VASW collaborates with Visual Arts organisations and art workers to support and enable a resilient sector. As a sector support organisation, we see it as our role to analyse what our sector needs, evidence this need, and pursue new models for resilience and changing attitudes.
A person is lying down inside a large, transparent ball and floating on top of water.
Three people are sat with their backs to the camera watching a film projected on a screen. There are wooden shapes and colourful objects in the space, which is stone floored with a low ceiling and red columns.

How Can I Stay? I don't want to not want to stay

How Can I Stay? (I don’t want to not want to stay) aims to support creative people in the South West who face barriers due to a lack of cultural and public infrastructure, access needs, isolation and injustice. The programme (running June-October 2024) includes four in-person gathering events in:

  • The New Forest and online by Laura Eldret and More Than Ponies / PaC - June & September dates TBC
  • Bodmin in partnership with Flamm (part of Creative Kernow) - Friday 12 July
  • Portland by artist Erika Cann in collaboration with b-side - Thursday 05 September
  • Barnstable by Ruth Bateman in collaboration with Studio KIND - Friday 27 September

Georgia Newman and Laura Hopes are collaborating on an online workshop and conference exploring the idea of islands and their social, cultural and geographical place in time; and Amanda Lynch and Melanie Stidolph will host an online seminar exploring rural gallery spaces from a disabled, chronically ill and neurodiverse perspective.

  • ISLANDNESS Online conference & workshop - Fri 7 June
  • Rurality and inclusion: changing spaces - October (date tbc)

New Practice in Place editorial features by artist Oren Shoesmith, artist and co-founder of OSR Projects Simon Lee-Dicker and filmmaker and founder of Radical Ecology Ashish Ghadiali will share experiences of living and working rurally.

How Can I Stay? is devised with members of the VASW Steering Group: Erika Cann, Laura Hopes, Amanda Lynch, Rocca Holly-Nambi, Georgia Newman and Melanie Stidolph; and supported by VASW. The project is supported with funding from Postcode Local Trust.

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Together We Will

The visual arts sector is still in the process of managing the far-reaching impact of COVID-19, but we have already seen how the immediate economic effects of the pandemic have amplified prevailing structures of inequality and unsustainable working conditions. Alongside small organisations, freelancers and young people; Global Ethnic Majority, disabled and neurodivergent artworkers have been disproportionately affected. Due to embedded working practices that rely on precarious employment and low pay, the visual arts has a history of systematically favouring those with a higher socioeconomic status in accessing opportunities. At the same time, established organisations still need to address wider institutional policies and practices that allow the continuation of unfair treatment.

In 2021, Visual Arts South West invited artworkers in South West England to develop new best practice guidelines for our professional community. To address long-standing concerns, four Artworker Advisory Groups collectively developed new recommendations for best practice to increase equal access to the visual arts, and to foster more inclusive, fair and hospitable working cultures. The groups focused on experiences of Global Ethnic Majority, disabled and neurodivergent, LGBTQIA+ and young artworkers.

The Best Practice recommendations are a supportive framework for us as a region to bring tangible, long-term change to our sector by making our organisations’ governance, employment conditions, programming practices and professional development opportunities more inclusive, accessible and hospitable.

The recommendations cover:

  • Organisational cultures
  • Employment and pay
  • Programming
  • Professional development
  • Application processes
  • Developing connections
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The Reset: Recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic

In collaboration with CVAN, The Reset series was a selection of webinars exploring the effects of COVID-19 and how the visual arts sector can safely recover from it, including presentations by Sarah Munro and Sally Shaw, Matthew Burrows, and Rachel Dobbs and Glen Stoker. Listen back a selection of the series below.

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The Future Proof Series

On 20th September 2019, we invited artists, curators, arts organisations and audiences to gather for a day of discussions and learning. This event (titled 'Future Proof') had the goal of identifying and addressing key challenges of our region while establishing collective survival strategies for the future in perpetually changing conditions.