting my CVAN colleagues to discuss shared learning and evaluation. We'll also be putting together our newsletter - lots of content this month, so make sure you've subscribed and look out for it.


February 23

This week I'll be organising and promoting our events and initiatives. Particularly our Spinning Plates Fundraising Workshop for Small Organisations at Spike Island (Monday 9 March, 1-5pm) which I recommend you sign up for if you are from a small organisation or artist-led initiative, and for our producers event, Money, Ego, Creativity, Audience: The Art of Producing, at Arnolfini (Wednesday 11 March, 2-6pm). We've got a fantastic line-up of speakers for both, which promise to be engaging and inspiring. 

I'll be looking through applications for Visual Arts Plymouth Activators, supporting the group to develop and expand, and I'll be meeting the good people of  a-space arts, who are doing a studio visit to Spike Island on Thursday.

As ever I've got lots of planning to do for our future programmes. I'll also be responding to the many enquiries and requests that we receive everyday and I'll begin pulling together content for our next newsletter.


February 9

Still buzzing from a jam packed week last week, and a fantastic event at Plymouth College of Art talking about Artists Accessing Empty Spaces. Wonderful insights from Jo Leahy of SVA, Hannah Clark of Bristol Biennial and David and Hannah from Plymouth City Council who have pledged their support to help enable artists to access empty spaces in Plymouth. It was a real call to action, and I look forward to hearing some new projects and stories unfold as a result of it. As well as some successes, we've also hit a few bumps in the road, and I'll be working with our partners to try to resolve some of these challenges this week.

I also have several exciting encounters over the next few days; talking about the new Arts Council research fund today, as well as tying up our peer-to-peer advocacy network plans. On wednesday I visit Burton Art Gallery & Museum, and on Thursday I'll be hopping about all over the South West; in Plymouth for a Visual Arts Plymouth meeting first thing, then up to Hestercombe to drop in to the Second Site seminar. After that I'll be at Spacex discussing their 'New Era'. As ever, there is still plenty of event planning, administration and number crunching to do. I'll also be putting out our newsletter this week, which is already packed with loads of useful information.


February 2

A busy week this week; I'm preparing a presentation about VASW which I will give to visiting Arts Council England visual arts relationship managers from across the country on Wednesday. Later on I will be attending the Art in Empty Buildings event at Plymouth College of Art, so I'll be hopping on and off trains all day! On Thursday I travel to London to talk about the New Expressions programme, of which the Live Season begins enticingly soon in March. I'm also meeting Teresa Gleadowe to talk about The Cornwall Workshop, which takes place again this year.

I am promoting several events: Spinning Plates, a fundraising workshop for small organisations at Spike Island and The Art of Producing at Arnolfini.

I will be organising the interim evaluation session for our mentoring programme, where participants will come together to discuss their progress. I'll also be keeping up with all the paperwork, emails, enquiries and future thinking that running our programme requires.


January 26

It was great to see so many South West based artists and arts professionals at the Alias seminar on Saturday, held at the brilliant OSR Projects (thanks Simon!) and to get a sense of some of the challenges currently facing artist-led projects. 

This week I'll have my head in paperwork and reports and I'll be busy getting everything in order as we look towards completing projects, and planning new ones. On Thursday Julie, our web editor, and I will be developing plans and ideas for our online presence and working out the future of our digital outputs.

I've also put together some notes from our recent steering group meeting to keep you in the loop:

VASW Steering Group Meeting
Summary of discussions and actions

Attended by: Helen Legg  (Chair), Grace Davies, Carol Maund, Amanda Wallwork, Claire Doherty, Jo Leahy, Patrick Lowry, Kate Brindley, Julie McCalden (notetaker)

There were a few matters arising from the previous meeting:

1. We are now publishing Grace Davies' Director's Diary  to help demystify how VASW operates on a day-to-day basis, and this includes publishing a summary of each steering group meeting.

2. VASW and CVAN are encouraging it's network to take up the Creative Employment programme - deadline extended to March 2016. The programme helps encourage a more diverse workforce in the visual arts.

3. VASW are developing a peer-to-peer network for SW-based organisations and initiatives to encourage advocacy support and sharing, facilitated by Debbie Kingsley.

CVAN national Update
VASW are encouraging sign up to the Audience Finder (data benchmarking) project. (for more information please visit http://audiencefinder.org

CVAN national are looking to undertake more advocacy work and their is debate about how this is moved forward. The National coordinator Julia Bell is working on it.

CVAN are also reviewing evaluation of the network and Grace Davies, and her national counterparts are working on this.

ACE are encouraging fair pay for artists - gfa's should include artists fees.

Grace Davies programme update:
In addition to aforementioned initiatives GD is developing 3 events:

  • Producers - examining the role of the producer in the creation of art
  • An event in partnership with Tate St Ives on Residencies
  • 'Get Creative' debate as part of a national advocacy week - encouraging the nation to take part in debates around the value of art. BBC will capture some of these events. Discussion around possible content with the value of art schools and the increasing elitism of them. Suggested speakers include Bob and Roberta Smith and comedian Josie Long. GD to follow up.

Steering Group renewal and recruitment
A few members are stepping down: Claire Doherty, Carol Maund, Amanda Wallwork, Jo Leahy and James Green. We will put a call out for new members, particularly encouraging applications from Wiltshire, Dorset, Plymouth and Cornwall. We'll also encourage people from a wider ethnic diversity as well as age diversity (particularly younger artists).

Discussion around future strategy
Useful comments received from the regional meeting, and these are being fed into our regional strategy. A number of ideas were raised, and discussed and GD will collate all thoughts into a draft action plan and strategy.

Financial records were circulated with no concerns raised - we are on track with the spend for gfa.


January 19

This week I'll be tying up lots of loose ends with projects and events that we'll be releasing information about very soon. I'll be putting the finishing touches to the newsletter and sending that out too. 

I'm still working hard on our action plan, and I'll be getting down to the nitty gritty of budgets and financial plans. 

I'm looking forward to contributing to UWE's professional practice week on Thursday, where I'll be talking to students about life beyond art school and how they can get involved and contribute to the South West's visual arts ecology.

I'm also excited to be part of Alias' 'Moving Forward and Staying the Same: Artist-led Evolutions' event on Saturday to be held at OSR Projects in Somerset.


January 12

This week I'm finalising plans for two events, one about producing (to be held in Bristol), one about residencies, which will take place in Cornwall. I'm also in the depths of writing our strategy and action plan for the next 3 years using comments from artists and professionals working in the visual arts in the south west. On Thursday I'll be at Spacex in Exeter for our quarterly steering group meeting - don't forget we'll be calling out for new steering group members soon.

I'll also be working on our monthly newsletter, with all the latest news from us and the wider VASW network as well as jobs and opportunities. If you don't yet recieve our timely and informative updates, why not subscribe?


January 5

2015 already - that sprung up on us rather quickly!  As the new year begins, the busy activities of VASW resume again. This week I'm preparing the papers for our next steering group meeting where we will be reviewing ideas, suggestions and comments from our recent annual Regional Meeting about how we move forward over the next three years. It's also the meeting where steering group members step down to make way for new ones, and we'll be releasing a call for steering group members in the next couple of weeks. We'd really like to get a good spread of representation from those working in the visual arts across the breadth and depth of the region, so please get in touch if you are interested.

I'll also be writing and sending out a call for our advocacy sharing network.

I'm excited to be heading North later this week to meet with artists and museum professionals who are working on their New Opportunities Award projects, selected as part of the national pathfinder 'New Expressions' programme. As we approach the 'live season' for this important project, I'll be supporting the artists to realise the full potential of their projects and examine the challenges and strengths each presents.


What's On

Family Saturdays

Aspex Gallery, The Vulcan, PO1 3BF

Monday 01 October 2018 – Thursday 31 October 2019

Craft Workshops

Various Venues

Friday 08 February 2019 – Tuesday 31 December 2019

Jon England: Hour Hands

Market House Museum, 32 Swain St, Watchet TA23 0AD

Wednesday 27 March 2019 – Friday 08 November 2019

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: