Alice Thickett: Hello Roshni and Mel, thank you for taking the time to do an interview, I know you’ve been busy with the Mela! So I’m going to jump right in; have you ever hosted an open-submission show at New Art Exchange?
Roshni Belakavadi: Yes, NAE hosted the Culture Cloud competition last Summer. Culture Cloud was a research and development project funded by NESTA. The project aimed to explore how digital portals can be used to reach artists, promote their practice, create professional networks and generate new income streams.
Melanie Kidd: The project also challenged the traditional model of an open exhibition by allowing both curators and public audiences to influence the final selection of works for the show. The digital platform of Facebook, as well as a specially designed website, allowed everyone to discuss and vote for their favourite works in the show. The project concluded with two prizes: a curators choice, and the public choice – the latter designated by the number of Facebook ‘likes’. Visitors to the NAE gallery or the virtual version of the show, were also able to order prints of selected artworks online.
Melanie Kidd at the Nottingham Castle Open 2011.
AT: Why do you think open competitions are important for artists?
RB: They provide a doorway for artists regardless of how well they are known or where they are in their career to showcase their work. Opens are a good way to unearth new talent.
AT: ‘Unearthing new talent’! That's a wonderful thing for an exhibition to achieve.
MK: Nadim Chaudry was the first winner of the NAE Prize at the Castle Open back in 2010. In a recent interview with Nadim, he described the project that followed the prize - which in his case was an exhibition - as the springboard for the start of his career.
AT: What prize will you be offering to the winner of the Castle Open 2013?
RB: We plan to work with the winner either to develop an exhibition in our Central Gallery or Mezzanine Space, or to present their practice through a live event within our public programme. We’re also interested in the possibility of working with a winning artist within the capacity of our learning or community programme. Essentially the prize will respond to how we feel we can best support the artist.
MK: Part of NAE’s work is focussed on supporting and developing artistic talent – we run a number of programmes around this objective such as YARD Youth Theatre, the Young People’s Panel and the ExperiMentor programme for artists. Our prize for the Castle Open is therefore primarily a development opportunity.
AT: Sounds like a brilliant way to develop a career in the arts. So, tell us what five things are you looking for in an artwork or artist to win this prize?
RB: We are looking at work that sits within the vision and mission of NAE, which is to stimulate new perspectives on the value of diversity in art and society. We’re also looking to see quality and innovation in practice and we’re also really interested in artists that aim to engage through their practice.
MK: We’re looking for new talent and someone that is hoping to develop exciting projects with some assistance from New Art Exchange.
Throe No.1, Satta Hashem - winner of the NAE prize, 2011.
AT: How long have you been sponsoring a prize for at The Castle?
RB: We have been sponsoring a prize at the Castle Open for the past six years.
AT: And have you always had a hand in picking the winner?
RB: I have been selecting the winner with Melanie for the past two years - and have curated the exhibitions with both of the winners: Satta Hasham and Gurminder Sikand. I’m currently developing the project with last year’s winner, Sardull Gill.
Sardul Gill, Winner of the NAE prize 2012
AT: Have you enjoyed the process of looking at the work and selecting the winner that exemplifies what you are looking for in the NAE Prize? Are you looking forward to choosing a winner from the Castle Open 2013?
RB: The standard of the work submitted at the Castle Open have always been high, therefore it makes it a very interesting process for us to choose the winner of the NAE prize. The open platform also gives us an idea about the range of media, subject matter and concepts that artists are currently working on. Working with Satta Hashem and Gurminder Sikand, has been a great experience for us, resulting in two engaging exhibitions. We are very much looking forward to seeing this years selection for the Castle Open.
Gurminder Sikand, winner of the NAE prize 2010.
MK: The range of sponsors and prizes that the Castle Open offers appears to attract high quality applications from artists, so I really enjoy the way in which the exhibition becomes an annual survey of the artistic talent currently residing in the East Midlands. I understand that the selection process is thorough and only the highest quality of work is selected for the show, and I feel this focus on excellence is really important to maintain the critical acclaim of the exhibition for both artists and visitors.
Artists of a non-white British heritage and those working in the arts in this context are currently greatly under represented within the sector. To address this imbalance and to ensure the perspectives of broader range of cultures and communities are seen and heard, NAE takes positive action to engage individuals from diverse backgrounds and those exploring diversity in their work. Through the NAE prize we therefore hope to encourage artists from diverse backgrounds to see the Open as an opportunity for them and to apply to participate.