It is well acknowledged that the studio is a site of creative learning. The idea that the studio might serve as a space in, and/or a tool through, which learners can develop their employability skills and prepare for the world in which they will be working requires further exploration. The processes of planning, making, curating and presenting work all require capabilities that reflect those sought by prospective employers across a wide range of occupations. Whichever career route artists take, what they learn in the workplace called the studio is likely to be central to whether or not they feel equipped to manage a successful career. Among the many other everyday terms Fine Art students and staff use, definitions of ‘success’, ‘career’, ‘studio’ and ‘practice’ are constantly being debated.
MFA students, Tim Sandys and Elizabeth Murphy, devised and led a forty-five minute workshop as follows:
Through anecdotes and information-sharing, this workshop aimed to identify the hidden elements of professional experience gained through day-to-day studio activity.
Prior to the workshop, participants had been invited to keep a studio diary, chronicling the broader aspects and the minutiae of their practice. Some complemented this with photographs of their studios.
Participants were posed with three questions/tasks, each of which was to be discussed in small groups for ten minutes. These were:
After discussing each question, workshop participants were invited to move around the room, in order to spread ideas and hear novel opinions. The session concluded with a facilitated discussion.
From the numerous notes made by individual participants and the points made during the discussion, a summary can be made.
What are you making at the moment?
This question was designed to encourage associations between participants’ individual work and the context of the workshop.
What processes do you use to make?
Common responses: Drawing, painting, collage, plaster, experimenting, photo-montage, stretching canvas, digital modelling, carving, printing, reflection, casting, editing, building, filming, data collection, spreadsheets, questionnaires, conversations, emails, phone calls, meetings, sound recording, storing, collecting, watching, mind-mapping, testing, playing, reading, singing, eating, sleeping
From your studio diary, select skills that would be relevant to an employer.
Common responses: time management, research skills, communication, diplomacy, delegation, resilience, articulation, teamwork, creative thinking, ideas, identifying target market, building
confidence in others, web development, social media, lateral thinking, negotiation, creative problem-solving, technical ability, risk-assessment, budgeting, self-direction, independence, networking, working to deadline, flexibility, interpersonal skills, passion, empathy, curiosity, dedication, perseverance, adaptation
As a general observation, it is evident that the studio space is a complex environment in which many skills and behaviours are made manifest. It is an adaptable space in which individuals cater to their own needs. Above all, the studio space functions as a ‘check-in’, a personalised port of call for the individual practitioner, in which they either develop skills in pursuit of an outcome or consolidate practice which may also be developing elsewhere, e.g. in a library, workshop, etc.
The conclusions drawn from this workshop suggest that preconceptions, held by prospective students and non-students, of a studio as an environment solely for making drawings and sculpture are inaccurate. The diversity of roles the studio is capable of fulfilling directly relates to a multitude of desirable employer-specific skills that students may not even be aware they are learning.
Workshop: Studio as a tool for professional practice.
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