We’ve been helping our colleagues develop their practice for many years. In 2003 we co-founded West MIdlands Creative Alliance, alongside Birmingham Artists and Seeing the Light. We took cohorts of artists on 3 month journeys working on distinct projects and then delivering a joint exhibition. BA were responsible for a visual art cohort, STL for photography and we were in charge of ‘off the wall’ – art that didn’t fit into the former categories. Sadly the funds available for this ran out and we parted company with CA, which is now the largest training provider of creative apprenticeships in the region.
We continued to develop our methodologies and processes and eventually came up with our CPPPD programmes – Continuing Personal, Practice and Professional Development. Our approach being that the first two are the most important aspects for artists to work on, the professional bit mostly works itself out when you get the practice and the personal right.
We’re currently working on a series of Walking Over Coals programmes. These are responsive CPPPD programmes designed with a diverse group of post-emerging and submerging artists, as we feel there is plenty of stuff out there already for the emerging and the 18-24 age range. Over a few months we work with people to help them develop a new project or artwork and towards the end of the programme we work as a group to create some sort of showcase event, an exhibition or show of some kind. It all depends on who comes through the programme, their artforms and interests. There’s no set curriculum – we respond to the people on the programme, what they need and try and help fill in any gaps in their knowledge. The whole process is set up in response to an initial mapping process that looks at participants lives and experiences and makes connections, identifies gaps and leads to working out what their hopes and dreams are – then we make a plan to make those dreams come closer.
Currently some of the last cohort are developing an alternative and performative walking tour of the Bullring, and we’re about to start with a brand new cohort of mostly BAME participants – though this is not through policy, it’s just who has found us lately, we’re a magnet for the unusual suspects.