Who’s your Critical Friend?

Of all the Knowledge Sharing services we provide at Threshold, from Continuing Professional Development, Trouble-shooting, Life-coaching, Training Linked to Production initiatives and Mentoring to Consultancy, my favourite is the Critical Friend service we provide to artists and filmmakers. Although the primary focus of these sessions is a specific project or the career development needs of mid-career artists, they truly reflect a Peer-to-Peer knowledge-exchange.

Over five 2-hour sessions, I cast an objective eye over a current project or plans for a change in career direction. We look at past work and future ambitions and re-contextualise past experiences to draw a coherent thread from then to now that reveals how the next steps in the artist’s journey are born out of these milestones; defining strategies for problem-solving and/or options for future career advancement. The structure remains roughly the same but each session is tailored to individual need.

Artists often turn to us when a project hasn’t gone the way they expected and need someone to talk it through with before making a final decision. There are times when an artist wants to take a radical departure from past practice or transition from part-time to full-time and we assist with the planning for that.

For some, funding is the simple hurdle. For others, we assist with defining the critical tools through which an artist can evaluate which opportunities to accept and which to reject to reach their goal. One common role we take on is to oversee project delivery and finances for an artist who is making their first funding bid. If an artist approaches us before hand we can write our costs into that bid under the section for Personal Development; defining a tried and tested structure to oversee the creative decision making process of an artist’s project and ensuring everything is completed to standard, fully documented, on time and on budget.

Our main role is to help the artist step back from the tree to see the wider woods and to navigate a safe path through to the other side. It’s often the case that we also signpost suitable funding sources for the artist’s ambitions and assist them to make a bid.

Recently it has been a pleasure and an education to work through a series of these Critical Friends sessions with artists Matt Humphreys, Ashok Mistry and Luciana Haill. All are pushing out into exciting new directions and our conversations have sparked my imagination; throwing out many exciting threads of potential future possibilities for the artists themselves or for future collaborative projects with Threshold. I enjoy these sessions because they call on my near 40 years experience of involvement in arts production and exhibition and present a challenge that exercises my curatorial thinking.

I’m fascinated by artists, their motivations for creating work and the ideas behind it and passionate about finding pathways for audiences into the imaginative worlds they occupy. Add to that Threshold’s collective passion for ensuring under-represented voices are fully heard in the arts and culture industries and it makes for a powerful strategy for delivering social change.

Barry Hale,

Urbexing the Abandoned Temples of Enlightenment

somewhere in Nirvanashire

June 2018