CLiC Blog post: Funding Culture/ Cultures of Funding

In February the CLiC Network met to take part in a reflective workshop with project consultant, and Outset Partners’ Director of Research and Strategy Dr Kirstie Skinner.

The group shared the transformative potential that building relationships with funders can provide institutions and organisations that hold contemporary art collections, where even modest funding can have significant impact on programmes, their work with contemporary artists and connections with audiences and communities.

As curators, the network are all involved in developing conversations with funders to realise ambitious projects, and in doing so cumulatively affect change within the contemporary art landscape in Scotland in many ways; building new stories about Scotland’s contemporary collections, increasing their relevance and resilience. What does it look like when curators see themselves not just as the recipients of funding, drawn from predetermined policy priorities, but as active contributors acting collaboratively with funders, patrons and collectors to shape new ways of seeing, interacting with, and responding to collections for those they are held for?

Reflecting on the network’s discussions within the workshop has informed our upcoming event New Cultures of Art Funding. In this blog, Kirstie Skinner looks forward to this event and contemplates the interconnected networks of curators, organisations, funders, artists and policy makers involved in shaping the context we work within.

We need new analogies – cultures of art funding

Dr Kirstie Skinner, CLiC Consultant and Director Research and Strategy, Outset Partners

Our upcoming CLIC event will focus on new ‘cultures’ of funding.  It is noticeable that the interconnected world of art production is regularly described as an eco-system, whereas the world of art funding is more often referred to as a landscape.  It forms a backdrop, part of the infrastructure, perceived as monumental, geological.  In this analogy, art organisations and practitioners must travel extensively, crisscrossing this landscape gathering the wherewithal to keep making work.

But it turns out even apparently slow-moving landscapes are shaped by tiny actions in the soil. Recent scientific revelations show that mycelial networks (fungal filaments) are what allow plants and trees to draw nutrients from the ground effectively.  They push through the earth seeking out connections, they effectively connect plants to each other, and even allow material exchanges between them.  So what if, instead of mountains of stability, we looked to funders as potentially expansive, responsive mycelial networks?  What happens when we talk about cultures of funding instead of processes and policies?

All three of the speakers at our event – key figures behind Artist Support Pledge, Outset and Art Fund – are innovators who are exploring the potential of the collective.  They are active in the interstices between constituencies (the overlaps in my drawing).  Their labour is in creating or framing experiences that bring large numbers of people closer to the art they are interested in, while simultaneously giving them a stake in helping it thrive.  They are effectively fundraisers as well as funders, so they understand that it takes a spark of inspiration to weld supporters to art projects, that the experience of giving can consolidate that bond, and also that such sparks can be galvanising for practitioners too.

So when we talk about cultures of funding, we are certainly asking who has the responsibility to fund art, who has the scope, and who has the motivation.  But we are also talking about nurturing the mechanisms by which people can find each other, and how each of us, in our own ways, can support this mycelial action.

New Cultures of Art Funding takes place on 25th March 10.30-11.30am