On 08 February 2010 a meeting was held in Exeter, pulling together a range of people representing the many different elements of the regional visual arts ecology.
Following a series of short presentations (including one by me) gallery directors, artists, curators, network co-ordinators, local authority officers, audience development professionals, service providers ect. spent a full day debating the possibilities for a regional visual arts strategy group in the South West.
By the end of the day certain things had emerged as consensual: a group would need to be sector owned; it would need to included both Regularly Funded Organisations (RFO) and non-RFO, and should include representation from artists working in the region; it would need a level of paid co-ordination, and would need to make the most of technology but mustn't underestimate the importance of face-to-face engagement.
There were also a number of things that remained unclear: was one, or more than one group needed in such a large region; how would it complement what already exists in a network rich environment; and how would it ensure broad representation?
It was proposed to the group by the Arts Council at the end of the day that further work could be undertaken, as happened in the early days of other groups (like Yorkshire), by an interim group. This group would be charged, by the sector as a whole, with doing a fast and focussed piece of work to determine possible models for the group and also to consider areas of priority for future focus, informed by the research undertaken across three sub-regional areas by Audiences South West and commissioned by the Arts Council: http://www.audiencessw.org/page.php?id=205.
A self-selected group came forwards and agreed to take forward this initial piece of work. The membership of this group will be posted in the next week or so.
This group's work will lead to a further region-wide consultation event in April / May at which constituents will have an opportunity to debate the proposals / options, and will make final decisions about if and how a South West addition to the Turning Point Network will form.