Archives for category: Personality & Emotions

Image care of tedxSydney

This July over 100 artists from aerialists to orchestras will sail their way across to Cockatoo Island for Underbelly Arts 2011 lab, July 3rd – 12th and festival, July 16th. Artists and the public will meet and collaborate creating a unique platform demonstrating the creative process of emerging arts practitioners. The mother of the Underbelly baby, Artistic Director Imogen Semmler talks to arts interview about this year’s festival, the many facets of artistic personality, the importance of creative producers and the navigation of the corporate and arts collaboration.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

Underbelly Arts is a social experiment as well as a space for creation and collaboration. When choosing artists to participate, on a conscious or sub conscious level, do you think artists are chosen for their personalities to add a sense of theater to the lab?

Artists bring their projects to us so you know what they will be working on, but then it is about who else will be there and how they are going to connect.  We want to support the trajectory of new work but I think there is something there as well. It is about having an interesting balance – that is probably a subconscious thing. The lab itself is not clashy and it is not like people do not get on. I think it is more about people being really surprised and their eyes are opened up a lot about what people are doing. It can get stressful especially towards the end of the lab when the festival is looming as people have to start making decisions and locking in performances. There is that pressure cooker situation and it does sometimes explode.

One of the biggest personas of this year’s festival will be the venue itself. Do you think that the rich history of the Island and the general public’s association of the venue to Sydney Biennale and other large festivals will be a help or hindrance?

We have enjoyed the process of moving to different sites and it gives artists the chance to move to new spaces that they have not been able to access before. The Island is a blank canvas again because all those rooms are bare now and the artists are responding to this. All the stuff coming through to us is very hybrid. I do not think we are going to reinvent the wheel but I think we are going to give something new to the Island. It will be a different experience to being at a rock festival or an arts festival where you walk around the whole site. It will be very fresh and we are bringing different qualities. Being on the Island will get new audiences and that is great. It will give more access to people, people will come to our events who have never heard of it and that is great for them to see young artists.

You have dealt with corporate and government organisations who are not involved specifically in the arts, like last year’s Frasers Property Group and this year navigating the heritage and government waters with Cockatoo Island. How has the relationship been between these groups and Underbelly?

You do have to make sure that the outside organisations know that you understand what you are talking about. That is really important. You have got to let them know that everything that you are doing is totally professional. With Frasers, we just said this is what we are, this is what we are proposing and imagine what it will be like walking down the street with all these spaces activated.  It was about projecting them a vision of what it would look like because they had not done it before, so you could not just expect them to say yes. If you can use emotive language and images and try to get them to visualise how it is going to feel, that is a really good way of explaining to people what you want to do. We are a small arts organisation, but we do approach this professionally because that is all you have got – if you are not professional you are not going to get those relationships established.

Do you think that arts organisations and artists, particularly emerging artists’, think too much with the heart and not enough with the head?

Different people bring different things to the arts. When you have an ARI, you usually have a group of very switched on artists, who are also curators or producers who are smart and savvy enough to be able to run as a potential business. Whereas other artists, their skills are just to be creative and to respond to ideas. They might not have those production or business skills to go with it. It is all about getting the right team together to deliver what you want to do. If some artists do not have those skills, I would never force them to learn how to produce and how to write grants. All that stuff if they had tried and tried and still were not good at it – what is the point? It is better for them to get an awesome creative producer who can work with them on delivering those ideas and figuring out how their work can fit into an environment. A lot of creative producers are really under-appreciated because they can often bring a lot of value, they are the head thinkers working with the heart thinkers and they deliver something really good.

Like to know more about the emotions and personality?

Donna Grubb is currently the head of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Human Resources (HR) team. While responsible for ensuring that all people processes run smoothly, one of HR’s key roles is to support the Gallery in recruitment of the best people. The AGNSW is an employer of choice in the arts industry, and while they recruit only 20-30 people a year, they can receive 400 to 500 applications for a position. So the challenge they face is how to identify the employee who can best fit into the organisation from both skill and personality perspective, from a large prospective candidate pool.

Donna spoke to arts interview about the method of selecting the right fit for the organisation, whether there is such a thing as an ‘artistic personality’ and shared a few personal pieces of advice for developing a career in the arts.

Interview by Kim Goodwin

 Are there specific capability or competency types you look for? And do you recruit skills or look to develop them from within?

We have not really gone into competencies as such, as we have a broad range of roles, which are very different. What we look for in a gallery officer will be very different from what we look for in bookshop staff.

When looking at curators or conservators, we are looking for people who can communicate well, who can work well in teams, and those who are able to deal with a high workload. We do find some people that come in as assistant curators and move up, so they get that training ground. This is something we really support.

The Gallery has a lot of interns coming in and they sometimes move into a temporary assistant curator role. Sometimes, however, the gap is too big and we have to recruit externally, for example the Asian art area, where there is not a pool of people in Australia who we can rely on. In those cases we would look to international advertising and recruitment to fill some roles.

So what recruitment process do you use? Do you see value in psychometric testing?

We are just looking at psychometric testing now actually. We have not done it, but we think it could be beneficial, particularly when undertaking the bulk recruitment activity like with gallery officers. We are likely to be moving in this direction in areas where a lot of applicants have similar experience; you really need to be able to tell them apart.

Sometimes the person who comes in on the first day of work seems completely different from the person you have interviewed! It is about ensuring that we get the right people into the organisation.

How does recruiting for a cultural institution differ to corporate recruitment?

I have never worked in a for-profit, but I have worked in a lot of government organisations, and although everyone likes to think they are unique, there are a lot of similarities.

What is different, however, is that the gallery has a great feeling about it. I have been here for 10 years and it is such a lovely place to work. There is great morale and we are really successful. We are an employer of choice. For our corporate jobs a lot of people take pay cuts to work here, because we are an organisation a lot of people want to work for.

Do you think there is an ‘artistic personality’? Do you see any personality themes in your workplace?

Just thinking about our curators, they are all very different. From my point of view, I would not see that there is an artistic personality at all. I would say the organisation is influenced heavily by the temperament and disposition of the person leading it. Edmund Capon is a very strong leader and influences how managers and supervisors interact with staff – treating people with respect and dignity. I have been in other organisations where the CEO has been authoritarian and controlling and that flows through to how the staff treat each other.

What advice could you give to those starting out in the industry to be noticed (in a good way)?

The key comes down to experience; what experience you have. You have to be able to demonstrate that you have the runs on the board, have done particular research, and known in this area, or have worked in the space.

So my advice is do the internships, work in the galleries, volunteer. Get yourself known.

Interested in learning more about employment at the AGNSW:

Information on employment, internships or volunteering for the Gallery can be found via the website www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au under “About Us” and “Employment and Tenders”. The Art Gallery only accepts applications for advertised positions.

The Fair Director since the inception of ART HK, Magnus Renfrew has over a decade’s professional experience in the international art world. Before joining ART HK, Magnus was Head of Exhibitions for Contrasts Gallery in Shanghai. Previously Magnus was a London-based specialist with the auction house Bonhams. During his seven years there he was responsible for sourcing works internationally for Modern and Contemporary sales, as well as having been instrumental in bringing to fruition their first sale of Contemporary Asian Art in London.

Interview by Shivangi Ambani-Gandhi

How does cultural difference impact how you direct Art HK?

It affects the way you behave with people. My character is suited to work in Asia – I was brought up to respect people and to give people time. You need to physically give people time – have conversations, make them feel that they are important and valued. You need to develop personal relationships and friendships – business is based on how people get along and so it is important to set the ground for trust.

It becomes difficult to implement an international standard for selection (of galleries represented in the fair), because people assume that since they have a personal relationship with you, they have a better chance of getting in. And when they are not selected, they feel personally slighted.

You also have to deal with the intimidation factor – people often do not ask the question because they do not already have the answer. They do not want to ask the price because they do not want to lose face or look like they cannot afford it. We encourage galleries to be as forthcoming and un-intimidating as possible. And the fair also offers different levels of education through programming.

What is the difference in leading people in Asia vs. Europe?

We have a cross-cultural team and a flat management structure. We are not big into hierarchy and everyone’s role is equally important. It is a high pressure job, so you need to have a supportive environment. I am constantly travelling and so my work is often in parallel with the team in Hong Kong.

We also have a diverse advisory team that we use to seek introductions and build networks. It is important to have people who are respected in their own countries. Introductions are very important in Asia, so that you connect with the right people.

In China, it was quite difficult to manage people. Sometimes as a foreigner there can be resentment or questioning of your position. It becomes important to get an understanding of the culture and to gain people’s respect by working hard, rather than just bossing people around.

Is there a personality type in the arts? Is it different in administrative roles as compared to artists? Is personality a consideration when you are recruiting?

There are many stereotypes of the art world. The galleriests I have met have been demanding, intelligent, sensitive and have high expectations of themselves and others. In any organisation you need show horses and work horses. There are the ambassadors who win business and become the face of the organisation, versus those who are structured in their thinking. When recruiting, it is important for us to know how they will get along in the organisation. People here have to work as a team.

What is the personality of Art HK?

Humility – you are only as good as the last fair and the galleries that participate, so you take nothing for granted. Geographic diversity, accessibility and quality are defining characteristics of the fair.

We are an art fair that reflects and celebrates the diversity of the region. In the West, fairs are showing works to match the western aesthetic sensibility and have been slow to adapt to the changing world. Art means different things to different people and the purpose of art is not a universal concept. We want to be inclusive of the arts scene here, but not ghettoise it into ‘Asian art’. Artists do not want to be pigeon-holed as ‘Asian artists’.

Many other fairs in the region are run by local gallery associations or by people who are very powerful within the scene without having international credibility. They are not able to get international galleries that do not want to be seen next to galleries that are not the best in the region. We have broken that spell through the selection process and by getting galleries that are doing interesting things. We are balancing the flavour of the fair with 50% from Asia-Pacific and 50% from the rest of the world.

More information on personality and cultural difference:

Image care of tedxSydney

This July over 100 artists from aerialists to orchestras will sail their way across to Cockatoo Island for Underbelly Arts 2011 lab, July 3rd – 12th and festival, July 16th. Artists and the public will meet and collaborate creating a unique platform demonstrating the creative process of emerging arts practitioners. The mother of the Underbelly baby, Artistic Director Imogen Semmler talks to arts interview about this year’s festival, the many facets of artistic personality, the importance of creative producers and the navigation of the corporate and arts collaboration.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

Underbelly Arts is a social experiment as well as a space for creation and collaboration. When choosing artists to participate, on a conscious or sub conscious level, do you think artists are chosen for their personalities to add a sense of theater to the lab?

Artists bring their projects to us so you know what they will be working on, but then it is about who else will be there and how they are going to connect.  We want to support the trajectory of new work but I think there is something there as well. It is about having an interesting balance – that is probably a subconscious thing. The lab itself is not clashy and it is not like people do not get on. I think it is more about people being really surprised and their eyes are opened up a lot about what people are doing. It can get stressful especially towards the end of the lab when the festival is looming as people have to start making decisions and locking in performances. There is that pressure cooker situation and it does sometimes explode.

One of the biggest personas of this year’s festival will be the venue itself. Do you think that the rich history of the Island and the general public’s association of the venue to Sydney Biennale and other large festivals will be a help or hindrance?

We have enjoyed the process of moving to different sites and it gives artists the chance to move to new spaces that they have not been able to access before. The Island is a blank canvas again because all those rooms are bare now and the artists are responding to this. All the stuff coming through to us is very hybrid. I do not think we are going to reinvent the wheel but I think we are going to give something new to the Island. It will be a different experience to being at a rock festival or an arts festival where you walk around the whole site. It will be very fresh and we are bringing different qualities. Being on the Island will get new audiences and that is great. It will give more access to people, people will come to our events who have never heard of it and that is great for them to see young artists.

You have dealt with corporate and government organisations who are not involved specifically in the arts, like last year’s Frasers Property Group and this year navigating the heritage and government waters with Cockatoo Island. How has the relationship been between these groups and Underbelly?

You do have to make sure that the outside organisations know that you understand what you are talking about. That is really important. You have got to let them know that everything that you are doing is totally professional. With Frasers, we just said this is what we are, this is what we are proposing and imagine what it will be like walking down the street with all these spaces activated.  It was about projecting them a vision of what it would look like because they had not done it before, so you could not just expect them to say yes. If you can use emotive language and images and try to get them to visualise how it is going to feel, that is a really good way of explaining to people what you want to do. We are a small arts organisation, but we do approach this professionally because that is all you have got – if you are not professional you are not going to get those relationships established.

Do you think that arts organisations and artists, particularly emerging artists’, think too much with the heart and not enough with the head?

Different people bring different things to the arts. When you have an ARI, you usually have a group of very switched on artists, who are also curators or producers who are smart and savvy enough to be able to run as a potential business. Whereas other artists, their skills are just to be creative and to respond to ideas. They might not have those production or business skills to go with it. It is all about getting the right team together to deliver what you want to do. If some artists do not have those skills, I would never force them to learn how to produce and how to write grants. All that stuff if they had tried and tried and still were not good at it – what is the point? It is better for them to get an awesome creative producer who can work with them on delivering those ideas and figuring out how their work can fit into an environment. A lot of creative producers are really under-appreciated because they can often bring a lot of value, they are the head thinkers working with the heart thinkers and they deliver something really good.

Like to know more about the emotions and personality?

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