These responses were recorded as part of the panel discussion Who You Know: Building Networks in the Arts at The Museum of Contemporary Art on June 9th 2012 .An event in partnership with arts interview and VIVID Sydney.
Original panel discussion chaired and transcribed by Eliza Muldoon
Sebastian Goldspink is a Sydney based arts producer, gallerist and artist. In 2011 he opened Alaska Projects in an abandoned mechanics office in a Kings Cross car park and has since held numerous exhibitions in the space. Sebastian’s art practice is street based with a focus on advertising manipulation, he has shown at numerous artist run spaces and internationally. As an arts producer Sebastian has worked for various art organisations including the MCA, MONA and his current role as producer of Art Month Sydney.
You work across a lot of projects and roles, do you bring people with you to work across your various roles? If so, why?
It’s great to work with people that you like, to work with people that have a great work ethic and it’s also good to work with people that are into things that you’re into. Similarly, if you have a problem then you are naturally going to reach for people that have solved problems with you or for you in the past.
You know a lot of people- a lot. How did you meet them all?
I think for me personally it is a number of factors. I’m 40 years old, so I’ve been around for a while. I grew up in Sydney, I’ve never left Sydney and so Sydney is kind of my territory. I’ve worked both in the arts and in the film and TV industry and so I know people form both of those industries.
I think it’s also about being an active participant in the environment that you live in. I make an effort to go and be involved, instead of staying home and watching Game of Thrones I’m out and meeting people.
Has the development of your network been quite natural and organic or have you at times had quite a strategic approach?
I feel like I’m giving away a lot!
I think it’s both. I think sometimes it’s organic, say if I meet fellow panelist Julia (Julia Lenton features next week), we might just start talking about shows, if I meet an artist that I don’t know I’ll ask questions about their work. I’m interested, genuinely interested, and that’s an organic process of gathering information.
At the same time I can be strategic as well. If there is someone that I want to meet then I’ll research that person, I’ll learn information about that person, I’ll ask people in my networks about them too. If an opportunity arises I’ll make sure I have something to say to them. I think it’s a combination of strategy and organic development but I think there’s an opportunity to blend the two and consider strategy in a more organic way.
What advice do you have for those that want to start a relationship with an organisation that they need something from.
With all networking, or whenever you want to get something, it’s really great to think about the other side of the fence, who you are talking to, how does their mind work, what do they need? We set up an arts space in the basement of a Kings Cross car park. First we noticed that there was vacant space and we knew that it had been vacant for some time. We called up the City of Sydney and spoke to the parking services department and told them that we wanted to discuss the possibility of setting up this space. So they came down and met us, and part of their agenda was about public safety- they wanted to make it safer to be in the car park. They asked me if I thought having an art space there would make the car park safer. That was a concern I have never considered. I had never intended to open an art space to make Kings Cross safer, so that informed my future discussions and applications. Assume all councils are risk adverse, they aren’t cowboys, so always ensure that you have a response that is compatible with that.
My final advice on that is do your research. Get to know the organisation.
How important is volunteer work in your work in your opinion?
During my time at the MCA I would sit in on a couple of hundred job interviews a year. Sometimes people would dismiss something as ‘just volunteer work’ because they didn’t get paid, but from my perspective volunteering was an incredibly positive thing. I was actually a bit distrusting of people that had not volunteered. While there aren’t always paid jobs in the arts there a lot of unpaid opportunities and if you want to get a job in the arts you should take advantage of these.