Friday, 3 November 2017

Changing the face of the Art Industry Charlotte Maxwell, Founder of the Easel Initiative

UKRG Event 'Mind the Gap', Friday 20th October 2017
Chapter Hall, Museum of the Order of St John, London 

Charlotte was inspired to set up the Easel Initiative following her experience running an internship programme for a London auction house and seeing how difficult it was to get that first job.

In a sector where internships play a large role this limits the opportunities for those without the connections and funding to access and undertake these.  Employers are also missing out on potential talent by ‘fishing from a small pool’ of those who can. Promoting equal opportunity and accessibility is essential to address the imbalance which affects cultural engagement in the UK.

For those without connections in the industry there is also a lack of awareness about the huge range of roles within the arts and it is these gaps in knowledge, contacts and funding which this initiative sets out to address.

Following a successful crowd funding campaign the Easel Initiative is now 2 months old and they have been very busy. There are now online resources to introduce interested students to key magazines, books, news and even Podcasts and Instagram accounts (I’ll be checking some of those out).

There are insights on their blog into the different types of jobs available in the arts – including a day in the life of Crown’s Sara Kellett . A mentoring scheme will launch next week. In early 2018 a grant scheme will start to subsidise internships and provide assistance with relocation to London and in June 2018 a careers fair will be held in London.

Large public bodies, such as the National Galleries of Scotland, have a transparent volunteer programme which prevents nepotism so it would be easy so say that this issue is not a problem for public museums and galleries. However, many people begin their career in the arts in a commercial gallery or auction house setting, so increasing diversity in this area benefits the whole sector.

UKRG members are fortunate enough to already work in the cultural sector, but a show of hands during this event showed we are all aware of the lack of diversity. So what can we do to actively encourage and support new and more diverse entrants to the sector?

The Easel Initiative is focussed on London so for those of you who are in London based galleries can contribute by spreading the word about their programme and volunteering for their mentoring scheme. The rest of us can advocate and raise awareness of opportunities in our own region and challenge the diversity of our own organisations all at levels.  

Maybe one of the preconceptions we need to question to increase diversity in the sector is the assumption that you have to make the move to London? For many reasons, not everyone can or wants to make that move. True, size means there are many more jobs in London than any other city; however there are many opportunities in the cultural sector outside London and with the move towards increased funding in the regions these are set to grow.


Thanks to Charlotte for the interesting presentation and Blackwall Green for the travel bursary.


By Jacqui Austin, Lead Registrar: Loans, touring & partnerships, National Galleries of Scotland

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