Applications closed last month for an internship at The Physics Room in Christchurch via Artists Alliance internship programme. It was an opportunity for recent arts graduates to gain valuable paid experience in the creative industry. Audrey Baldwin — a performance artist and programming whiz — was chosen from among the legions of young Cantabrian art wranglers.
Audrey agreed to a coffee and a chat with me about the internship, and her drive to boost accessibility for the visual arts. Warm, friendly and exuding energy, she spoke animatedly about her new position.
“I’m a long-time partaker of The Physics Room bounty — in the form of art, wine and snacks”, she grinned. So when the internship came up she had high hopes for the role.
Which, officially, is the Access Coordinator intern. The gig involves a lot of event planning and public-programming. “It’s something I’m really passionate about — bringing people together and bringing them into the fold of contemporary art in ways that they may not have immediately thought of,” she says.
“I'm surrounded by such a fantastic crew of badass babes who make things happen."
Performance art and public programming
Audrey emphasises how grateful she is for the opportunity. Her goal, she says, is “to obtain a more formalized approach to industry practices and gain some guidance from professionals... I want to make connections for myself and start to branch out in the arts community so that I can develop my career further.”
Before this role Audrey demonstrated her public-programming skills with her organisation of Christchurch’s First Thursdays. First Thursdays was a free arts and entertainment event that aimed to engage the general public in the arts, and to support local artists. A career involving public-programming is a great fit for Audrey because she says “it's essentially about creating experiences for people which aligns perfectly with my performance practice. There's a really nice relationship between the two.”
“You need to get your hands dirty ... You could study for it all you like but a lot of the real learning comes from experiencing things."
A typical day at The Physics Room
“Today” Audrey says “I have been sending out invitations to key communities that I feel would be interested in our current show Games and Politics. I’ve also been finding ways to demystify it for non-art communities, like approaching artists or specialists that might be interested in taking part in the public program.”
Audrey speaks highly of her art school education at Ilam, and its role in her current gig. “One of the key skills is being able to forge connections between things that may not seem related, and thinking creatively to engage with a wide range of people.” These abilities to problem-solve; to think laterally and critically about an issue, were front and centre of her training at Ilam.
What advice would she dish out? She speaks of the need to surmount your fears, to push yourself out of your comfort zone. She says, “you need to get your hands dirty and have a tenacity to make things happen. You could study for it all you like but a lot of the real learning comes from experiencing things — learning how to deal with problems and how to make connections.” This means getting yourself along to events, like exhibition openings, and then introducing yourself to people: don’t underestimate the value of networking.
Women: breaking rules and pushing boundaries
Audrey is inspired by women who don’t play by the rules and who create their own path. She says, “I'm surrounded by such a fantastic crew of bad-ass babes who make things happen, who are challenging the status quo in ways that are gentle as well as defiant. I think that's a really interesting space to be in. I definitely think there's a place for anger, fury and aggression — but I think it's really interesting when you can do it gently as well.”
She continues, “I think a lot of the general public see the arts as quite austere and inward facing but here there is a conscious effort to make it more accessible. It's really nice to be able to do something in the arts industry that is actively trying to be inclusive and bring people in.”
The Physics Room internship is supported by Artists Alliance, a non-profit organisation that seeks to represent and advance the professional interests of visual artists in New Zealand. Executive Director Maggie Gresson says, “we put the individual artists at the centre of our interests and concerns. We recognise that in order for the artists to thrive we need to have a really healthy arts sector and so we work with organisations, like the Physics Room, to provide opportunities for professional development.”
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