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3 Days for ArtCan: an artist community creating opportunities

Submitted by ArtCan on 25 February 2022 - 8:44pm

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London

2 - 4 March 2022

The 2022 edition of our 3 Days for ArtCan could showcase the past year’s exhibitions, membership growth, sales and other less-tangible achievements. That would be appropriate, too, because last year saw remarkable growth, a record number of shows and lots of great conversations and valuable experiences. 

But, in ArtCan director Kate Enters’ words, “This year, ‘3 Days’ feels like a moment to touch down briefly for some recognition of the business structure and of what happens behind the scenes, before pushing off for more momentum in the coming year.” 

So, instead of looking at the front-facing activities and achievements of ArtCan’s member community, we’re wheeling the spotlight around to the other side of the curtain, in appreciation of the people who make ArtCan—a fully volunteer-run organisation—what it is. 

Purpose: Building belonging

ArtCan has always had a strong purpose which addressed the fact that being an artist can be an isolating existence by offering connectivity and peer recognition. But how does ArtCan build a sense of belonging that creates deeper, lasting engagement?

Part of the answer is ArtCan’s founder and director, Kate Enters. But even though she is at the centre of the organisation, you won’t hear words like ‘leadership’ or ‘delegation’ from Kate. They don’t fit well with her approach or ArtCan’s compassionate and inclusive organisational culture. Kate prefers to think of herself as a motivator and a good judge of how and who to engage in the process of making things happen for ArtCan. Meeting people who want to become more involved with the organization and having a sense of whether they can take the tools into their own hands and get on with it is, for Kate, a skill combined with gut feeling. 

People: The right, the left hand and beyond

It’s how Kate came to be working with the two volunteers she now regards as her left- and right-hand women: Rita Carta Manias and Holly Collier. Following on from Ellen Schwartze’s critical, initial work, Holly and Rita have stepped in to become ArtCan’s bedrock for the past four years, providing crucial art administration support and marketing services, respectively. Both have a strong sense of the values and mission of ArtCan, and they truly own the roles that they have created for themselves within the organisation. Kate, Holly and Rita have a solid and enjoyable working relationship, and it is that energy and culture of collaborative openness that ripples outwards to the teams, committees and trustees that do the behind-the-scenes work at ArtCan.

The Advisory Committee—which includes not only Collier and Manias, but also Caroline Banks, Catherine Fenton, Catherine Sweet, Hannah Pratt, Jenni Wiggle and Sal Jones—processes membership admissions and is a sounding board for key decisions. 

Additionally, each member has developed an identifiable, individual role, in line with their own interests and skills. For example, Hannah Pratt is the Friends Of membership director and Catherine Fenton runs the philanthropic projects, such as the climate pledge. Sal Jones has evolved into a location specialist, locating and researching exhibition venues. This division of tasks has evolved organically and is very stable as a result, something that is essential for preserving institutional memory and keeping ArtCan running smoothly over time. 

Another thing, Kate says, that was interesting to watch this past year has been the business world getting to grips with flexible schedules and working from home. “We’ve all been doing that in ArtCan for years: before or after work, at home, between one thing and another and late at night. You actually can run an organisation like that—and successfully, too.”

Promotion: Expanding reach

Trustee Tabish Khan, journalist and reviewer for The Londonist, recently related that he has noticed a significant uptick in awareness of ArtCan as well as fielded more enquiries about how it supports artists. That’s down to the three teams of talented volunteers involved in publicity.

Holly Collier heads the social media team, deploying proactive, light-touch campaigns that fit well with ArtCan’s identity. The team is Rita Carta Manias, Laura Molloy, Svetlana Atlavina, Vanessa Short, Catherine Fenton, Mirella Bandini, Gabriela Villar Mogollon, Irene Raspollini, Hannah Pratt, Jess de Zilva, Sarah Wills-Brown, Lisa Price, Rian Hotton, Catherine Sweet, Helen Shulkin and Holly Collier. Together they have achieved double- and triple-figure increases in followers across all the major platforms, since the beginning of 2020.

The Website Team are Catherine Sweet and Emmanuelle Orr with the help of Britton Lutz. In 2021, these three researched, did the concept design for and delivered the latest incarnation of the website. Developments that they are currently at work on include a members-only area and embedding the ArtCan gallery within the site.

The Press Team is Kat Filice, Valerie Zwart and Laurence de Valmy, who have worked efficiently and well together since the team’s inception. Playing to their individual strengths, Kat orchestrates publicity and critical path, Valerie writes and edits press releases and strategic content, with Laurence advising on press listings and release distribution.

Participation: Exhibitions and learning experiences

Being an artist can be an isolated existence, but the need for connectivity is innate and the pandemic drew that need sharply into focus. Particularly over the past two years, more international artists have exhibited with ArtCan, curated a show and/or have benefitted from organisationally supported, hands-on learning experiences that volunteering with ArtCan provides.

Place: ArtCan gets a (virtual) home

 

ArtCan began life in London, but has led a chameleon-like life, adapting to each new bricks-and-mortar exhibition venue, and evolving through ongoing exhibition partnerships and its social media platforms.

In 2020, ArtCan’s response to the first wave of the pandemic was to create all-online shows. Their success as well as the continued challenges of 2021 saw the development of hybrid (online and physical) exhibitions and programming. Hybrid presentations amplify ArtCan’s flexibility and accessibility and they are here to stay.

Last but not least, the ArtCan Gallery was launched in 2021. This virtual reality space was built in collaboration with TD360, a company creating immersive and interactive virtual tours. The result is our stunning and very real looking ‘forever’ gallery, set in landscape that changes with the season. Artist-members have embraced this exhibition space which can be adapted to show each artist’s work to best advantage. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate expression of ArtCan.

Policy: values, culture and mission

ArtCan’s core values, culture and mission haven’t changed. The humanity and community, the openness and supportive collaboration are still generating dynamic exhibitions and helping artists develop skill sets for the larger project of ArtCan, which is to support each other as a professional peer group. 

Performance: not just growing, but growing well

Finally, last year’s facts and figures show ArtCan not only growing, but growing well. 

Artist membership is up by almost 25% across 30 countries. Similarly, the Friends of ArtCan cohort is now 20 members strong. 

Partially as a result of COVID-related delays, ArtCan produced a record 11 exhibitions showing 274 artists’ work. ArtCan’s eight virtual shows in 2021 had 378 visitors, comparing well to an average of 115 invitees attending each in-person, private view (which it has to be said, were held under the long shadow of the pandemic). Nevertheless, 11 artworks were sold via ArtCan exhibitions, with an approximate total value of £5500.

ArtCan also chalked up two international firsts: participation in its first international art fair in Stockholm and its first international collaboration with La Condamine, Paris. 

Programming in 2021 was well attended with the ArtCan talks and IG Live events drawing 676 attendees.

ArtCan’s activities did not go unnoticed. The proverbial icing on the 2021 cake was winning Acquisition International’s Best Art Exhibitions in the Non-profit Organisation category.

But the last word goes to Kate, “Looking back at 2021, we can be confident that whatever Covid becomes, ArtCan has demonstrated the flexibility and resilience to adapt. Our growth has continued strongly, both as a business and as a community. Having our connectivity be more structured and integrated has been key. It means that international artist-members can be more deeply involved—beyond exhibitions, to ArtCan’s operations and activities. People are used to seeing the talent in ArtCan’s exhibitions. Showing the talent behind them is more difficult, but—when I think of how generous people have been with their time and skills—it’s just as impressive.”
 

About ArtCan

ArtCan is an artist-led, non-profit arts organisation with members across Britain and internationally. ArtCan’s work is supported by the efforts of artist-member volunteers, contributions from Founder Friends and Friends of ArtCan and with the valued guidance of the Board of Trustees.

ArtCan has expertise in producing collaborative art exhibitions in London, across Britain and internationally. The exhibitions complement the work of established galleries by enabling talent to gain experience and skills. ArtCan work with galleries, but also seeks new spaces where art becomes a part of everyday life and with the aim of involving audiences in an organic and personal way.

ArtCan’s artist-centered ethos means that the model does not involve charging membership fees or commissions on sales, to help artists focus on developing a sustainable practice.

PROGRAMME OF EVENTS

Wednesday 2 March 

08.30: Opening conversation (IG Live) with Founder and Director Kate Enters and Rita Carta Manias

18.00: IG Live with Trustees Tabish Kahn and Brian Harris

Thursday 3 March

Throughout the day: Members of the Advisory Committee discuss their role in ArtCan

18.00: IG Live with Trustees Deborah Henry Pollard, Rich Nicholls and Georgia Prowting-Lord

Friday 4 March

20.00: Closing conversation with Founder and Director Kate Enters and Holly Collier

 

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