Thursday 21: Parallel professions that support practice – developing and diversifying professional experience

Today we heard from Lesley Guy, an artist and writer based in Sheffield. Lesley shared her diverse experiences working both within the art world and the education sector.

On having lots of strings to your bow…

“You don’t have to feel as if you’re selling out by doing lots of different things. Some people feel as if teaching is something you do to earn money, or writing is something you do to earn money, well, if you don’t want to do that just to earn money, then obviously it has some kind of relevance to what you do and what you want to do.”

Think about what it is you LIKE doing. What CAN you do? And what can you do WELL?

Lesley works for Axisweb, which she highly recommends every artist join. If you do not have your own website, you can join Axis and use it to showcase your work online.

“Why aren’t I making art anymore?” Whilst teaching, Lesley desired to put her degree into use, and got herself a studio space at Bloc. There she became part of a greater community of artists and got involved by helping out voluntarily. A job opportunity at Bloc Projects eventually came up, which Lesley applied for and was successful in securing. “I got it! I got it because I wasn’t necessarily the most experienced candidate, it was because they knew me, and they knew that I cared about the place, that I had committed my time already.”

Busting the myth about yourself…

“You build a myth about yourself…’oh, I’m arty, I just do art. I don’t write things, I don’t do maths, I’m not interested.’ And then when necessity makes you do it, you realise that just because you weren’t good at a particular thing once, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to be good at it at some point in the future.”

Lesley founded Furlough Curatorial with fellow artist Michael Day in 2011. Furlough is an artist-led curatorial platform in Sheffield. When it comes curating, Lesley says does so as an artist, rather than starting from somewhere more critical. “I think of the work…being a curator for me is like having a giant sketch book.”

On teaching…

“Anyone who is interested in going into teaching – I don’t want to put you off, but you do need to know – it is the hardest year of your life. For me, the PGCE was good because it was hard work, and I needed that.”

Interested in teaching? Take a look at these websites to find out more:

Keeping up…

One drawback of having so many strings to your bow, is trying to keep up with all your different commitments. It is extremely important to STAY ORGANISED, and not to bite off more than you can chew. “Every now and then I have to just sit down an make a MEGA TO-DO LIST.”

  • Categorise and prioritise your to-do lists!
  • Keep track of all your expenses – organise these into categories such as ‘travel expenses’, ‘supplies’, ‘studio rent’, etc.

Tips for being diverse

  • Get a studio
  • Volunteer
  • Go to openings and events
  • Stay in touch
  • Use opportunities
  • Be organised
  • Keep an open mind – try new things but…
  • …know when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’
  • Be reliable

Final thoughts…

  • When putting on a show…Invite, invite, invite! Be open.
  • Savings Account – Open one!
  • Register as Self-Employed
  • You may not always know what you want, but know what you don’t want.
  • Take your practice at its own pace. Don’t rush it.



Kate Squires shares her experiences in Gallery Education – a field of practice which broadens people’s understanding of art and engagement of art in the gallery.

There are opportunities to work as an artist and in gallery education simultaneously. You don’t necessarily need a PGCE to get work in Gallery Education, as there is often training on-the-job.

Kate has been working in Gallery Education for over 15 years.  It all began after she had graduated when she assisted an artist at a workshop one day to earn some money. She realised that she could do the work and more importantly, that she enjoyed it.

“I became quite passionate about (Gallery Education). I really got into the idea of galleries as spaces for people to go and use, and I got into the idea of art and the creativity being something that could really have a positive impact on other people. That passion took me through my career.”

Currently Kate runs an art space in Berlin called Centrum, where she and her partner work with artists from all over the world, giving them space to experiment and develop their creative practice without the pressures of an exhibition. Interaction between the artists and the public is greatly encouraged.

Gallery Education… 

  • Can help you earn a living as an artist
  • Allows you to have a role as an artist within your community or wider society
  • Can be challenging and rewarding
  • Can have a positive effect on your practice
  • Can provide opportunities to develop relationships with galleries

What is gallery education?

  • A field of practice that exists to broaden understanding of the visual arts in galleries.
  • Attempts to widen the access to the arts
  • Engages people in art – to look critically at art and enjoy it

An Education Team is comprised of:

  • Head of Education and Public Programmes
  • Schools and Communities Programmer
  • Programme Coordinator
  • Studio Technician

The Head of Education and Public Programmes will oversee the entire programme, including talks and events, education in schools and community projects, and thinking about creative ways to engage the public with the exhibitions. It is also their duty to highlight issues in the local community and the wider public realm, thinking about the political, social, historical and local context of the exhibitions.

The Schools and Communities Programmer will be the face that pupils from the local primary school will get to know. They will have really strong relationships with the teachers, with youth leaders, community workers, and social agencies. The S&C Programmer will work with artists and the local community, constantly thinking of ways to engage school groups, youth groups, senior citizens and a variety of people.

The Programme Coordinator helps to programme all the talks and events, requiring a certain amount of initiative, but also allows them to be creative when thinking about what speakers to bring in, what critics, writers, and artists will offer an interesting viewpoint on a particular exhibition.

The Studio Technician will look after all the technology, they will make sure the education studio is clean, that all the materials are available and ready for use.

Education departments work with:

  • artists
  • art writers/critics
  • community leaders
  • teachers
  • youth workers
  • local government workers etc.

For example, at Camden Arts Centre the programme comprises of:

  • Talks and Events – offering a different angle to get people to come.
  • Artist Residencies  – coming in through the education programme doesn’t mean you cut yourself off from being an artist.
  • Schools Programme – workshops with primary and secondary schools, longer term relationships with school, artists residencies in schools
  • Communities Programme – work with seniors, youth programmes, off-site settings
  • Families Programme – festivals and summer fairs, interactive guides

The Camden Art Centre’s remit:

The Camden Art Centre is a venue for contemporary art and education. The aim is to involve people of all ages in the work, ideas and practices of today’s artists and the artists who inspire them.

Gallery Education can help artists connect with the public through…

  • Gallery workshops
  • Using artists as mediators for contemporary art
  • Long-term commitment
  • Removing barriers

Think about…

  • Is it interesting to you to see how people view your work?
  • Giving people a voice in the gallery space


There are some barriers you may come across within the local community and greater public realm. It is important to think of these when putting on an exhibition and when writing press releases:

  • Physical
  • Cultural
  • Intellectual
  • Financial
  • Social

It is very important to develop a dialogue with more diverse communities, and Gallery Education helps to facilitate this.

Gallery Education can…

  • Help people develop the tools and vocabulary to experience and respond to art
  • Stimulate people to explre their own creative potential, to make art, and to pursue careers in the creative industries.
  • Build people’s confidence with and understanding of artists, galleries, art centres and museums.
  • SUBJECTIVITY can help people in certain situations, allowing them to be creative.

We believe that the arts have the power to change lives and communities, and to create opportunities for people throughout the country.Arts Council England

From the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

We believe that the arts can help individuals and communities by:

  • Bringing people together
  • Strengthening relationships between local residents
  • Welcoming differences
  • Removing social barriers

Gallery Education as a practice is constantly changing and responding to:

  • Change in art practice
  • Audience needs
  • Formal and informal educators
  • Political and social context

What can you do next?

  • Go to a gallery to work with or assist an artist
  • Observe a workshop
  • Attend a workshop
  • Take a Gallery Education course
  • Start an internship in a gallery



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s