The concept of an ’emerging artist’ is perhaps difficult to define. Somewhat of a buzzword of the moment, the term is becoming increasingly present in the industry, but to what effect?

Jo Meredith

Jo Meredith

Cloud Dance Festival held a pre-show panel discussion exploring the world of the emerging artist to celebrate the opening of its latest festival, Showtime, at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre. CDF is proud to work with and support many up-and-coming dance choreographers in its work, but the discussion had a wonderful balance of views from (arguably) emerging artists across the arts industry today. Stina Quagebeur from English National Ballet provided an incredibly valid viewpoint as a ballet choreographer with a performance background, whereas speaker Laura McFarlane (IdeasTap and curator) brought different ideas from her experiences in the arts sector and from running her curatorial collective Space in Between and co-ordinating funding at IdeasTap. Independent artist and live-action-role-play (LARP) enthusiast Adam James has had a different path into the dance industry, but the exchange between him and Rosie Whitney-Fish (choreographer and producer keen on site-specific work, dance film and performance) was highly engaging as their contrasting experiences and personal developments gave them much scope for discussion.

Leading the panel with stimulating and thought-provoking questions was Tim Wilson, founder of The Heritage Arts Company, who steered the panel to conversations around the problem of defining the term ’emerging artist’, funding, the best and worst aspects of being an emerging artist, the relationship between emerging artists, and the fundamental problem of when you can mature from being an emerging artist to whatever may lie on the other side – whether that is a mid-career artist, established artist or anything else. Rosie summed this up well, asking the question: when do we graduate from the school of emerging art?

Although led by Tim and the panel, there was opportunity for the audience to also bring ideas to the table, which I’m sure was mutually beneficial and allowed everyone to question themselves and draw their own conclusions. In many ways, this was very similar to the democratisation that Tim mentioned – emerging artists helping other emerging artists in collaborations and sparking creativity through play. Arguably this generosity to another artist is the greatest gift you can give them and being around like-minded people who share the same vision can be the most rewarding place to be. Nevertheless, Adam rightly argued that shifting the context you see yourself in and enjoying the feeling of being terrified can give you a healthier sense of self than limiting yourself, corroborated by Rosie who sees herself as something of a “dance entrepreneur”.

The discussion could definitely have gone on much longer, as everyone had such useful and pertinent contributions that inspired the (unfortunately) small audience. The concept of the ’emerging artist’ is one that will never be totally straightforward or unequivocal, but the energy and vigour required to persevere is nevertheless undoubted. Stina admitted that the best thing for her about being an emerging artist was having the strength and determination to sustain herself, and this idea has the power to speak out to anyone in any sector.