Hello! My name is Lucy Wright and I am the new Research and Development Coordinator for the Models of Validation project.
My background is as a researcher of grassroots cultural participation—focussed in particular on folk and carnival arts—and I have a parallel practice as a socially-engaged artist, working within communities to tell ‘hidden’ stories of cultural value. My work often seeks to occupy the intermediary space between art and ‘the academy’, and aims to generate, as well as illustrate theory. (You can take a look at some of my current and past projects here: www.artistic-researcher.co.uk).
I completed my PhD in 2014 at Manchester Metropolitan University, and in 2015 co-authored the Validation Beyond the Gallery report with Prof Amanda Ravetz. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to contribute to the Models of Validation project which grew out of our original study and look forward to working with the team on some of the key deliverables of the KTP.
My first aim is to begin the development of an accessible—and fundamentally useful—online platform for social arts practitioners, informed by our research with artists, producers, commissioners and academics, and to work towards ensuring the continuity of the project into the future, in particular the critical writing showcased in the Social Works journal.
We’re also planning an event at Manchester School of Art in April, which will present some of our findings so far, and provide new opportunities to get involved in the next phase of the project. More details to follow!
My role as academic lead is to provide supervision and guidance on academic aspects of the KTP research.
As a direct result of carrying out pilot research on validation of art ‘beyond the gallery’ (with Lucy Wright), I am committed to understanding more about the values and experiences of artists and publics in this sphere. If we are going to create something of value we must be guided by diverse forms of hands-on knowledge and day to day lived experience.
All KTPs have to make a significant improvement to a business. Axisweb is a charity set up to benefit artists and those who work with them, and so we must be especially sensitive to the needs of these beneficiaries while also finding ways to sustain and grow Axisweb as a business.
As Lucy and I wrote at the end of our pilot report:
the diverse values artists bring to their work in this field must be carefully listened to and taken account of if there is to be a rethinking of systems of validation for those working outside of the gallery system. Any new provision should be artist-led and/or developed in close consultation with artists who have achieved a range of different kinds of validation already. Without this, artists could be disenfranchised through external values being imposed upon them in “top down”, regulatory ways. This in turn might undermine the existing quality and nature of artists’ work occurring within the broad category of socially-engaged / non gallery art.
This is the principle and the challenge we must keep uppermost.
As Executive Director of Axisweb, I’ve witnessed how many more artists are working in socially engaged practice – where communities and individual people, often unrelated to the arts, form the material and outcome of a practice. These artistic practices are challenging the language of display and the very idea of the aesthetic experience that forms the basis of many gallery programmes.
Yet, I’m all too aware of the tension created by not ‘fitting’ within existing frameworks and conventions. Recognition, support and value of such artistic ‘social’ practice is marginal compared to practice supported by galleries.
Is validation the answer? Validation increases reputations and opportunities for more work. And raises many more questions. Where do we look to tell us what is good and if it’s okay to like something? Is the reference for an artist’s career exhibitions in galleries? What if an artist’s work doesn't fit, does that mean it’s not much good?
My desire for the project is to explore how socially engaged practice is represented, valued, preserved and transmitted. If we can understand these implications then we can go some way of achieving our purpose of making artists work possible.
Our Advisory Group will meet three times over the course of the project, and was formed to advise on key issues and opportunities facing the project. Membnership is not fixed, and we are keen to expand