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A students guide to being an artist in Coventry

Meet Ryan Hart, Former Foundation student now in his first year studying BA Fine Art, he discusses his top tips for being an artist in Coventry.

Ryan is a regular at Coventry art exhibitions and not just as a visitor. In 2019 alone his work has appeared at five exhibitions across the city. Coventry itself has a flourishing art scene which is only bound to grow with the 2021 City of Culture. Here are Ryan’s five top tips.

There’s no secret formula to exhibiting your work and navigating the microcosmic art world of Coventry but there are things that you can do to really help you to start making moves. You really just have to put yourself out there and leave the ‘spoon fed by Uni’ mindset behind. I’ve put together some lil tips for anyone who wants to exhibit their work and become more involved in the scene.

  1. Have confidence in your work. Know that there’s going to be people out there that appreciate it too. It’s key. Just do whatever you’re doing well & when you start putting your work out there, people will clock on and see that you’re a serious candidate. To be confident in your work doesn’t mean that you need to be pretentious, I’m talking about the confidence that allows you to be kind to your work and know why you’re still making it, to expose it to the world without letting it being crushed by criticism or a lack of interest.
  2. Meet people. I’ve found that so many opportunities arise when you just talk to people, being in the right place around the right people. Go to art events around you, follow Curating Coventry, Coventry Culture Show, CoventryArtsCollective, jointhecoop.t, Classroomcoventry, Covartspace, Secretknockzine and Bluedoorcov on Instagram to see what’s going on locally. When you’re at these events, talk to people and introduce yourself. This is where the confidence in what you’re doing comes in. As well as getting valuable connections it’s just nice to be part of a community of artists who are all on the same wavelength.
  3. Use social media to your advantage. Instagram has to be the best platform for an artist, a website in your bio for extra brownie points. It’s a place where you can showcase your work and make more of these connections which will benefit your practice, follow people who like art, follow galleries, curators and support other artists. It’s an extremely useful platform, you have access to so many people and the way you present yourself and your work online can lead to some very big opportunities. Through social media I’ve been able to produce artwork for some amazing musicians who’ve become friends. I met Novelist through interactions on Instagram when I was 17 and ended up getting signed to his label where I’ve produced artwork for him to this day. I’ve met and made work for Ceonrpg, Skepta, Cosima and Kenny Allstar. I’ve also been part of group shows in London from interactions with people who have seen my work on Instagram, it’s really just about being authentic and showing love to people.
  4. Look for spaces and find people that you’d like to exhibit with. It’s a challenge to put on a solo show yourself, both in the workload and the cost. Group shows are cool ways to get into showing your work whilst sharing the load. Funding is always out there too! Do your research and find people and organisations that would be willing to help you and your cause. There’s so much support for young people doing their thing, you just have to send emails to the right people. I was able to have my last joint show at The Box (Fargo Village) completely funded by an organisation who were impressed by the way that I approached them with my vision and intentions. Coventry University also supported me a lot with the promotion, set up and the walls to display the work so be sure to let them know what you’re up to. Just be confident and intentional. Open calls and Art competitions are also really good for getting your work out there and getting some opinions on it.
  5. Finally, invest. Getting your work noticed requires time, money and energy. Although it’s a lot to do with who you know and simply being in the right place at the right time, nothing will happen if you’re not being proactive and intentional about how you spend your time. Use your Uni studies to your advantage by allowing both your professional practice and your Uni work to feed each other. Use the resources that you have at Uni to help develop and refine your practice, talk to your tutors! This all helps to shape you into the artist that you’re aspiring to be. Success as an artist is subjective, enjoy making your work.

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Feel free to contact Ryan with questions. If you’re interested in getting more involved in what’s going on in the city, he would be happy to pass on any contacts he has.

Insta: @ryancl_

Website: https://ryanclhart98.wixsite.com/ryanclhart

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