Alana Tyson

Artist Alana Tyson was born in Calgary, Canada. She graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2006, with a BFA (Hons) degree in Painting. She moved to the UK in 2007 and currently lives in North Wales. Here she talks about her new residency with Ruthin Craft Centre…

When I first came to the UK in 2007 from Canada I was confused and frustrated about how to exhibit my work. This was largely due to the struggle of being an emerging artist and coming to a new country without my established networks. Additionally, in Canada it is common practice for galleries and artist-run centres to have annual call-outs for submissions and this seemed to be quite rare in the UK.

Alana Tyson - Gradation

I attended a professional development session at my local gallery and the curator there talked about how they went about programming exhibitions, which was primarily through looking at what other institutions and galleries were showing. The majority of the audience was pretty unsatisfied with this explanation and he finally conceded that for most artists it was about getting involved in the local scene and that after some years he (or a colleague) might notice you. I am not sure that I agree with such a one-sided curatorial approach so strongly informed by the “establishment” but his advice during the session was not all bad.

About five years have passed since then and I have become much more involved in my artistic community. Going to openings and events is a part of my job as an artist (I feel I have an alter-ego for this type of social events and this identity is something I have been exploring in a new set of video works). I also started sending out packages with images to local galleries and industry professionals whenever I complete a new exhibition or body of work. If curators are not going to be out looking for me then I will go to them. These packages are accompanied with letters, not asking for a show but instead inviting feedback; a major complaint of the curator at the original talk above was that artists never wanted to discuss their work with him but just demanded shows. I will say right away that I never received any feedback from these packages until about a year ago. I was at my favourite North Wales venue, Ruthin Craft Centre, viewing the latest show. The Director, Philip Hughes, walked up to me (I had introduced myself previously at various events) and asked if I would be interested in a residency. I saved the manic dancing until I got into the parking lot and very calmly said yes. He asked me to get in touch again after the next changeover and I quickly realised that the ball was again in my court. Philip is a busy man and would not be chasing me up; it was my responsibility to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Alana Tyson - Embrace

I first spoke to my local Arts Council of Wales officer about the residency and they advised that this was the type of opportunity they would potentially fund. An application deadline was approaching so I started writing my proposal and gathering supporting documents such as letters of recommendation. The whole process was a lot of work and took quite a bit of time, but it really forces you to assess what you want to do. There is nothing like balancing a budget to make you realise what is superfluous to your project. I am thrilled to say that my funding application was approved and I was able to go back to Ruthin Craft Centre showing I was able to commit the time and funds to the residency. They in kind are providing me with a fantastic project space as well as mentorship and support.

I had originally proposed to start the residency in June but because of scheduling clashes I will start on 10 November. I am going to create a multi-sensory, kinetic installation in the space provided as well as use the time for experimentation and development. I have spent the past month preparing for the residency, gathering materials, writing press releases and contacting all of the people who will be assisting me. I will be collaborating with a couple of other artists in order to realise my installation as well as working with several ‘critical friends.’ I had a final pre-residency meeting with Ruthin Craft Centre recently and firmed up plans for the coming months. Sending off my images and bio blurb for their marketing material felt like a big step, that this is really happening.

Alana Tyson - Best Laid Plans
Best Laid Plans

Which takes us up to now and hence this blog-post, the first in an instalment of three discussing this residency. I face the next four months with a combination of trepidation and anticipation. My stomach flips when I look at what I promised to achieve in my funding proposal. At the same time I am super excited, things have started to click with my artistic practice recently, it doesn’t seem like such a struggle anymore. I am looking forward to experimenting and making lots of art, so bring it on!

Read part two in the series here. To learn more about Alana Tyson’s work, check out her previous Central Station feature here.

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