Artist - Wimbledon College of Art, MA Fine Art 2012
Along with fellow 2012 Wimbledon alumni Alex March, Chris Cawkwell and Jane Harris, London based artist Amelia Critchlow established ArtLacuna, a collective which aims to use disused spaces as a creative hub for local professionals and students. Amelia talks of her experiences one year on from graduating and the excitement and hard work behind the project.
What are your memories of being a student?
My student memories are fresh as I only graduated from the Wimbledon Fine Art MA course in September 2012. They involve being blown away by the ambition and talent of my peers and for me, being pushed to take my work as far as I could and way beyond my comfort zone to an entirely new place, which was great. There was also fantastic anytime access to tutors (or it felt like it) as well as the calm atmosphere of being in Wimbledon, which is deep in the suburbs and has lovely friendly staff.
Who was your favourite member of staff and why?
I didn't have a favourite as such, but I can say that I had some of the best and most amazing, insightful tutorials with Mark Fairnington. The technical and library staff there are great too and really went out of their way to be helpful.
What was the best part about being a student here and living in London?
I’m a through-and-through Londoner and of course if you’re studying art then London is a great city to be in because it’s a hive of cultural activity. I love that there is always something amazing going on from grassroots art events to high-end events like Frieze Art Fair.
Do you keep in touch with people you met here?
I most definitely do keep in touch with some great friends I made there. We have regular peer group salons to keep ourselves in a community and get feedback on work (it can be isolating being an artist to say the least and creating in a vacuum isn't always the best!). Friends have gone on to do really well artistically and have studios in various parts of London. There are many events and shows by those who graduated with me and we all still see and support each other.
What do you do now?
I'm fortunate in that I work fully for myself as an artist and arts practitioner including teaching, and I regularly show work. I run online art courses – which was how I paid my way through my MA course. I've noticed that the more one dares to do what one loves, the more things come one’s way. Three other MA alumni and I have just opened premises in Clapham Junction. We're called ArtLacuna Collective and we have a cross-disciplinary arts space including a screening room, workshops, an experimental gallery and project space. It has enough room to double up as a working studio for the four of us too. It’s taken a ton of work, a load of guts, some serious planning, and all our skills to pull it off and we've only just got the keys! We've experimented with crowdfunding, as well as getting a small arts grant and running a pre-launch artists' talk to get things going. I've loved every minute, as art is my total passion.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received, and what advice would you pass on to students or recent graduates?
Don't lose sight of your dreams; sit and make goals and list the steps and actions towards achieving them, then take those first steps because an art career is made of many small building blocks; befriend everyone and work collaboratively not competitively; believe in yourself and what you do (no-one else will if you don't first), create a portfolio of income streams to enable you to do your art, and don't give up!
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Oh goodness, there are many! I'm so happy that I made it through my MA, that I've been able to make art an intrinsic part of how I earn an income and that I have found three other lovely, passionate people to help realise a collaborative dream; find a location, find the money, find the energy and open up our very own art space. This is simply amazing and the adventure has only just begun. Our first show is called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, and in these times of austerity it’s even more important to live our dreams. It’s easy to get swept away by the negativity of the moment with the arts cuts, so staying focussed and positive is the way to go, I believe.
What drives you to keep pursuing your dreams?
I’m totally passionate about art, and previously really hard times in my own life drove me to make the decision that I needed to do what I loved otherwise my life would have very little positive meaning. I've learned there is more value to life than simply financial value, and doing what we love is invaluable in many, many ways. It can be hard following dreams and passions, but I would rather work hard at that than do something my heart isn't into, and there is always a way to make it work. I've met some of the most amazing people by doing what I love the most and great opportunities have come my way simply from daring to take the first steps (things I didn't even envisage until they happened), and these are the things that keep me going.
What are your goals for the future?
My next steps are to keep going, to continue making work alongside running ArtLacuna as a hub and resource for others. I have two or three shows coming up this year and have just been fortunate enough to be a winner in the Saatchi Point and Shoot competition. Hopefully one of my MA pieces will go into the Summer issue of Saatchi Art & Music magazine, and also a show later in the year. At ArtLacuna, we now have a whole space to fill with other talented, artistic individuals and that’s what we intend to do – it is so exciting and we don't know yet what’s around the corner, but we want others like us to get in touch with us, and maybe we can work together. We currently have great submissions coming in for our Film Festival, which is part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival, in May 2013.
What do you like most about being part of our alumni community?
It is the best. I love staying in touch with others, seeing what they're up to and supporting each other at events and openings, as well as continuing to support each other's practice with feedback and advice. Two of us from ArtLacuna recently went to the SEED funding workshop at UAL to look into getting funding for our project. It’s great that UAL has resources like this to support current students and recent graduates. We hope to be in touch more!