New Research Centre: UCD & NCAD Centre for Creative Arts & Critical Cultures

UCD Artist in Residence Dominic Thorpe, working with students from the Visual Arts Society (Drawsoc), Spring 2015

UCD Artist in Residence Dominic Thorpe, working with students from UCD’s Visual Arts Society (Drawsoc), Spring 2015

As many of you know I’ve been working for the past year as part of the NCAD + UCD Strategic Alliance project. I’m delighted to share today that we’ve received the green light to officially establish the UCD & NCAD Centre for Creative Arts & Critical Cultures, of which I will be Co-Director (along with Prof. Jessica Hemmings, Visual Culture, NCAD).

This is the first research centre at UCD to be formally co-hosted with another higher education institution. Its aim is to promote, initiate and coordinate cross-institutional academic activity in the domain of creative arts and critical cultures, across NCAD and UCD’s schools, colleges and disciplines. Here are a few more details:

The Centre for Creative Arts & Critical Cultures supports a cross-institutional, creative academic community whose work bears an affinity of interest in the arts, culture and critical studies — amplifying the impact and reach of this work across both institutions, and beyond to wider society. It will achieve these aims by developing new teaching and research initiatives, promoting and supporting the activities of its affiliated members, and facilitating collaborations between the two institutions.

Our population includes undergraduate and postgraduate students, postdoctoral scholars, academic faculty and staff, and associated artists, critics/writers, designers, architects, and cultural producers. From music to theatre, visual arts to literature, to architecture and design — researchers at NCAD and UCD are nationally and internationally recognized as experts and innovators in the creative arts. However, the Centre’s mission is not constrained to any single discipline, or limited to the arts and humanities. What connects our community is a spirit of intellectual openness and the belief that imaginative thinking and approaches can transform scientific, social scientific, and humanistic enquiry.

By creating this community of scholars we seek to explore alternatives to traditional disciplinary canons; collectively propose new theoretical frameworks; and inspire in each other new forms of artistic and intellectual practice. The Centre will promote cross-disciplinarity and the scholarly ambitions of the community at its core, by:

  • Hosting symposia, conferences, exhibitions and joint events
  • Supporting joint publications and creative dissemination of research
  • Encouraging and sharing information about funding and training opportunities (national, international, European), with the aim of developing joint applications
  • Developing opportunities for staff exchange, mentorship and career development (postgraduate and staff)
  • Developing ‘research clusters’ that will bring together groups of researchers working across both institutions on related themes
  • Promoting the co-supervision of PhDs and funding applications to support them
  • Informing the development of UCD and NCAD’s strategic research objectives
  • Promoting the vision of an interlinked creative campus which welcomes and supports cultural activity, and innovative, cross-disciplinary thinking

We’ll be developing a full programme and formal launch event for the autumn semester (lots more details to come) — and announcing the outcome of our recent €30,000 seed funding call — but for now, I’m really excited about this new challenge ahead, and the possibilities it will create for students and staff!

More details are also available here:

Finding & getting a job in the Irish arts sector

dilbert-interview ‘Tis the time of year when new graduates are starting to freshly scan the arts jobs horizon! I’ve just updated this site’s jobs listings (check out all the seasonal positions now open with Dublin Theatre Festival, folks) and have been fielding many emails, chats and cups of coffee over the past few weeks for folks on the job hunt (and employers looking for a few good men or women).

This morning the Guardian Culture Professionals Network posted a short piece by an arts management lecturer at Birkbeck asking What skills do arts sector grads need to develop their career? — and suggesting ways they have modified their university programme to respond:

The first was a physical space for reflection. The cultural sector is an amazing and exciting place to work because of the various types of roles and jobs available across so many different artforms. But such an array of opportunities can also be daunting when a fresh graduate is trying to find a way in. As a result we developed a series of workshops organised around guest lectures and practical exercises to provide students with the opportunity to think and work through what it means to be successful or how to deal with failure. It sounds conceptual, but it’s invaluable in a sector rife with overnight success stories and constant rejection that can often feel more personal than professional.

The second thing students wanted was experience: somewhere to practice what they felt were essential skills needed to obtain work in the sector. These skills ranged from how to put together a 10-minute pitch to knowing what your employment rights were if you were commissioned for a project or self-employed. On this front we invited sector professionals with relevant experience to speak to students about how to maintain a portfolio career and how to pitch. These talks offered them a chance to link what they had learned in class to practice in the field.

We’re constantly modifying our own MA in Arts Management programme here at UCD, so it made for an interesting read, with a few new ideas (and I’m looking forward to our annual feedback from the students, which is taken very seriously & is always useful!)

It also made me think – what advice do I give folks on the job market? Some of my general job-seeking tips are listed on the FAQ, but here are few other skills and attributes that (in my view) have helped folks find the arts sector work they’re looking for:

Be persistent. Even graduates with newly-minted postgraduate degrees, and significant experience, often have trouble finding that first foothold. It’s seldom easier for folks looking to transition at mid and higher level, as our small island is notorious for job stagnancy and mobility problems. Often times public sector jobs are advertised for tiny windows of time, or hiring is still done through networks rather than open advertisement. Let your friends and extended network know that you’re actively looking, and give as much time as you can to scan for opportunities.

Be flexible. In a sector now heavily populated by freelance and portfolio careers, finding the right combination of job, location, and compensation can be challenging. Consider the possibility of combining work from various sectors (working in marketing for both arts and commercial clients, for example). Have a look at analogous sectors that may be eager to hire someone with your skills (NGOs/charities, universities and school administration, the civil service/local authorities, etc.). If you’re flexible with geography, seize the opportunity to work overseas (in the US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia). It’s of tremendous benefit to experience how different arts sectors work, and will forever alter your own view of how your professional life can or might evolve.

Be confident (but humble). Enthusiasm, passion for the arts and a strong sense of self make for an inspiring employee or co-worker, but the capacity to learn quickly, and willingness to take on anything that needs doing, are essential skills.

Be respectful. Keep in mind employers often receive dozens and dozens of CVs for a single position – many of which are from folks totally unqualified for the position, or who haven’t bothered to fully read the job description. Don’t be that person. Make sure your CV is well designed and attractive, proofread, has all the relevant details, and is easy to read — it’s not always necessary to keep it down to a page, but it’s the first professional impression you make, so give it time and attention. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how poorly folks in the arts often represent themselves in this medium!

Take heart. You’re not alone if you’ve sent out dozens of applications with no joy; or if you’ve had to take a place-holding job to pay the bills; or felt the stress of multiple unpaid internships with few future prospects; or felt frustrated with the difficulties of finding a paid job that will reasonably support you and your family. I’ve made a few suggestions here on how to get out of a job-seeking rut — but the best advice can be simply to talk to someone else: share your experience, ask for feedback (and take it seriously), and find a few kindred spirits with whom you can openly and unreservedly discuss your aspirations and worries.

Any other constructive hints for job-seekers in the Irish arts sector would be most welcome!

Warwick Commisssion visiting Queen’s University Belfast, 19 May 2015

Folks in the North (and others!) may be interested to attend a special presentation next week in Belfast, featuring members of the Warwick Commission who will discuss findings from their recent, extensive report on the subject of cultural value in the UK:

Visit of the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value
Tuesday 19 May at 3pm
0G/074 Lanyon Building, Queen’s University Belfast

  • How is culture valued and undervalued?
  • How important is creative education to the development of talent and participation in culture?

The Cultural and Creative Industries are the fastest growing industry in the UK. The Gross Value Added of the sector was estimated as £76.9 billion in 2013, representing 5% of the UK economy. Yet the articulation of the value of our culture and creativity is in danger of being reduced to a very restrictive definition of “cultural value”.

Taking this challenge as a point of inspiration, in November 2013 the University of Warwick launched a one-year Commission to undertake a comprehensive and holistic investigation into the future of cultural value. A diverse group of cultural leaders were invited to gather together the evidence and arguments to create a blueprint for the future of investment and engagement in our cultural lives. The Commission’s report Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth brings together the findings of a series of public and private meetings with artists, creative and cultural professionals, economists, business leaders and other stakeholders, backed up by targeted research.

The Commission makes a range of recommendations as to how we can ensure everyone has access to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life. Warwick’s ambition is that the Commission will offer an authoritative and constructive contribution to public debates and government policy in relation to arts and culture in the UK.

Two of the researchers supporting the Commission, Dr. Eleonora Belfiore and Dr. Catriona Firth join us to present their findings and to discuss the implications for policy makers, arts managers and artists in the cultural sector.

Places at this event are strictly limited. Please RSVP by 5pm Friday 15 May to

Further information:
The Warwick Commission:
Link to download the full report:

‘Dublin’s Disappearing Arts Spaces': We Are Dublin

Just finished reading this excellent, perceptive essay by Nathan Hugh O’Donnell about the precarious state of artist studio space (and the market) in We Are Dublin online magazine:

The story of Dublin’s artist-led spaces is a story about ownership, both creative and commercial: a story of a new movement of artists trying to find new ways of functioning in an increasingly inequitable society. At the moment, it might not have a name – it might not want a name, for that matter – but it might not be able to resist one for much longer.

It provides a concise précis of the rise and fall of artist spaces in the city since 2008, with provocative questions posed about public value, public provision, opportunity and agency in the visual arts. Well worth a read!

Call for book reviewers – Irish Journal of Arts Management & Cultural Policy

hocking hewison CI reader

*Update: we’ve received a great response to this call, many thanks! The call for expressions of interest is now closed, but additional calls for future issues will also be advertised.*

The Editorial Board of the Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy is now seeking expressions of interest for reviews of the following recent publications for Volume 3 of the Journal:

Synopses of the various books and further details can be downloaded here. Interested reviewers should email by Monday, 11 May with a brief statement of interest and a short bio / CV. Books will be sent to reviewers, and final text (approximately 2,000 words) will be due June 2015. Style guidelines and further details may be found at Volume 2 (2014) of the Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy ( is also now available.