Calls for Proposals - Contribute to engage 37, on theme of hosting and commissioning artists

Time and Space: hosting and commissioning artists

Proposals are invited for engage 37, which will focus on how hosting and commissioning artists relates to gallery education. The deadline for proposals is 5pm on Tuesday 1 September 2015

The outline below, stimulated by a discussion with the engage Journal Editorial Advisory Board, is followed by a series of questions. Please address these or use them as prompts in proposals for articles.

Issue 37 of the engage Journal will investigate the relationships between organisations and artists who are invited to develop their practice and/or make new work in a specific context and for a defined purpose. Embracing placements, residencies, community initiatives and regeneration and collaborative projects and commissions, these projects demand shared objectives, negotiation, empathy and sensitivity to the ideas and ambitions of all involved. Further challenges include the public facing nature of most projects and the involvement of additional partners – arts and non-arts. Increasingly, artists are invited to work with an organisation as part of a participation agenda, with the requirement for the artist to work with or collaborate with particular audiences.

“Residencies aim to give artists time to focus and to develop their practice, suggesting space for personal creative exploration and experimentation and offering artists profiling and career development. Clearly though, the sponsors and programmers providing them tend to expect something in return for providing artists with fees and also studio space, accommodation and a production budget.”

Whilst the concept of residencies might feel contemporary the TransArtists website traces it back to around 1900 when, in the USA and UK, art benefactors or patrons offered artists guest studios to concentrate on their work. Over the decades the aims and philosophies have changed and now there is a strong interest in research driven residencies, with the idea that ‘artists in residence’, through peer to peer exchange and focusing on mutual issues to host and artist, ‘may offer new spaces and models for the development of knowledge and understanding, not only in the arts, but in society as well’.

Commissioning artists – for what is broadly termed ‘public art’ – has similar challenges to residencies, for commissioners and artists. The spectrum of public art ‘encompasses art commissioned as a response to the notion of place, art commissioned as part of the designed environment and process-based artistic practice that does not rely on the production of an art object. When searching for a definition, it is helpful to regard public art as the process of artists responding to the public realm.

An assessment of the public art sector suggests that the roles that artists have include working:
- As members of design teams contributing to regeneration projects through research, reflection and resulting propositions which address the context and functions of a specific site;
- To engage creatively with communities in order to explore and articulate issues of local significance;
- As commentators, researchers and provocateurs producing either permanent or temporary public art’.

The second and third roles coincide with the notions outlined above of the artist working with or collaborating with identified audiences or engaged in research through their practice and a process of making new work for a particular context.

We are interested in contributions from colleagues in the UK and worldwide, reflecting on practices, shifting understandings and challenges faced in different contexts, in relation to questions such as:
The term residency is very fluid. Are there factors that are essential to be able to describe a project or situation as a residency?

When is a residency not a residency?

What does an artist shaped space look like?

What are the differences between a placement and a residency?

How do residencies differ if offered and supported by learning contexts rather than curatorial?

What are the respective skills that learning and curatorial professionals provide in supporting artists in residency and commission contexts?

What are the aims and objectives for learning in commissioning artists? What are artists uniquely placed to offer to gallery education programmes?

What questions does an organisation need to address before inviting an artist to work with them?

What are the different implications for learning departments and staff rather than curators in commissioning artists for public works?

How do collaborations between visual artists and those working in other arts disciplines or professions, e.g. architects, engineers, designers and manufacturers support visual art commissions?

What influences do the agendas of other sectors such as health, social care, regeneration or criminal justice have on artists’ residencies or commissions?

What potential do these collaborations provide for learning?

How do the needs and ambitions of artists concur with those of an organisation?

How might they differ or clash?

How can participants be involved in artist residencies and commissions at each stage of the process? How can the opinions and choices of participants be properly represented in the selection of artists and in the development of a participatory arts commission?

What opportunities are associated with inviting an artist into an institution?

What are the potential challenges?

What can artists gain from working in residence or on commissions with learning departments and staff?

What are the challenges associated with artists collaborating with audiences?

What is the status and ownership of work made by participants working with an artist in residence or on a commission?

How can the interests of artists and participants be balanced and represented in presenting and promoting work that has been made through collaboration and participation?
If you are interested in contributing to this issue, please send an informal proposal of no more than 300 words, your job/freelance title and contact details to by 5pm on Tuesday 1 September 2015.

Final articles lie between 1,500 and 4,000 words. The submission deadline for engage 37 is 10am Friday 13 November 2015. We welcome contributions that make use of the engage journal’s online format.

First published in 1996, the engage journal is the international journal of visual art and gallery education. Each edition of this twice-yearly online publication focuses on a separate theme to form a definitive collection of work on all aspects of visual art and gallery education. The journal can accessed by all engage members and institutional subscription holders including libraries around the world.