07 Aug Interview: Artist Kaitlin Ferguson
I met Artist Kaitlin Ferguson through her work with Genevieve Rudd on the Artist Educator Social Network. I wanted to talk to her about her work during this time and how she feels now that lockdown is easing. Read on to hear how she has made the best of this time, see the work she has created and some advice on how to connect with others.
Can you tell me about your work and what types of projects you work on?
I am an inter-disciplinary artist with an environmental focus. I work across mediums, but mainly on site-specific sculpture projects in public settings. As well as this practice, I also create participatory projects for audiences of all ages, abilities’ and backgrounds. These projects involve
engaging communities using a variety of mediums and I have been commissioned by many institutions such as the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art, Kettle’s Yard, Fitzwilliam Museum and the University of Cambridge Museums. I believe that artists play a vital role in our society, as creative projects can provide bridges for audiences who face barriers to creative engagement.
How has the current situation changed your work?
Like many artists I know there was a scary few days at the start of lockdown, where I watched all the projects I had scheduled in for the next year, be postponed or cancelled one by one.
Now my practice is based from my dining room table! My sculptural commissions have been postponed, but I hope to get back to studio work soon. The participatory projects I am involved in have now transitioned into remote digital delivery. Though I am trying to ensure a balance between projects which create digital resources but also sending out physical resources to those who aren’t able to access digital platforms.
Early on I tried to focus on the adaptability and resilience of our industry. Though we may face unprecedented challenges to the creative industries, as artists who work with communities, we are well versed in expecting the unexpected and adapting quickly. I have been really encouraged by how rapidly new projects and opportunities have been formed.
Have you found any positives from working this way? It would be great to hear about your video work for “Art and the Fens’ & the video for the Sainsbury Centre and how that was for you – is this a new way of working?
Yes, it has been a chance to learn a lot of new skills in particular making digital and video based resources. It has been a short sharp learning curve, but lockdown has provided a unique chance for me to train myself in digital packages which normally I would be too busy to have chance to do.
A few of my most recent commissions have included a video of series entitled ‘Art and the Fens’ for MarketPlace; which is a four part series exploring my love of the Fenland landscape and offering creative activities for audiences to do at home. As well as this, I have been creating videos and resources for the Sainsbury Centre of Visual Art’s ‘Online Studio’ from everything from early years activities to resources for college students on creating public sculpture. I have also been working on a series of videos for each of the eight University of Cambridge Museums, for their ‘Look, Copy and Make’ resources and their now digital ‘Disability Friendly Openings’. This has provided a chance to learn more about the amazing collections, such as incredible Fin Whale skeleton at Museum of Zoology!
What are the difficulties?
I would say the one thing that has been challenging is that I have really missed being in a room with people. So much of what I do is about responding to the needs of the people in front of me and working with people sensitively, picking up on the subtle signals they give out. Therefore, transitioning to remote deliver has put a barrier in the way of connection but as artists we are finding new ways to overcome them.
I also notice you completed a zine during this time. How was that? Did the current situation give you the opportunity to spend time on the project?
Definitely, during the first few weeks of lockdown when things had quietened, I had some time to reflect and decided that this would be an opportunity to spend more time on my own personal practice, making work just for me. I decided to start an at home artist residency (#HomeArtistResidency) to share this and to give myself a project brief. I began posting ever day or so new work I had been making. As part of this I designed and started selling the first edition of a new zine called ‘Abstract Geology’ inspired by the writings of the artist Robert Smithson and my love of geology. I am hoping to start working on second edition very soon!
Do you have any advice for other artists about working during lockdown?
That main thing I would say is to reach out to your local networks and stay connected with those who are in the same position as you, whether in your region or nationally. I think this is the most important step in overcoming potential feelings of isolation or overwhelm.
I have founded a network for just this reason called ‘Artist Educator Social Network’ alongside
fellow artist Genevieve Rudd. The network normally meets in person every other month in various cultural venues and is a space for artists in the eastern region to share, connect and network. During lockdown we have transitioned the network into being facilitated through digital meeting spaces, such as Zoom meetings for our members to ensure there is a warm and inclusive space for supporting each other during this time. Any artist who works with people is welcome to join us by joining our Facebook group.
As lockdown eases how are you feeling about returning slowly to participatory spaces?
To be completely honest I am apprehensive, not just for myself but for participants I work with and those who are most vulnerable. That said, I do believe that artists play a powerful role in being able to support people, as society eases back into public spaces in safe and meaningful ways. So I have my fingers crossed for the future!
Kaitlin’s Social Media
Artist Educator Social Network: https://www.facebook.com/groups/461235851187812/
Digital resources Kaitlin has been working on during lockdown:
“Art and the Fens’’ video series in collaboration with MarketPlace
Sainsbury Centre ‘Online Studio’
University of Cambridge Museums ‘Look, Copy and Make’ and ‘Disability Friendly Openings’ video series for SEND (Special Education Needs and Disability) audiences.
Fermynwoods Contemporary Art Link
Isolated Moments Artist Resources – ‘Soft Strata’ Textile Geology Activity