Deirdre, Gallery Manager at Mart in Ireland went to the UK in September 2017, to meet Wasps Studios and its team, through the European Creative Hubs Network and our Peer-to-Peer Scheme (P2P). This is his article about the experience of exchanging knowledge, creative hub to creative hub.
EUROPEAN CREATIVE HUBS NETWORK
Peer-to-peer exchange mobility scheme P2P Scheme
Deirdre Morrissey, firstname.lastname@example.org (5 days)
Host Hub: Wasps Studios, 141 Bridgegate Glasgow G1 5HZ
Contact at Wasps: Audrey Carlin
Dates: 4thh – 8th September 2017
By Deirdre Morrissey
MART is an artist led, not-for-profit arts organisation founded in 2007 in Dublin, Ireland by Matthew Nevin and Ciara Scanlan. The organisation provides creative art studio space and also facilitates the exhibition of contemporary art in the MART Gallery. MART is made up of a small team with big ambitions – we are the largest supplier of independent, affordable space for the arts, cultural and creative community in Dublin city. We provide workspace for over 120 members in 8 studio buildings in Dublin. MART operates on a self-sustainable model not for profit basis, meaning that all profits raised from studio rentals are invested back in to the organisation in order to sustain and develop the studios and promote contemporary art through an engaging curatorial programme.
I have been working with MART for the last 12 months, my own background is within artist -led initiatives, I was previously director of another Dublin based artists’ studios ’The Market Studios for 6 years. I have also worked in Belfast where I was co-director of Platform Arts; an artist’s studios & gallery and worked as Studio Administrator for Creative Exchange Artists’ Studios,Belfast, so I was keen to take the opportunity to take part in this Cultural Hub initiative and learn from WASPS organisational model.
WASPS (Workshop and Artists’ Studio Provision Scotland Ltd) is a charity based in Glasgow that provides studios to 800 artists and 25 arts organisations at 18 buildings across Scotland. WASPS have been running for 40 years and have grown to become one of the UK’s largest studio providers, with buildings stretching from the Scottish borders to the Shetland Islands. WASPS currently own two thirds of their property portfolio meaning that they can offer secure permanent studios for artists. They also run an artistic programme including open studios, residencies and exhibitions in partnership with a range of artists, arts organisations and cultural agencies from Scotland and beyond.
The objectives set out at the beginning of the exchange
- To improve MART’s operations and skills
- Skill Share
- Investigate and learn from the operations systems WASPS use
- Their staff structure and engagement with staff & members
- Work on a future exchange
We were specifically interested in WASPS because they are a long running arts organisation with a similar business model to MART. There are definite similarities between our strategy, the services we offer and our artistic community so we wanted to learn about how their organisation has grown and remained self-sustainable.
As WASPS have buildings in multiple locations we felt there were similar management and maintenance challenges and we welcomed the opportunity to learn about their day to day procedures and business operations.
The activities during the exchange period
I had daily meetings with various members of WASPS staff who talked through their different roles and responsibilities. The meetings were incredibly beneficial and there are definitely some procedures and practices that we would consider applying to MART
I was also brought on site visits to some of the WASPS Glasgow buildings which gave me an opportunity to see how the various building’s functioned as creative workspaces and meet some of their members and auxiliary staff.
Meetings took place throughout the week, mostly at the WASPS Briggat building, these included…
- Meeting with the WASPS communications and marketing manager Helen Moore to discuss communication procedures between artists & staff, membership turnover and application processes.
- Meeting with David Cameron who is the WASPS maintenance officer to discuss procedures in dealing with maintenance across their buildings and the systems they use to log and address these issues. Lots of common ground here with similar challenges!
- Meeting with Lois Green the studio administrator who took me on site visits to their various different studio buildings around Glasgow city centre. This gave me an opportunity to meet some of the artists and creatives who are based there and get an insight to how each building uniquely worked to function as a workspace for different types of creatives.
- Meeting with Mary Beaton – head of projects. She explained about how WASPS obtained their buildings and the various different agreements and leases they had with local councils and landlords. While we acknowledged that the challenges were different between Glasgow and Dublin (Dublin having a higher priced property market) She gave some good advice on and how we market ourselves to local council and government, remembering our social responsibility and benefits to the local community as an arts organisation.
- Meeting with Gemma Mannion the Arts Enterprise Officer about the management of WASPS artistic programme, the outreach programme and their management of funding for these
- I also met with the in-house event management company that WASPS work with to increase their revenue. This management company oversee and manage all of the external events but work closely with WASPS to ensure expectations are met and the creative mission of the organisation is not compromised. As MART continue to research and implement different ways to raise capital this was particularly interesting.
- The Green Team meeting – made up of representatives from various businesses in the WASPS base at the Briggat, Glasgow; who want to ensure that they are doing everything they can to promote recycling and be more eco-friendly. Very inspiring!
The trip also gave me the opportunity to visit and link in with some other arts organisations and get a sense of the art scene in Glasgow. This included a visit to artist led gallery David Dale, SWG3, the Glasgow School of Art and Tramway Gallery.
I also recorded my experiences via Instagram pictures & Insta stories https://www.instagram.com/mart_dublin/?hl=en
We hope to establish a studio exchange programme with between Glasgow and Dublin as one of the cultural hub exchange outcomes. We envisage this to be a low-cost and easily achievable initiative given the proximity of both our countries, and partnering artists with similar life/work situations who can easily swop homes and studios for a short period, allowing each to experience their partner’s city. A specific project would be set up for this resulting in a professional development session and an exhibition opportunity during the swap period.
As MART continue to grow and strengthen as an organisation building relationships and pooling resources with international partners is of primary importance to us.
WASPS have agreed to carry on communication in a mentoring role with MART which will be hugely beneficial to our strategic development as an artist-led organisation.
On a personal level I have had the opportunity to connect with some fantastic people, feel inspired by their vision and get to know the city of Glasgow which is only a 40 min flight from Ireland!