Artist Paige Lyons on the benefits of creative work placements
7th May 2019
Paige Lyons shares her experience of undertaking a Weston Jerwood Creative Bursary with CVAN South East network member Whitstable Biennale (WB).
“My artist practice weaves between illustration, design and facilitation. My interests centre around social practice and engagement, speculating on what roles artist or designers can have within community contexts.
“I graduated from Norwich University of the Arts in Illustration. From then I began to operate freelance, my first work being with the British Art Show 8 as an Ambassador and artist in Norwich and London.
“At the time of applying for the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme last year, I was coming to the end of a placement in Spain, where I was working as an Illustrator within a design studio. Illustration was something that i loved doing but I also had a desire to explore my developing interests in programming and specifically in learning, something that I had struggled prior to access due to my current skills only partially leaning towards that area.
“The bursary offered me time to learn, develop and explore my interests within a professional environment. Being able to apply the skills I was developing within context of and for live projects was something that sounded really exciting to me.
“My placement organisation was already selected prior to applying, but I was really thrilled to work with Whitstable Biennale and to develop my knowledge of UK artists who were working in film, performance and sound.
“As the Programme Assistant I supported all aspects of the programme in event coordination, audience development and general programme admin. One of my main tasks was to deliver WB’s ‘Satellite’ programme in 2018. This lead to working closely on the creation of a new professional development programme for artists, which launched at the end of last year. Being able to work closely with local artists was a great experience for me, as was receiving positive feedback from the artists involved in Satellite, and knowing the programme helped develop their practice was definitely a highlight for me.
“Being part of a small team I was able to work closely with everyone, being present and involved in every aspect of the programme. I was part of decision making, contributing my ideas or research to the development of the programme, working closely with the curators and generally helping where I could. I was able to bring my existing skills and knowledge, so my role and how I worked with the team evolved within the placement.
“I was mainly based in Canterbury during the placement, where WB’s main office is located, but due to the nature of the work and the organisation I was working in lots of places around Kent, including Whitstable. I had spent a lot of time in the county prior to working there, but Whitstable, and North Kent in general, was a place I hadn’t really explored much, so it was relatively new to me. I found Whitstable as a coastal town and location for a large contemporary arts festival unique and unusual, which encompassed everything that was the festival! Whitstable from every angle is surrounded by interesting and diverse places that all have an exciting influence on the artists who live in and around the county and equally generates a distinct and individual creative network.
“I’m now operating freelance between Yorkshire and Kent, and I’m continuing to work with Whitstable Biennale supporting the programme and future learning projects.
“Working with and supporting artists during my placement really stirred my own creative practice and has given me the confidence to pursue some existing ideas and potential projects for myself, as well as continuing to work further with arts and cultural organisations. I feel they both are as important and influence each other.
“My top tip for anyone looking at placements is that it’s important to demonstrate a strong willingness to learn and develop, and not be afraid to show it!”
Image: Summercamp, participatory clay making and firing, Josephine Callaghan, Whitstable Biennale 2018. Photographed by Rosie Lonsdale.