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What does Artist Development mean?

We asked Jez Pike, our Artist Development Co-Ordinator what the term means, and what support we offer artists.

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We are excited to share and launch new work created or supported as part of our Artist Development programme, and even more will be coming soon! So, we thought it would be great to catch up with Jez Pike, our Artist Development Co-Ordinator, to find out more about what the term means, and what kind of support we are offering to artists…

 

Can you start by explaining to us what we mean by Artist Development?

It means that we are supporting artists to be the best versions of themselves by either reducing the size of the obstacles they face or enabling artists to jump over them. There are external obstacles; access to space, time and money and internal obstacles; creative blocks and the challenges of maintaining positive wellbeing in an uncertain arts sector.

Artist Development is also the primary interface between Norwich Theatre and artists who may wish to develop a dialogue with us, with a view to future programming and producing relationships. Through the pandemic, all theatres acknowledged the cultural divide between freelance artists and venues had to change and was helpful to no one. At Norwich Theatre, artist development enables us to maintain an open-door policy, always be in open conversation with artists and have the capacity to take the time necessary to really understand them and their work.

And why do you think it is important?

Great art tends to be made when the artist – whatever their level of experience – is in the process of growth, flying high on a momentum generated by a new kind of practice, process, collaboration or resource. Generating this momentum is tough for freelance artists. Unlike many other strands of working life, their career path has very few in-built structures for advancement and professional development.

For an early-career artist, getting started requires a considerable leap of faith as they may not be able to see themselves along a career timeline clearly. For artists who might be described as being ‘mid-career’, the support initiatives that our industry does offer for younger artists dry up. Artists can feel like they’ve hit a glass ceiling or that the pressures of living make those obstacles more prevalent than ever before. For established artists, perhaps with a national or international profile, it can be difficult to carve out space for one’s own creative wellbeing, access peers whom one can be safely challenged, and take risks when venues, producers and audiences have invested in you and grown confident in the work you make.

Wherever artists are in their careers, the opportunity to develop is vital. Growth is the fuel that builds and sustains careers and ultimately manifests itself as fantastic experiences for audiences.

So it covers artists at all stages, how do we support them?

Currently, we’re maximising one of our greatest assets, Stage Two, to support artists to develop new work. Having identified their development ambitions, we can help them overcome some of those external obstacles by providing space and the support of our production and technical teams.

Alongside this, we offer support focusing on organisational or career development. Over 50% of artist development work is away from a creative studio. Some of the most impactful ways we’re helping artists now involve a flip-chart and a business planning session or writing a funding application. Our approach is to develop a holistic package of support that’s bespoke to each artist. When doing a residency with us, artists get plugged into everything we have to offer, whether that is opportunities in our activities or partners’, such as UEA.

And what do we hope to achieve?

We aim to develop Norwich and Norfolk as a fantastic place to become a professional artist, sustain a career and make work. We see our role in that process as engaging with artists directly and supporting the wider landscape, appreciating that our offer can never be definitive. For artists to feel the sustainable benefit, they need to be part of an inter-connected arts ecology. So as we’re developing our artist development programme, we’re thinking about how we can design and deliver it in partnership with others, including artists themselves.

Why do you think it’s important to retain local talent in the local area?

As in any walk of life, people should have the right to live in the areas they feel connected to, safe knowing that a thriving life can be created there. Artists that have been toying with the idea of leaving the area, or made the decision some years ago, have been telling us how much they wish they could have stayed in Norwich. Artists rarely leave the city because they want to, but they feel they have to realise their dreams and achieve viable long-term careers.

The work of our artist development programme, and that of other organisations in and around the city, is not designed to support the retention of local talent simply because we’ve deemed it important. It’s a long-term goal because artists wish it to be so. Our job, working in partnership across our county, is to help create an arts ecology in which staying is a decision that artists can confidently take as much with the head as with the heart.

We have some exciting work coming up – what can people expect?

At the end of the month, we’re supporting The Writers Guild to showcase new writing in the East at Stage Two. A week later, Orange Skies Theatre will be performing their full production of Wild Onion, the culmination of a journey they started with us in January. Next through the doors will be Ruth Philips, a fantastic theatre-maker and movement director. Ruth is our latest selected artist for Incubate, a new work initiative for graduates run in partnership with UEA.

The summer will see two companies based in London, but with Norwich routes, reconnect with the area. Speak Up Theatre will be integrating community participants from our Take Part activities into their exploration of female body dysmorphia. Whilst Seemia Theatre, developing their hybrid live/digital show, Take On This, will be offering an emerging Norfolk actor, identifying as being a person from The Global Majority, the opportunity to train with them.

 

Thank you for your time Jez! You can find out more about these upcoming works below…

WILD ONION

TAMED

23 Jun - 25 Jun 2022