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Making Ways: Forging New Artistic Paths

Now well underway in every nook and cranny of the city, the Year of Making is a year-round celebration of 'making' in all its forms, highlighting everything from metalwork and advanced manufacturing to visual art, music and theatre. It's a celebration of the past, present and future of Sheffield as a city of makers. According to Kim Streets, chief executive of Museums Sheffield, "Year of Making is about harnessing the energy of production - the stuff that we see happening, the stuff we are involved with, all of the things, places, histories that are made across the city." As well as her work at Museums Sheffield, Kim is also involved with Making Ways, a three-year project which aims to identify, support and promote visual artists in Sheffield. The hope is that by the end of the project, the artists involved will have a better idea of what they want from their practice and that Sheffield's profile as a centre of pioneering artistic excellence will be lifted on a national and international level. We spoke about Making Ways, 'making' and Sheffield's famous modesty. What is Making Ways? Making Ways emerged from Year of Making. Visual arts are strong in the city and we felt that a focus on artist development and support could be a great legacy. We recognised that this would take longer than a year to do properly, but the Year of Making gave us the momentum to get started. At the moment, they segue neatly into each other, but they are distinct. We’re doing lots of behind-the-scenes planning and recruiting a programme manager, and we are learning from the delivery of Year of Making what kind of opportunities help artists to move forward, to ask the questions of themselves and the provision within the city that will build new pathways and sustainable opportunities. Which organisations and individuals are involved in Making Ways? The project is led by members of Sheffield Culture Consortium, Yorkshire Artspace, Sheffield Creative Guild, Site Gallery, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield and Museums Sheffield, among others. That will change and grow as the programme develops. Right now we’re looking at how best to recruit a representative steering group and work with artists to develop a framework where artists lead, where they can own and shape the programme. I'm hoping that Sheffield Creative Guild will be instrumental in that. The funding is there to support artists’ development, so action research, mentoring, training and travel, commissions, residencies and exhibitions – there’s lots to talk about, lots to do. For a lot of artists, the biggest step is professionalising to the point of being able to quit the day job. Will Making Ways support this transition? Yes, for some people I think so. Our aim though is to be practical and recognise that 'one size fits all' doesn’t fit anyone very well. Research that's taking place up and down the country suggests that, however you define yourself as an artist, you probably have to do other things to make ends meet and fund your practice. Many artists do not want to sell work, others are political activists who see their role as asking difficult questions and working within communities. There are many approaches to being a full-time artist, and we are serious about exploring different approaches. I agree that Sheffield has 'making' in its DNA, but we are also quite an understated city, and actually I'd argue that in our artistic output we've built an identity around being outsiders. Can a balance be struck between keeping that unique identity and being more visible to the outside world? I think those things can coexist. If you look across the city, there are people who really have got that drive and ambition to push for national and international profile, but then some people don't necessarily want to go in that direction. I think there's a question about what is needed now. Being outside one thing often makes you inside something else. I recognise that in Sheffield. Often it's about choice, but sometimes it is about access and the perception from outside. This should be challenged. Do you want to be the next Damien Hirst? Or do you just want to be able to sell your work, to earn a living and practise the thing you most love? We can actively make these choices or we can feel trapped by circumstances that are beyond our control. Sheffield has something really strong, and for the ecology as a whole it's about lifting that profile, and having that sense of this being a place where you can make, you can have a studio at a reasonable price, you can be part of a community. Maybe it’s a Yorkshire thing about not blowing our own trumpet, but sometimes the modesty gets in the way of moving things forward. I've been thinking about Sheffield Creative Guild a lot, and what it's doing in bringing a critical mass of people together. There's a lot of potential there. The principle of enabling better networking and connectivity will draw in opportunities. The time-banking system, sharing skills and opportunities - those principles are really strong, and Making Ways is trying to complement them. Looking over the Year of Making programme, it really is amazing just how much is going on in Sheffield at the moment. For me it really demonstrates the breadth of talent, the incredible creativity, the volume of stuff that's happening, and some really fantastic stuff emerging that's quite surprising. The big question for me is: what next? How do we develop that? sheffieldcityofmakers.co.uk sheffieldculture.co.uk sheffieldcreativeguild.com

YEAR OF MAKING OPEN CALL

Round two of the Year of Making open call to artists is now live, with proposals for funding of between £500 and £10,000 welcomed until Friday 8 July at 5pm. They are looking for "bold formats that aim to engage, surprise and excite an audience" within the themes of Art & Design, Film & Literature, Heritage & Placemaking, Manufacturing & Industry, and Music & Performance. sheffieldcityofmakers.co.uk

COMING UP...

CMC Playground - The Children's Media Conference bring digital art, games, apps and VR headsets for kids aged 5-12 (5-10 July, Site Gallery, Free, cmcplayground.com). Made In Sheffield - Exhibition showcasing the diversity of design and production, featuring 100 Sheffield companies, including Opus/Now Then (Wed 6 July 2016 - Sun 8 Jan 2017, Millennium Gallery, Free, museums-sheffield.org.uk). Sheffield Print Fair - Featuring 36 artists, including past Now Then featured artists James Green, Jo Peel and The Lost Fox, plus screen printing and etching demonstrations. (Sat 9 July, 10am-4pm, Millennium Gallery, £1, sheffieldprintfair.blogspot.co.uk). Computer Club x Algorave x Pimoroni - Innovation from experimentalist Mark Fell and cellist Okkyung Lee, 'algorave' musicians Yaxu and Cárdenas, and CPSmith of CPU Records. Visuals from Humanstudio (Fri 19 Aug, Plug, £5+bf, algorave.com). Tosca - Opera On Location perform Puccini's classic opera in English (25-27 Aug, 7:30pm, Abbeydale Picture House, £20, operaonlocation.co.uk). Artist: Florence Blanchard )

Next article in issue 100

Year of Making: Makers and Doers

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