Generally speaking, the brief is very clear. What isn't clear is the woolly area about whether socially aware/inclusive/audience development agendas are actually part of the selection criteria. This lack of clarity is particularly problematic when the primary focus of the residency does in fact lean towards artist development. I know this is often a problem not of our making and is rather something that comes bundled in with funding agendas, but I'm sure the fact that this was not explicitly part of the selection criteria and brief made it more difficult for those writing the proposals and those selecting.
It's very positive that you were able to have a number of partners in place both in and outside of Bristol. I think, particularly when you are already dealing with a specific community, that it really helps to bolster the fact that this is not a token gesture towards that community. Presentation opportunities outside of a home context can often be difficult for artists to negotiate so this is a great opportunity.
Comments on the proposals
It was very heartening to see such a diversity of practice represented within the proposals and it was great that you received submissions from from artists with such different levels of digital art-making experience.
With such a broad brief, aimed (successfully) at such a diversity of practitioners, it may have been useful to help the artists focus more on the creative criteria e.g. via a short series of direct questions about how they might propose to interrogate, explore and experiment with digital technology. Particularly in the case of artists with little or no background in digital art, it may have been beneficial to help them focus better and inspire them to think creatively about ideas/practice they may not naturally feel so articulate about.
Other general points
Artist support framework and how to focus their research - each candidate seemed to have different needs in this respect.
Ongoing evaluation - always a good tool for focussing research! Also can be useful as a way of developing collaborative relationships between artists and organisations (if artists feel they are feeding into the development of something which may carry on supporting the artist community)
Audience involvement and development - it's already great that you've been able to involve other organisations in the selection process. There's so much potential cross-over between the respective artists and audiences we all work with, it is important not to miss any opportunities to develop those audiences.
Exit strategies - It's important to ensure projects such as these are properly evaluated and brought to a close. With the general lack of artist development infrastructure in the region (and nationally, to be honest) it can be hard for artists who have developed their practice via an initiative like this to be dropped straight back into the void of opportunity. I guess it's just about giving pointers, helping artists to be kept informed and giving them ways of using their experience to support other artists (e.g. via peer mentoring, artist-led initiatives etc).
Overall, it seems like a valuable initiative and I hope it's going well at the moment and hope it can keep going well in the future.
(PVA ran a weekend Labculture session for the selected artists in July)
I enjoyed the selection panel process as there are clearly issues around how minority groups gain access to digital tools and culture.
Initially, I was concerned whether my input would be appropriate to the project. I was however impressed with the general openness of the discussion and felt that the panel wanted not only to award the bursaries but engage with the problems.
At the end of the process it seemed to me that there was a consensus to award the bursaries to artists who showed a potential development curve and that to do this might require additional support, which has been forthcoming. In many cases it is easy to award such opportunities to people with existing track records but I felt on this occasion there was a genuine intention to look at longer term development.
There is a long way to go to get more diverse take up on these programmes. It is important to build confidence in encouraging people to apply and also to disseminate information beyond the normal 'easy' channels. My involvement in LabCulture has taught me that if you want to diversify a process, you have to jump in and make it happen, it won't just come about from iterating the 'right' words.
Working with the selected artists on the workshop element was extremely rewarding for me and I would welcome the opportunity to do more. Thank you.
I found the Calling panel experience interesting as one of the key issues that I always find myself arguing for is that more people from minority groups should get engaged with digital and interactive media. So it's promising that Calling is opening up an opportunity for Black artists, providing a residency programme to develop ideas as well as a support structure for skills development. It was particulary interesting to see how the artists (of different levels) interpreted the brief and how they intended to approach the broad area of digital media. I found it encouraging that those who were not selected for the residency were still offered some kind of support and hopefully this would give them confidence to continue pursuing their ideas.
Opening up the residency programme for those outside of Bristol is a very positive aspect of the project. Generally Devon is lacking in opportunities for artists to get involved with digital media and even more lacking in work that engages the local minority community (even though it continues to grow). It would be really interesting if, for example, a dialogue is somehow established between communities in Exeter and Bristol. Maybe through an event with some kind of relevant theme?
It will be interesting to see how the selected artists will explore issues such as race, gender, religion, culture and identity using interactive media. Engaging a public audience with such issues can often be very challenging but also rewarding particularly when local communities are able to relate to such work.