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 group of individuals seated with their backs to the camera in a stone walled barn. There are three people on a small stage talking to the group and a projection screen to the side of them.
A black and white photo of people stood by the side of a road, most of the group have their backs to the camera and in the distance is a landscape of hills and houses

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

Members of the Visual Art South West (VASW) Steering Group have developed an eight month programme of activity to support creative practitioners who live and work rurally.

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 March-October 2024) includes two cross-region online seminars, three in-person gatherings and published resources.

How Can I Stay? is devised by 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, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

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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.