October 9, 2017
I recently hosted a session, in Bendigo, about opportunities for co-working and creativity in central Victoria.
We had a great discussion around what is required for this changing world to encourage entrepreneurship – ideas like co-working and sharing the costs to enable lean start-up of new businesses and testing of ideas, doing deals and collaboration.
We didn’t talk so much about backing creativity and risk-taking. A private initiative by the entrepreneurial leader, Julie Miller Markoff and the current body of work by artist Mici Boxell in Bendigo, is an outstanding example of the value of backing creativity and risk-taking.
Mici was the winner of the 2016 Julie Miller Markoff Award and she has a solo exhibition of the resulting body of work currently on show at the La Trobe University Art Institute in View Street, Bendigo.
I know Mici Boxell through her work with a local arts group I deeply admire, CreateAbility. I marvel at her power and drive to set up an artist-run space in town whilst raising a child and pursuing her passion to study and make.
I met Julie Miller Markoff through my co-working space, Synergize Hub, and instantly admired her clear leadership and understanding of her skills, and her fearlessness to give these to others. When she established the Julie Miller Markoff Award in 2014, I loved her conviction to invest into what she believes in.
I asked Mici, “What is it to be ‘backed’?”
Financially it was amazing – I got to produce a body of work to a high professionally produced state. As a student, you really can’t afford to take your work to this level.
Having the opportunity to be so rigorous in my work took my state of mind for the development of my ideas into a new state that I hadn’t experienced before.
I became braver and bolder.
I also felt stressed because someone was watching me. I worked so hard in making sure as I made the work that I stayed true to myself, whilst also feeling responsible to someone.
What is becoming braver and bolder?
Having acknowledgement of the work you do by the world and outside of my circle is critical to know your own work and the messages you are sharing.
Being backed made me braver and bolder – I went so much further than what I could on my own. It had significant impact on my life beyond my art work. It has made me realise how much I know and that I am ready to work professionally as an artist. I know my stuff and I feel confident.
What was the relationship like with Julie?
Julie is a very interesting and passionate person. We would talk for ages, sometimes about the work I was developing and sometimes about life.
Having Julie beside me was great – she told me; ‘I don’t care what you work looks like – it’s all about your experience.’ She was so supportive.
Why do you value making?
I struggle with making sense of the world – I make sense of it with making, and someone else might make sense of it through my making.
When I work with people with disability with the art group, CreateAbility, my greatest success is connecting with others and sharing our human-side.
I thought art making was a selfish act – but it’s not. It’s having an interest in an idea. I am a visual person and it is how I make answers happen.
What other ways can we ‘back’ each other to be creative?
In all these years I have done disability work, I have found listening and noticing are the greatest ways to make a difference – people want to feel ok about themselves. It is powerful to acknowledge someone.
By turning up to someone’s exhibition, liking their work on social media – it is an acknowledgement and often it doesn’t have to be much at all.
I love my work at CreateAbility because it gives people the right and dignity to perform, and have a stage for their story to be viewed.
Julie has done this for me. She does this because she understands the value in making opportunities for risk, play, art making and creativity in our community.
And now, over to Julie.
Why do you value art making?
I value empathy.
I like to implement powerful ideas. This is what my life is about.
Powerful ideas have beauty and truth in them and this is why I value art.
Art is a shared feeling and art makers are brave. They are making for an audience they don’t know yet.
What is the story behind your motivation to support artists graduating from art school?
Some years back I was sitting at the La Trobe Arts Institute and I liked the works on show. I remembered a desire from long ago when I was a student and also a teacher at RMIT – I wanted to sponsor an art prize. I know the struggle artists face to market themselves. I wanted to give them a platform and a stage to launch themselves.
I approached La Trobe with the idea and we decided to give it a go for three years.
This is the gift that I wanted to give. However I didn’t realise the history of patronage in the art world. I thought it was just mainly about financial support.
To be an arts patron is backing a person and becoming a part of their history of making.
Oddly, it took me months and months to decide to put my name to the award. I didn’t want to call attention to myself. And there is a real risk because I am putting my name on the award, and I might not like what’s actually produced. In the end, I had to take on a similar bravery as the artists.
This experience really has over-delivered. I felt so included in the artist’s process of getting to exhibition. Mici was so responsive to the LAI and also to my interest. I am inspired by the way she works.
How can others back creativity in our community, and why is it important?
There is heaps of creativity in our community. There are so many small experiments happening around us in the world. To back someone or some idea, you may have to be vulnerable and open yourself to risk and make clear what you value.
My hope is always that someone else will join in, or follow on.
In art there’s beauty and truth that really speaks to me. There are so many small experiments happening in the world and it requires having a view of yourself and the world around you and taking a risk.
You can back creativity by:
Standing up for an idea
Giving money to get an idea off the ground
Giving time to someone with an idea
Giving your expertise
We all have the ability to give to someone else and we can all do it on our own frequencies. Backing creative people keeps you young and alive. It opens you for growth.
I’m so pleased I’ve done it and it was one of the best things I’ve done with my life – to back an artist.
Mici’s show is on until Sunday 15 October (2017) at La Trobe Institute for Art, View Street Bendigo. Follow Mici on instagram.
Tamara Marwood is the Creative Director of Create Business, delivering strategy and content for businesses to engage their audience and create attention. You can stay in touch with Create Business on Facebook and Instagram.
Thank you to LaTrobe Art Insitute for the image of Mici and Julie published on this blog post