Meeting famous artists, installing seven-tonne spheres and producing collaborations between opera companies and prisons – it’s been all in a day’s work for Andrea Rowbotham since joining the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme. Here, she gives us the lowdown on her first six months on a placement with the Dartington Hall Trust.
I graduated in 2009 with a first class honours in fine art; a slightly more mature student than most of my fellow graduates, but just as excited about the prospect of getting out there into the world of the arts with my hard-earned qualification and making my mark.
After several months of enthusiastically and optimistically applying for graduate jobs while working as a waitress, I soon realised the “golden job” within the arts was not going to suddenly materialise; I wasn’t going to be snapped up due to my entrepreneurial willingness to do just about anything and there were hundreds of other arts graduates in exactly the same position as me.
As a creative and resourceful individual (which all arts graduates are, of course), I knew I had to find a less traditional way of getting my foot on the ladder. Being co-creator of a local group for emerging artists in Taunton, Somerset, I threw myself into the development of this group and started negotiations with the local authority to acquire affordable studio spaces for our members. Little did I know that while I was executing my grand plan to have the next great arts centre in the South West, I was also acquiring the knowledge, know-how and key requirements for the role of producer.
Putting my mind to it
It’s amazing how like attracts like. A new enthusiasm was triggered in me and my old mantras, such as “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” came flooding back. I clicked on the Arts Council website set on my favourites, and there it was: DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme. My eyes went straight to the words “arts graduates”, I read on and the rest is history.
I started with the Dartington Hall Trust, near Totnes, in Devon, on 10 January as Special Project Assistant. I fell in love with the house and gardens at my interview and to find out I had gained the position was on a par with getting my First!
Dartington is not only a beautiful place to work; it’s also inspiring. The 1,200 acre estate which was bought in the 1920s by visionaries Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst as the base for an experiment in rural regeneration focuses on three charitable areas: the arts, social justice and sustainability. I’ve been welcomed into an intricate world where all three strands are committed to solving the problems of our time through experimentation, collaboration and new ideas.
Black Sphere at Dartington
“Can anyone go to The Yorkshire Sculpture Park next week to meet with David Nash to work out the logistics of how to get his Black Sphere down to Devon and positioned into the gardens at Dartington?” My hand was the first to go up; well actually it was the only hand to go up. This was my first project and it was only January. I’d briefly met David at his studio in Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales, during the third year of my degree. To meet him in an official capacity was wonderful.
Much to my surprise, I’d been put on the guest list for the last day celebrations of his very successful retrospective at YSP. Guests at the lunch included the granddaughter of Henry Moore and representatives from major galleries who’d worked with David during his career.
Talking to David about his work in Yorkshire has been, I have to say, my most memorable moment so far. Black Sphere, weighing in at just over seven tonnes, is now installed in the formal gardens of Dartington Hall. The day it went in was the most nerve racking day of my life. Tractors were at the ready, lifting gear had been acquired from a local farm and the carrier from North Wales had just five hours to install it. With careful planning, risk assessments in place and the help of the gardens staff the iconic piece was erected in just under five hours. I had begun this project when it was just a seed in Director of Arts David France’s mind and now it’s here for all to enjoy.
This opportunity from The DCMS Jerwood Bursary scheme has enabled me to complete many other projects which I’d have never had the chance to do at this stage in my career, including a joint curatorial role to celebrate the life of the Bengali writer Rabrindranath Tagore, which included a timeline exhibition here at Dartington which then travelled on to The Bhavan Centre in West Kensington. I’m also very excited to be the Producer for the Encounters group and their project A Little Patch of Ground, a rural/urban food growing and performance project taking place in Dartington, Devon and at Toynbee studios East London. Another project in the pipeline that I am to produce is a collaborative project between English Touring Opera (ETO), The Dartington Hall Trust and HMP Channings Wood Prison, Devon, in Autumn 2011.
Who knows what the future holds, but I can safely say that, thanks to the Bursary Scheme and Dartington, I’m well equipped to take on the art world!
Dartington Hall image by Graham Tait on Flickr. Some rights reserved. Black Sphere image courtesy of Dartington Hall.