Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

That’s What it’s All About?

February 17th, 2010 · 2 Comments


Jackson Pollock, No. 5 (1948)


Have you ever found yourself in a moment where you question everything? Where you reconsider everything you thought you knew? Well that happened to me today as I was reading one of the books I’m using for my research paper, Talking Prices. This book is an examination into the world of pricing contemporary art. As I read, I began to think about how much the art world is concerned with money… and how much I am not. Now, I know money is important and that it’s involved in almost every aspect of our lives, but I’m not interested in art for a profit. I love art, plain and simple. I love the feeling I when I discover a new artist, or when I see a work in a museum that I have studied in an art history course (ask Kelley about our visit to the National Gallery in London). I’m sure most people who are established gallery owners, dealers or curators thought the same thing, that they would never let their artistic priorities be compromised by commercial objectives or let financial matters interfere with the way they establish relationships with artists, but I’m sure that has changed. In a discipline where one is constantly bombarded with words like ‘provenance’, ‘price’ and ‘worth’ how could you not let it affect the way you see art? I am still leaning how art is priced, and I am still amazed that one painting can sell for one hundred and forty million dollars (Jackson Pollock’s No. 5, 1948). While selling prices at auction houses like Sotheby’s are fascinating, I don’t think it’s the only way to determine worth. One of my big questions is, how does the price of a work relate to its aesthetic quality? Call me naive, but I don’t want to turn into another person who just sees a big price tag instead of a work of art. But the end of my interview session with Norwich gallery owners I hope to have a few of my fears confirmed or laid to rest. In these interviews I have been trying to determine what kind of contemporary art market Norwich has. So far it seems to be a mix of so-called ‘traditional’ and ‘avant-garde’ spaces, quite like the inhabitants of this ‘fine city’. While some gallery owners have said there is a decent market in town, others are less than optimistic. I received an email from one of my contacts yesterday that stated, in fact, there is NO market for contemporary art in Norwich.

“As well as owning the gallery, I am an architect and it is this profession that has kept the gallery going. I’ve been working in Jersey (Channel Islands) for the last year, which is why the gallery has only had 2 shows in the last year…so the simple answer to your question is that contemporary art does not sell in a place like Norwich!”

But I still have hope! We’ll see if my constant optimism proves to be my demise. 

Another realization: (and this is one that seems to be true across the boards) the more I learn about life, that more it seems that it’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know. Even with a Dickinson education, networking is essential. The whole art business is a giant web of relationships between artists, dealers and collectors. Lucky for me, I’ve inherited my father’s schmoozing skills and the ability to make friends easily. Now it’s time to put them to good use. People always tell you that best job is one that doesn’t feel like work, and I hope I can achieve this someday. But for now I’m going to have to work my way up the ladder. The art world is no place for introverts and if you want to stand out, you need to start networking early. Sound cutthroat? That’s because it is.

Tags: Grace

A Stranger in Strangers’ Hall: If you give a child a box…

February 17th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Today was the re-opening of Strangers’ Hall to the public, thus meaning it would be busy today. I got placed in the Undercroft, which is where they hold all the children’s activities. Once again I was instructed to make a robot/invention sort of thing for the children to look at. That fell way to the many little visitors that soon took up all the table space.

After learning about Victorian cleaning tools and techniques, the children were instructed to make some sort of cleaning invention or robot. Now with children there from ages 2-10 you can imagine the variation in things being created. I saw a total of 3 castles being made, 2 homes, 4 rubbish cleaning bins, a beauty bin and a video camera. I thought it was incredible watching the children who were given a box and a table of various papers and bits and see their imaginations at work. And I was also surprised that the children took to the craft. I must admit I was a bit skeptical about the idea of the craft, but the children had a great time and really used their imaginations.

Before the children came down to make crafts, a woman from the press was at the Hall to take pictures of the conservation that was happening. Today there was no conservation happening of course because it was just re-opened to the public. So we had to put together a sort of “scene” that made it look like the museum was still conserving something. One of the volunteers was used in the pictures to demonstrate how the equipment was used. He kept nicely arguing with the photographer about how he is supposed to be properly using the equipment compared with what she wanted to make a good picture. In the end, it is always what makes a better picture than wins, not the accuracy of the scene. And I know that is how most things are with the press and the media, but it still frustrates me as a historian…I’m all about accuracy, accuracy, accuracy! I guess we’ll see what the museum has in store for me later this week!

Hours logged: 3
Total hours: 9

Tags: Alli · Museums

Together- From one mentor to the other.

February 17th, 2010 · 2 Comments

(New Routes logo)

“Life is an exam.”

My mentee refers to life as an exam which we must prepare for in order to pass; these are the words he leaves me with as we walk away from one another after our weekly meeting. Bekre, is a young inspiring individual, a refugee from Ethiopia and an aspiring intellectual.

Since last term, Bekre and I have been meeting up at the Forum once a week, our usual routine includes a cappuccino, four sugars and an hour and a half of ‘life-talk.’ We start of by summing up the week, that usually gives us enough to ramble about for quite some time. As he speaks of his adventures, I take mental notes and ask away in regards to particular details. During my mentor training at New Routes Mentoring Center, I learned about the different ways in which we can ask questions in order to expand/sustain a conversation, so I put my skills to practice with him. The first time we met, I remember being way too conscious of the questions I was taught, robotically, in fear of awkwardness or unnecessary moments of silence, I kept asking him questions. I wanted him to find a friend in my voice and comfort in my words. After our first meeting, comfort was the least of my concerns, I’m sure he would agree that ‘we were off to a great start!’

New Routes’ motto states: “Finding ways to achieve together,” and as my relationship with Bekre has progressed, this is exactly what my weekly meetings have been about. Every week we think of a new goal, something he would like to accomplish by the next time we meet; sometimes he makes me tell him my own goals for the week. We later converse about our goals, what took to achieve it and how we overcame any challenges. Even though, we have been learning from each other, sometimes I find myself contemplating the things I want him to learn, since week after week he seems to be the teacher of me (as opposed to vise versa). He has made me aware of the personal struggles he has endured as an Ethiopian refugee in the UK, opening my eyes to a subject I had no previous knowledge of before coming here. He faces obstacles common to refuges and asylum seekers in Norwich, and also problems affecting thousands around the world.

According to our Mentoring Project Training Manual, which seeks “To challenge some common myths through giving some facts, and encouraging participants to reflect on the reality of being an asylum seeker/refugee,” the U.K. receives numerous annual applications for asylum seeker/refugee status. As defined by the manual, an asylum seeker is someone who has left his/her country, is asking for another country’s protection and wants to await refugee status recognition in the country of application. With this said, a refugee is not the same as a “migrant worker” (someone who fleeds to another country in search of work), which is one of the myths associated with asylum seekers. However, a refugee can seek work, unlike asylum seekers who receive a weekly stipend of roughly £35.18 (single adult, over 18) (National Asylum Support Service; 2009). During the long training process we were told many statistics, watched a video and had long discussions on the current economic, social and political status of refugees in Norwich, yet this only touched the surface.

This semester, I am choosing to write my term research paper on the challenges facing refugees and asylum seekers in the city of Norwich. I am eager to learn, so that I can share with Bekre the history of people, who like him, came to the UK in search of shelter. He has taught me so much already and I want to teach him something he will always remember— in this world, we are never alone, and if we are then, we are together in that too.

Tags: Flow