by Nicola Rough
Interviewing other artists is a great practice in developing the obvious skills; listening, writing and editing. I was surprised to learn some other very valuable skills along the way. These include:
- I learned how to manipulate conversations in a way that kept the conversation flowing naturally but got the information that I needed - and what the readers would be looking for. These questions include: how did you start making art? What is your mural about? Where else can we see your work? Amongst others.
- Another very valuable (and practical) thing that I learned was to interview artists in a comfortable place where they feel as if it is just a conversation with a friend. And on another level, hide the recorder. In the many interviews I did, as soon as they remember they are being recorded, brain farts happen.
- Don’t ask questions that you couldn’t/wouldn’t want to answer yourself. After my second interview I thought it would be valuable and challenging to answer the questions I had been asking other artists myself. It proved to be very difficult and is still in process. I think my answers will truly never be complete, but it has definitely helped me articulate my own work in a more concise way.
Adapting in a rural arts community
While I was in Nelson, there were a few very important things I learned about rural arts communities. Some things I learned right off the bat, and others took some more time. These include:
- Don’t expect anyone to reply to you promptly, especially not over the weekend. With that, do not ask for things or leave things to the last minute. Most conversations and processes in planning are truly processes – processes that need to be marinated over time with many conversations.
- Slow down. I arrived in Nelson utterly perplexed at the island-time speed that the people around me worked at. Sydney Black and Genevieve Robertson were rare exceptions to this, and I was glad to have them. But other collaborators just operated at different speed. Instead of trying to hurry someone (usually causing them stress) it has been an ongoing practice of patience to trust that things will get done, and they usually do.
- See opportunity in everything and everyone. It would be easy to say to be kind, smile, make eye contact and really listen to people. That’s just the half of it. So much of this job for me is meeting people and finding ways to cross-pollinate networks. I talked with local restaurants and market vendors to be included in the Mural Festival and I reached out to Artists to share some of their work in our gallery. It’s really about not being afraid to talk to people and offer what you can.