For our fourth feature, the spotlight is on Ashanti Hare, winner of the Platform Graduate Award in 2022. In this Spotlight, Ashanti shares their experience of the first year after graduation.
1. How did you feel starting your first year as a graduate artist? How has it compared so far to your expectations?
I was both nervous and excited going into my first year as a graduate artist. I think a lot of that had to do with studying during the pandemic and feeling like maybe I hadn’t gained enough skill or networked enough which I think is a common anxiety for any graduate artist who didn’t have a job or project lined up. I also felt a little bit of pressure after winning the award. I definitely got into the mindset that I had to keep making
Now, when I look back on my first year I realise that a lot of those anxieties were totally unnecessary and actually with a bit of consistency and faith in your practice you’ll create or become part of a supportive community.
2. What was your greatest need as an artist after graduating?
My greatest need after graduating was time. Time to process all the knowledge, skills and new ways of thinking about art and making. I was fortunate enough to have a residency lined up after graduating so I knew I had the space to create and something to work towards, however it’s tricky trying to figure out how to support yourself and keep up the momentum gained during your studies. The Platform Graduate Award definitely allowed me to relax into the first six months after graduation and gave me the time to recalibrate and situate myself.
3. What have you been doing since you graduated, as an artist and to earn money?
While doing the residency at KARST, I was also working freelance for the arts production agency Flock South West and was able to work on various projects. I worked as a social media lead for Mirror Gallery, a creative assistant for a few community engagement projects.
I’ve been blessed with some great freelance opportunities since graduating such as commissioned essays, content creation for British Art Show 9 and art commissions. I have just finished a 10 day residency at Southcombe Gallery, which was incredible and more recently I have been commissioned to create a performance next year at the Royal Albert Museum & Gallery in Exeter.
I am also exhibiting work in an upcoming group exhibition Against Apartheid, curated by Ashish Ghadiali which opens at the end of September at KARST Gallery.
4. Any unexpected discoveries?
Oh there are so many. My creative practice has changed so much in the last year and I’ve been rooting myself in more performance based work which I didn’t think I’d enjoy as someone who is quite introverted. I think this has been the biggest discovery for me, that actually my practice and research requires confidence and trusting in my own creative voice.
I’ve also discovered that I’m more open to ideas and being in conversation with others. This is manifesting as artist talks which are kind of fun too!
5. Who have you talked to so far in the mentoring year, who else supported you in this time?
I had a conversation with Evan Ifekoya which was incredibly insightful and fun. I’ve been following Evan’s work since I did my foundation in 2018 so it was great to be able to chat about their practice, how that’s developed and what I can implement into my own work/working habits. I have sessions with Hannah Rose, Barby Asante and another with Evan coming up so I’m looking forward to those conversations.
I’ve also been supported by the creative community in the South West which has been invaluable.
6. Can you tell us about a project you have been working on?
At the moment I’m working on a collaborative performance around water spirits, ecology and history with a friend and fellow spiritual practitioner. I’m excited to use performance storytelling and ritual to connect global majority and local South West history to the current conversations around ecology and systems of oppression.
I’m also creating costumes and contemporary artefacts for the performance which are influenced by the world culture and natural science collections at RAMM. I’ve always loved museum collections and archives so it’s a real dream to work with them.
7. What advice do you have for other artists starting out?
Trust your intuition and be confident in yourself and your work. It can be difficult because you’ve just graduated and may not feel completely prepared for what’s to come and that’s okay, all artists start this way.
I think what makes the transition hard is that university is a very focused space of thinking and making and you’re surrounded by other artists and creatives everyday. Whereas when you leave you can feel isolated so making and maintaining connections with your peers is always a good idea.
Contrary to what I was told, I didn’t say yes to all the opportunities that came my way. I think it’s important to say yes to things that align with your practice and what you want, this will leave room for bigger and better opportunities to come along. Don’t take ‘no’ personally, it’s a redirection!
I’d also say reach out to artists at various stages in their careers or artists that interest you. I’ve found that most artists and creatives are willing to talk if you approach them, especially new graduates because they understand what it’s like to start out.
They are your peers, they aren’t above or below you, they just have different experiences.
To find out more about Ashanti’s work visit their website here.
Cover image: Offerings At the Altar, Performance. Image taken by the artist.