Invest into and start learning from NE culture & arts, oh and start paying them too!

No one actually makes a living as an artist, right? The cultural sector pays pennies? Go get a “proper” job? Actually the reverse is true, the creative sector and industries in the region are BOOMING…… people want bespoke, creative, individual…..there is the biggest movement to shop and support local and to reject the everyday for something more unknown, exciting, opportunistic and emergingly edgy.

I champion the entrepreneurial agenda, it’s in my blood (literally) and I love it but I really struggle with two issues…………. Firstly that creatives are often not viewed as legitimate business people and yet to see so many creatives launching themselves as a business and behaving more and more like a start-up is fantastic to see. Some of these businesses, it’s been that blend between day job and passion project testing, until opportunity……..without realising and a business is launched and they are trading; they’ve been through years and years of testing without realising. For artists, they have often been drawing or making for YEARS, putting their stuff on Instagram or selling at craft fairs, developing their product and skill set, until they launch…..often accidentally. Someone commissions something, asks to buy or like me, offers you a lump sum of money for a freelance project that gives you traction and a real starting point to launch and oh hello, I think there might be some kind of business here……….

Secondly, this intrinsic opportunity ethos for creatives to work for free; don’t pay them – just let them perform, suggest future opportunities that might lead onto paid work, as if engaging with them is a favour. From a business perspective; outlay of materials, time and then freebies offering, is crippling and removes the legitimacy. Should they be grateful for the opportunity…..as if you offering them a space or time is enough!?As a business think about the implications on the cash flow…….moreover, many creative start-ups are already under-pricing themselves, not factoring in their time, don’t value their service or practice in a similar way to a “product” or factor in materials so before you even think about “may be possibly” paying them what they are owed……they are already doing it for you for a brilliant deal.

This is so short sighted as I find the creative and cultural sector in the North East, as exciting as the Digital Sector at the moment, something to invest into and be a part of……however, there are key differences. There isn’t the investment available, there isn’t the capital and people don’t necessarily take creatives as seriously, as a business they can really understand. So what you have instead is individuals, independents and artists launching on a shoe string; they are resilient, constantly willing to learn, eager for feedback, out there networking, seeking opportunities, developing business models that are lean, mean and sustainable – they are the blueprint learning wise for a start-up business and entrepreneurs……instead of operating with big sales forecasts and massively unrealistic ambitions, they instead operate seeking collaboration, they show patience, evidence a longer term strategy to grow, can afford to keep going without sales or bookings, experiment and take mitigated risks……it’s not all or nothing, or go hard or go home; instead it’s about building something they love, care about and growing at their own pace incrementally on their own terms, making their own rules.

And you may say, well these creative businesses are not going to be the next “big” thing, they aren’t going to feature in Forbes and world isn’t going to change………I’d argue the other way….instead there is no entrepreneurial ego, they are real; a massive big business that had mega investment that people view as “proper” may never get off the ground and no one might ever hear of it, whereas a creative business located in the North East hundreds and often thousands know their name, the people behind it, buy from them, champion and support them….there is less “talking” about doing business and more of the making, creating and trying to get out there from day one……..  they have priced their product, sold it, met their customers, marketed it, submitted accounts and got their hands entrepreneurially dirty……… however, we could help them grow….just by paying them fairly for what they do and the service they offer.

To reflect that into my business; is the Culture Vulture going to make me millions?….probably not. Do I want it to? NO – there I’ve said it. I don’t want a massive business, I don’t want investment – I want my own entrepreneurial and creative sphere……….and I want to do what I love. That is my driver in entrepreneurship and I want to enable others to do the same.

So please don’t apologise or shy away from having a creative business, be massively proud – it isn’t any less “proper”…..Creative businesses usually have real values and passion at the heart………people, talented and excited brilliant people behind it. You have more real life business experience than most, so own that!

Creative businesses and people are the next big thing; there is a movement on going in the North East; I’m so excited to be a part of it………..will Creative businesses, artists and creatives change the world? YES they will…….because they re-imagine it, they challenge it, redesign it, express it, embracing all those aspirational entrepreneurial attributes – ability to handle uncertainty, resilience (anyone who has sold all day at a craft fair and sold nothing), ability to absorb learning and feedback and to build something that is not income dependent……. Their projects and activity happens irrespective of funding because they make it happen………….for most creatives, lack of funding is not a barrier to launch a business…….they assume there is no funding and they launch anyway, because their passion makes it almost like a compulsion………..

Moreover, their creative products bring smiles to people’s faces and they mean something to both the person who purchased it and (if appropriate) the intended recipient. That’s an emotional buyer connection that many businesses can only dream about.

More traditional entrepreneurs and start-ups have a lot to learn from creatives and artists………..so creative businesses and artists, respect them, learn from them, seek them and of course, pay them……

Outside of the Cultural Comfort Zone and into: The Thought Foundation

What is your New Year’s Resolution? I used to be all about less eating, more exercise, more this and less that – however, I gave up many moons ago as I just never kept them. I’m more about lifestyle changes ongoing than setting impossible unrealistic challenges – plus it’s highly unlikely, I’m ever going to be super model thin or run a marathon so pretending that “could” happen, is both hilarious and pointless.

Right, so my New Year’s Resolution is: “to go outside my comfort zone as much as possible”. I’m all for trying new things, doing things that terrify me, living by my gut instinct and striving for personal development and growth; I intend to do more of that this year but like most, I fall into routines! I go to the same restaurants, same galleries, check out the same cultural programmes, same same same! Now that’s wonderful in a way – I love those places, I’m fiercely loyal and they keep providing me with reasons to come back. But it also means, I’m in a cultural bubble of comfort……there is a whole world outside of that, venues, creative spaces, performances, pop up stuff, events etc, that I’m just missing out on.

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Leanne Pearce – Breastfeed

I’m also aware that so many culture vultures (including me!), focus too much on Central NewcastleGateshead……. In short, my cultural sphere is too small, I need to break out, adventure, seek pastures new, visit new venues, see new exhibitions and performances by companies I haven’t engaged with….. I’m excited to do so!

The first place on my *must* visit list is the new Thought Foundation!  It’s a new Community Interest Company (a CIC) in development in Birtley, Gateshead.

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It is the brainchild of three very proactive and entrepreneurial creatives Leanne Billinghurst, Gareth Billinghurst and Hayley Rodgets (and Leanne and Gareth’s two little girls Josephine and Boadicea). As a collective they are on a mission, a mission the Culture Vulture can really get on board with!

  • Firstly, to keep creative talent up in the North East – yes yes yessss! You don’t need to run off anywhere else, there are oodles of creative opportunities bubbling here!
  • Secondly, to make art accessible and to evidence that Arts and Culture really is for all! Anyone and everyone has it within them to be creative and to enjoy creative engagement.
  • Thirdly, creativity, innovation, business, arts, making, doing etc – they all have things in common and can be used to overcome today and tomorrow’s problems.

We love this agenda and we think we will love Thought Foundation – so what is it? Basically it’s is a new thoughtful arts space and cultural organisation with big creative ambitions; to inspire, promote and support creatives and the local community. They have self-funded and crowd funded the major renovation project, as previously the building was used to house a vehicle repair shop. Visually imagine a transformation from a vehicle inspection pit and petrol pumps into a big white space for creative possibilities.

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Thought Foundation will house MINDFIELD- a transformative gallery, THINK- thoughtful eclectic shop, BRAIN FOOD cafe and kitchen, IMAGINATION STATION – alternative kids play zone and BRAIN SPACE – a workshop room. The space aims to be open, dynamic and thought provoking. Clearly a space for culture vultures, little culture vultures in the making and artists……..I’m interested to see exactly what activity and creatives get involved in the space!

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I first heard about Thought Foundation through social media and finding Leanne Pearce’s (married name Billinghurst) art work. At the time alongside, first testing out the idea for The Thought Foundation she was also working on her current exhibition “Breastfeed” with large scale portraits depicting mothers feeding their offspring. This type of work not only visually interested me, as it is beautiful and evidences great talent in portraiture and painting, but thematically as I’m going through that stage where lots of my friends are having children and each having very individualistic experiences breastfeeding. Leanne’s work celebrates and displays focused and intimate moments as a breastfeeding mother – the bond, the natural beauty, the functionality of the process and showcases different versions of the maternal and female experience.

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An artist pushing forward this positive agenda should almost certainly be on your radar. Within Thought Foundation in 2017, a project called “New Born” will be on going. Leanne has defined this as “a creative response to parenting” and I’m excited to see elements of how “Breastfeed” intertwines into that, alongside new creative additions from other artists, Mums, Dads and carers and potentially her own personal evolving experience as a Mum. Oh gosh – I’m getting excited just typing about it – I love the beginning of project development when anything and everything could be possible!

So Culture Vultures, onto the most important question, how can WE get involved!? Well, they are aiming to open Feb/March of this year with a soft launch – keep an eye on their Facebook page for that and make sure you attend; I love being the first to check out a new cultural gem so I will certainly be there. From then on, people will be able to visit and they are planning on developing a cultural programme housed within – so expect events, projects, exhibitions, workshops etc.

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If you’re a creative and artist and want to get involved, well this is the best time to reach out to Thought Foundation and have your input from the beginning. If you have a particular project or their mission sparks an interest in you, drop them a line/pop in and visit and make it happen!

Their first exhibition is titled “Thoughtful Planet” and is a creative response to environmental issue we currently face. They are currently seeking artist submissions for this immersive, multi-disciplinary exhibition. So if you are an artist/creative that works with Film, Photography, Painting, Sculpture, Installation, Light/sound, Poetry/written word, Spoken word art or Performance then they want to hear from you.

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Submission process is open until 30th January 2017 – so you’ve still get plenty of time to pull together a brilliant brief!

If you’re a maker, artist or creative business, well then there could be a collaborative opportunity here! They are looking to develop a great range of stock in their shop THINK. Supplying to a creative stockist is a great way to get your products out there, a different means of selling and they are passionate about supporting local creatives, so if you have lush creative products, why not send them a message with some examples!

And if you’re like me, always looking for a new venue for an event, conference, to run workshops etc, well as I said before, there is a whole world outside of the NewcastleGateshead central zone of culture so why not, discover it alongside being a part of creating your little piece of it in partnership with Thought Foundation! As Leanne herself told me “the opportunities are endless!”.

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Keen an eye out for their launch Culture Vultures; I’m expecting great things and in Summer 2017, I hope to bring something Culture Vulturish to The Thought Foundation! Keep your eyes peeled!

If you’d like to find out more about The Thought Foundation drop Leanne an email: Leanne@thoughtfoundation.co.uk

Spring is coming….. I promise!

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Rise and Fall-Lulu Quinn (2007)

With Spring on the way…..it’s time to start thinking and getting excited about our outdoor Sculpture 30 activities we’ve got coming up.

Now, I know if you look out of the window, you’re probably thinking “Spring!?!” but I promise you it’s coming; it’s March and the flower buds are starting to pop up and say hello; I’ve got some Daffs in my living room at home.

Well what better way to discover sculpture then actually going to see it, touch it and to learn all about it. These Sculpture 30 outdoor activities give you the opportunity to do just that…..

Gateshead Quays Art Walk on Saturday 2nd April, 1pm – 3.30pm.

Our art walks are one of the highlights of our cultural programme; a chance for you to really get to know public art and sculpture in Gateshead. Pieces you may walk passed every day or hidden gems! This walk focuses on exploring the Public Art works along Gateshead quays, taking in sculpture, contemporary glass and urban design.

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5,000 Bolts—Walter Jack Studio (2011)

This walk is led by Anna Pepperall, Gateshead Council’s Public Art Curator. Anna has been doing Public Art talks and curating Public Art in Gateshead since before The Angel of The North, so we are delighted that for this activity we have her as host.

To book: https://online.gateshead.gov.uk/EventTicketsOnline/pages/eventdetails.aspx?ky=3430

Sculpture Tour with Joseph Hillier on Thursday 14th April, 4pm – 8pm

Join Sculptor Joseph Hillier for a tour of some of his publicly sited sculptures followed by an exclusive visit to his studio. This mini bus tour will visit and explore Faith at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and Primary Care Centre and Joseph’s studio in Blaydon.

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70% H2O – Joseph Hillier (2010)

Joseph Hillier is our Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month for April, so this is an unique opportunity to get to know his pieces and to explore his practice.

To book: https://online.gateshead.gov.uk/EventTicketsOnline/pages/eventdetails.aspx?ky=3437

Sculpture Tour with Joseph Hillier on Saturday 23rd April,l 10am – 4pm

Sculptor Joseph Hillier explores of some of his publicly sited sculptures during this full day tour followed by an exclusive visit to his studio. The mini bus will visit Faith at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Mortal8 at Souter Lighthouse, Generation at Newcastle University and Joseph’s studio in Blaydon.

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Mortal 8 – Joseph Hillier (2014)

Is there a better way to spend a Saturday? This exciting opportunity is for a true culture vulture!

To book: https://online.gateshead.gov.uk/EventTicketsOnline/pages/eventdetails.aspx?ky=3438

Creative Walking & Writing Workshop with Jeremy Warr, Saturday 7th May, 10am – 12.30pm

Join Jeremy Warr, at St Mary’s Heritage Centre, for a writing workshop and walk with a difference. You’ll be using some of the many public artworks on Gateshead Quays and Riverside as inspiration for a series of writing exercises.

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Beacons – David Pearl (2004)

We want you to bring your notebook and pens and learn from an expert, whilst feeling inspired by the wonderful Public Art and culture around you.

During this peaceful afternoon, you’ll be able to reimagine and reframe sculptural pieces with your words and metaphors.

To book: https://online.gateshead.gov.uk/EventTicketsOnline/pages/eventdetails.aspx?ky=3439

Gateshead Urban Art Walk, Saturday 21st May, 1pm-3.30pm

Anna Pepperall, Gateshead Public Arts Curator returns to explore some of the Public Art works in and around Gateshead Town Centre during this interpreted public art. Find out about the new Trinity Development and the fantastic piece “Halo” by Sculpture 30 December Artist of the Month, Steve Newby.

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Halo – Steve Newby (2014)

There are so many hidden gems within the Gateshead Central area, so this walk is an opportunity to learn and reflect on some of these pieces and the process behind their conception, construction and maintenance.

To book: https://online.gateshead.gov.uk/EventTicketsOnline/pages/eventdetails.aspx?ky=3431

Lots of outdoor Sculpture 30 activity coming up; so get booked before these walks sell out. Fingers cross we will get lovely days for them, but as with all things outdoors in the British Summer/Spring, please be prepared and dress for British weather!

If you’d like any information, please contact CBSArtsTeam@Gateshead.gov.uk

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