As part of our series of articles concentrating on our sponsors and the prizes they offer for the Nottingham Castle Open 2013, we invited local artist Alice Thickett to speak with John Harris, Gallery Manager for One Thoresby Street - an artist-led studio complex that includes the Attic and Trade galleries, located in the 'creative quarter' of Nottingham City Centre.
Alice Thickett: Please can you tell me what you do at One Thoresby Street?
John Harris: As studio manager I'm responsible for the day to day running of the building which includes finances, health and safety, building maintenance, supporting studio artists and social media with Candice our Attic Producer. More recently I've been working towards planning for the future of OTS, how to improve it and make it sustainable for the future.
AT: Sounds busy. Have you been involved with the Castle or the Open before personally?
JH: I've worked on the last two exhibition change overs [as a technician] at Nottingham Castle but I’ve not been an exhibitor or judge.
John Harris (middle) installing 'Treasures of Nemi' exhibition along with Alex Pain (left) and Tristram Aver (right)
AT: Can you tell me more about the prize One Thoresby Street is offering this year?
JH: This year Thoresby is offering a three month residency. Beginning in April 2014, it will include regular critiquing sessions in our "languages programme" where we will invite local established curators and artists to be involved, on top of our studio artists. There will also be 1-2-1 tutorials with either a guest curator or artist. On top of this, the winner will have the chance to produce an artwork for our lightbox [below] outside the front of our building.
Google 'Street View' of OTS and the Lightbox.
AT: Wow, that's quite a package. Could you explain why One Thoresby Street feels these elements would be beneficial to the artist you choose?
JH: Well, I think the biggest difficulty I personally find being an artist is having a support network and dedicated studio time; being in a supportive environment can help realise ideas that have been brewing up and push a practice forward. The light box requires an artwork to be produced specifically for it, to be flat and printed, which can be challenging to work in that way. I think by One Thoresby Street giving this opportunity, it may challenge the selected artist to experiment and try new things.
AT: Yeah, finding time to make work is difficult, but this sounds like a brilliant opportunity. Other than your wonderful prize, what do you think are the other positive reasons to apply for Open competitions, in particular the Nottingham Castle Open?
JH: The best thing about applying for Opens is firstly the hope you get selected (fingers crossed), and when you do it's definitely a great experience meeting other artists involved and seeing your work in a gallery setting. This applies in particular to the Nottingham Castle Open, because the Castle has such large beautiful spaces and there's always lots of artists involved. Secondly, there is of course the chance to win prizes, and with the Castle Open I think the amount of varied prizes on offer, with the added appeal of no submission fee (which is almost unheard of in open exhibitions) is a real positive reason to apply.
AT: Yes, I totally agree! Finally, are there any words of advice you have for anyone applying?
JH: Take really good documentation of the work as the selection panel will be going through hundreds of applications – I say this because it is something that's let me down in the past. Also, do it sooner rather than later, there’s nothing worse then running around like a headless chicken a few days before the deadline.
AT: Great advice! Thank you John, nice speaking with you.