Field: Arts – Developing a new community for Irish artists

Theatremaker.ie spoke with Tilly Taylor and Emma Coen, along with co-founder Lynette Moran of Field: Arts about some of the problems facing artists and how Field: Arts aims to help in the development of Irish independent creatives.
Courtesy of Field: Arts

Lynette Moran and Matt Smyth are two of Ireland’s leading creative producers. They oversee the processes and development of artists and their vision for a creative endeavour and have done so for years.

In the development of Field: Arts, a new pilot initiative supported by the Arts Council, the two combined as lead creative producers to offer Irish artists a chance to grow in their disciplines. The two will lead the way, with more of Ireland’s independent contemporary practitioners, to bring about a professional and interdisciplinary exchange.

Theatremaker.ie spoke with Tilly Taylor and Emma Coen, along with co-founder Lynette Moran of Field: Arts about some of the problems facing artists and how Field: Arts aims to help in the development of Irish independent creatives.

Tangible supports for beginning artists

“There’s a dwindling of company models because of the Arts Council funding structure, which is predominantly project-to-project” said Lynette Moran. “As a result, there are huge gaps in funding structures with no regular staff, no bookkeepers, no office space, there’s no administration.”

One of the main goals of Field: Arts is to have this sustainable and reliable network in place for artists. Developing the foundations for support among Irish artists and providing guidance are at the core of Field: Arts, specifically in those times between projects.

With Field: Arts, producers and artists are awarded some consistency. Moran said this consistency between projects “allows artists and producers to focus on the next project, or they can take the success of the last project and think about what they can do to improve.

“They can build their network, they can build their funding, they can build their ambition around their work; all of those things that happen outside of a six-week rehearsal and three-week run.”

Field: Arts aims to build better working conditions at its core. In networking, support, security, and stability the quality of artists that could be produced through some of the work Field: Arts will, overall, improve the quality of artists in Ireland through improved working conditions.

“This work is done in really practical, tangible ways,” said Tilly Taylor who is an independent creative producer herself involved with the theatre, dance, interdisciplinary performance and festivals.

Taylor touched on the number of experts and consultants that are offered through Field: Arts to help artists along with every process of developing their projects. Bringing in governance experts, diversity experts, audience development consultants, bookkeepers, a head of production, and a company producer will be among those already available at the beginning of this two-year pilot scheme.

“It’s kind of a centralising of those production supports in a really actionable way,” Taylor said. “We’re providing production advice, mentorship, bookkeeping supports, and a few training opportunities around sustainability and diversity; all of which set up in the framework developed by our cohort.”

The cohort is extensive and directly curated by the founders in Matt and Lynnette and extends across the range of different disciplines in Irish contemporary art. Along with associating companies and partner organisations like Dublin Fringe, there are already a number of independent artists who provide the extensive network that will help younger artists develop.

“Myself and Matt had the fortune of working and developing in really dynamic organisations,” said Moran on how important the network is as an artist getting started. “You were learning through doing, you were learning through osmosis and you were learning as part of a team.

“This was one of the main reasons we wanted to develop Field: Arts for producers as there’s so many amazing producers in Ireland but they really are few and far between because this set up really hasn’t been there.”

This is not the first scheme of its type to be set up in Ireland. Once Off Productions has been set up under the same scheme and looks to develop artists in a similar way. But these are trailblazers in their own right.

There are also similar schemes abroad in London and Berlin, but in Ireland, this stable network has never really been there. Making the introduction into developing a project all the more intimidating.

“Hopefully, by the end of our pilot we will have made an impact on the cultural landscape

Diversity is also a key tenant adding to an already intimidating scene. Moran notes that this conversation is ongoing and that the “arts sector in Ireland is very prohibitive across class, across gender, across ethnicity and accessibility.” Ireland’s scene is quite antiquated and perhaps stuck in the old ways, but this is something Field: Arts has the chance to avoid and perhaps change.

“One of the priorities that we have set out is about developing equity and growing new producers and artists into the arts sector in Ireland,” Moran said. “Potentially, by the end of our pilot phase we will have made an impact on the cultural landscape in Ireland and that we will have created some pathways for artists.”

Furthermore, Field: Arts will offer sustainability guidance for artists and producers who wish to create a project within a sustainable framework avoiding some of the ‘preventable waste’ that the live entertainment industry, in particular, can accrue.

Field: Arts is aiming to grow diverse pathways for emerging practice and emerging practitioners. Community, diversity, sustainability are all at the core and it is “about developing the quality of life all around the artist,” as Tilly Taylor mentions, all parts working in a wholistic sense.

Field: Arts will be setting the precedent for a future with more options for independent artists just like this. In a period of isolation like the past year, most independent artists that Lynnette contacted at the start were work completely alone. They were “making huge decisions, making huge applications for bursaries and dreaming about what could happen in a very individual way,” said Moran.

Coming out of this period into another period of uncertainty, Field: Arts hopes that it can, not only offer help but offer a whole new vision for artists in Ireland. One where support and community will create a bright and inviting future in generations to come.

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