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Selecting Our Artists 

"Both ArtULTRA and Culture Commons were born during the pandemic, from a common realisation that the inequalities that already existed in the artistic and creative sectors were at risk of becoming even more entrenched. At ArtULTRA, we tackle this issue by providing opportunities for emerging artists to find projects, commissions, exhibitions, affordable studios, representation, grants and more. We were therefore delighted to be approached by Culture Commons to contribute to a publication presenting qualitative information about the reality of work in the creative and cultural sectors in England. a


For the project, we wanted to commission artists who represented a cross section of the creative sector, and who worked and lived in or near the communities where the workshops were held, namely Croydon, Rotherham and Truro. Their range of artistic practices would also need to speak to the wide variety of art forms in England today.


Together with the Culture Commons team, we challenged ourselves to select artists that demonstrated innovative artforms and ambition, while maintaining an inclusive approach by offering all artists an equal opportunity to be considered for the paid commission. We approached partner organisations across all the workshop regions to relay our Open Call through their own networks, in order to reach as many regional creatives as possible. Following a detailed selection process, we were delighted to appoint Jess Pemberton, a collage artist working with both analogue and digital mediums; Tara Kearney, a movement practitioner working with photographer Duran 'Dee Dee' Abdullah; and Jo Peel, whose work spans large scale wall murals, paintings on canvas, screen printing and animation themed around urban regeneration.


The outcome of this commission are three stunning new artworks: they are totally different from one another, but remain absolutely committed to relaying the plurality of views expressed in the workshops that took place. Jess Pemberton’s piece grounded itself in the locality of Truro, revealing the disjointed networks and infrastructures available to creatives who appear as lonely figures in islands, their heads bursting with creative flow. Tara Kearney used her body and facial expressions to translate the mixed emotions experienced by creative freelancers. The artwork called ‘Seize The Space’ captured eloquently the challenges of finding one’s space in changing and uncertain environments. Finally, Jo Peel created an urban landscape showing how place is intrinsically linked to artistic endeavour. Her piece revealed multifaceted realities of creative practice, its ebbs and flows, with periods of flourishing and construction contrasted with quieter moments of gestation.

We hope that together these pieces demonstrate evidence of a sector which is vibrant and committed, but facing strong headwinds, and will give credence to our conviction that creativity must be nurtured to flourish”

Alice Black, Founder, Art ULTRA

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Selecting Our Artists

In this section we set our how we worked with our partner organisation ArtULTRA to commission three local areas to capture the spirit and themes behind the conversations emerging in each of our workshop locations. 


The Commissioning Process 


At the beginning of our ‘Creative Workforce Workshops’ project, we decided that it would be helpful to capture the lived experiences of our participants through a combination of written text describing the discussions as accurately as possible (capturing key verbatim material) and some kind of visual representation of the discussion. For us, this wasn’t about taking a visual snapshot of the participants in the room, as we often see in more traditional visual reportage; it was about using creative processes to try and capture the sentiments sitting beneath the words. At Culture Commons, we don’t just want to develop policy for the creative and cultural sectors: we believe in the power of artists and creative workers to make and influence policy through their own creative practices too.


To achieve this, we set about finding three artist ‘rapporteurs’ who would work within their own preferred medium to translate the sentiment, themes, thoughts and feelings bubbling up from each of the three workshops. 

We commissioned artist support organisation ArtULTRA to help us locate and engage with three artists working and living in each of our chosen locations. Former Director of the Design Museum in London, Ambassador to the Mayor of London’s Cultural Board and Founder of ArtULTRA, Alice Black, explains the process:

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