CornCCoB days 3-14! (first published 15/4/2013)

After the previous two blog posts I became quite busy, and then a few days later moved into a holiday cottage with no wifi. So although I would have loved to update the blog, I was no longer able to. A nice little touch during a research trip all about the value of the web! Anyway, I thought I’d provide a short summary here of the fieldwork. On day 3 I found myself in Redruth, to speak with various artists working from studios in a fantastic space called Krowji: Krowji is an old school building (plus out buildings) which now provides affordable studio space for local artists and craftspeople. It’s an incredibly inspiring place with a very colourful cafe – I ended up here on three separate occasions and I think it’s fair to say it has injecting some much needed vibrancy into a depressed (but beautiful) town which suffered with the decline of the local mining industry.

I got such a range of perspectives from the various people I spoke to here

– a textile artist who feels that increasingly, to not be online is to be invisible and is therefore gradually embracing social networking and web design; an independent artist and volunteer director of a local community media company who had some intriguing insights into the ways in which artists might interpret (often overly positive) feedback of their work on social networking sites in both positive and negative ways; a furniture maker who has a strong understanding of the value of the web in marketing and reaching out to potential clients; a manager of a community arts organisation who explained more about the social make up of the area and the ways in which artists can grow positivity around community, for example through bringing disparate groups back together; an artist working across an astounding number of roles including arts education, personal arts practise, community outreach and fundraising as well as being a full time student and mother of three, who uses social networking mainly to network with her professional community and obtain professional criticism of her own work; a mixed media artist who spoke about the conflict between art as a living, and art as a part of who you are – and the subsequent need to carry out other roles to fund her art – in this case through providing workshops to members of the local community).
I also attended the opening night of an exhibition called Limbo which brought together much of the exciting artists practising across Cornwall currently – the first stage of a future biennale of art in Cornwall. I was particularly struck by Tim Shaw’s “Man on Fire” and the atmosphere of the old coffin store where the event was held. The next day I met with one of the artists who had been showing there, a good discussion over equally good beer that was pretty vast in its scope and refreshingly insightful, but resulted in running a bit short of time towards the end of the interview. Nonetheless a refreshing insight into the effects social networking could be having on the nature of human interactions, which caused me to question my own take on the very thing I’m here to ask others about. The following day’s interviewing saw me back to Penzance, speaking with an illustrator in the Exchange Gallery, a discussion which taught me more about the shape of creative communities across Cornwall and the ways in which the unique attributes of Cornwall lend to its particular sense of community in the arts which is rooted strongly in the heritage and traditions of the places themselves. I was totally awestruck by this piece of art by Patricia Piccinini (The Long Awaited):
My final day’s interviewing was in St Ives, where I spoke with a film maker who told me that St Ives is on the one hand a thriving community but on the other a place where locals can struggle to thrive due to the huge value of property due to tourism. St Ives is perhaps enjoying a moment where new and exciting artists are redefining the area’s artistic identity. St Ives is known for it’s history as a hub for artists including the renowned Barbara Hepworth, but has been accused by some of representing the kind of art demanded by tourists – white cottages with blue doors, seagulls and fishing boats…. artists currently working in St Ives are perhaps pushing these notions with much more contemporary work (as in evidence at the Limbo exhibition and Millennium Gallery). In this interview we explored the notion of social networking society as doomed, and considered the good and bad sides to all things “new” and the ways in which these evolve towards something with (arguably) more positive outcomes for society. I then spoke with a coordinator of community outreach programmes through a major local gallery who outlined a programme in which rural communities are supported in engaging with the Arts, either through activity (e.g. workshops) or visiting galleries, attending lectures etc. We discussed the difficulty she has had in getting the groups to engage with one another via web-based tools, something all too familiar from one of my own projects back in Scotland. Finally I spoke with a self taught artist who had come from a background in sales and retail – quite a different approach from many of the other artists I had spoken to, more inclined towards driving sales of his work in order to support himself financially as well as creatively. As such he is gradually embracing the power of social networking, largely to engage with potential clients rather than other professionals in his field.