Young People as Co-Producers: One Collective’s Journey

The Tate Collective Producers Team are the young people’s group at Tate St Ives. They meet up regularly to work alongside artists, create art and devise workshops, social events and exhibitions at the gallery, as part of the Tate wide Tate Collective programme. This case study focuses on the journey of a group of Tate Collective Producers who, since participating in the group, have formed their own working collective and have progressed to working as freelance artists on our young people’s programme.

We would like to reflect on how supporting the development of these young artists has influenced decision making around future programme and how we can further support the transition of young people if/when they would like to start to pursue work-based opportunities. By doing this we hope to continue active co-production and nurture young artists by offering them real-life professional opportunities and that ‘first step’ in the early stages of a career in the creative industries. We are fortunate to be part of a partnership with Falmouth School of Art at Falmouth University that aims to support the development of students’ skills for employment and experience of cultural industries and is supporting this side of our programme.

Aims 

In our work with young people we aim to; 

  • Open pathways into our YPP Programme and improve access and opportunities for more diverse young people, both on and offsite. 
  • Support the development of skills for employment and experience of cultural industries and to contribute to widening cultural participation in Cornwall. 
  • To directly connect young people with artists and artistic practices and place them as agents of their own learning.  
  • To continue to deepen confidence and understanding across our organisation of how to create welcoming, social and creative spaces for young people; giving them a positive presence at Tate St Ives and within their local community.  

The Tate Collective Producers group aims to raise the aspirations of young people and give them real responsibility towards, and ownership of, the fortnightly Saturday Sessions that they attend and of the U Studio Festival at Tate St Ives that they curate. Handing over decision making in this way, as part of a supportive peer-led group, gives agency and ownership to the young people involved.  

As emerging artists, it was great to have our voices and ideas taken seriously by an organisation such as Tate, and we directly influenced the way the U Studio day took shape. This caused a greater feeling of responsibility and ownership, and everyone felt more motivated to create a successful event.

Tate Collective Producer 

However, as the young people develop over long term engagement with the young people’s programme, what’s next? How do we continue to support them as their needs and aspirations grow and change? 

Collaborating with fellow Falmouth students and other 16–25 years olds has been invaluable. Working with a big group of people required collaborative discussion of everyone’s ideas and allowed us to create something bigger drawing upon everyone’s skillsets. Once the Saturday sessions were finished for the year, I met up with two other people from the Tate group and together we started a collective of our own.

Emma, A Long Distance Collective 

Tate Collective Producers and A Long Distance Collective 

Emma, Sanni and Sophia have been taking part in Tate Collective Producers since October 2018 and have since formed their own artist collective ‘A Long-Distance Collective’

Tate Collective is one of the most beneficial programmes I have been involved with in association with being a student at Falmouth University.

Emma, A Long Distance Collective  

When Emma, Sophia and Emma first joined Tate Collective Producers they had never tried performing or collaborative working before. Over 2 years, as part of the programme they designed and ran workshops, took part in performances, created collaborative installations and contributed to the curation and production of successful peer-led events for young audiences. Emma, Sophia and Sanni grew so much in confidence and we were looking to create opportunities for them to continue co-production on the young people’s programme as they transitioned from Tate Collective Producers to establishing themselves as young artists. 

Performing with Artist Otobong Nkanga 

In September 2019 Otobong Nkanga presented a new performance work to mark the opening of her exhibition From Where I Stand at Tate St Ives   

For this performance, we approached Emma, Sanni and Sophia with the opportunity to take part as paid performers. This experience gave the young people insight into the development of a performance work by an internationally recognised artist, and the opportunity to work as professional performers in a major arts institution for a large audience. 

For our organisation, this was a positive opportunity to work collaboratively and to champion our young people and create exciting opportunities for their development in an area of the programme outside of the Tate Collective group.

Otobong Nkanga, Constellation to Appease 2019. Performance view, Tate St Ives. Photo Tate © Joe Humphrys & Oli Cowling, 2019

A Long Distance Collective perform WEMADE a specially commissioned performance for U Studio Festival 

Shortly after their performance with Otobong Nkanga, Long Distance Collective were invited back to Tate St Ives by the current Tate Collective Producer group, this time as artists to co-produce and perform a new piece of work at a U Studio Festival.  

As a freelance artist Collective, A Long Distance Collective were exposed to a new set of experiences working professionally as young artists to co-produce with a Gallery; 

  • A Long Distance Collective were required to submit a proposal for their performance outlining the content, timings, resources and costs.  
  • They discussed and negotiated content with the young people’s team and the Tate Collective Producers’ group. 
  • They attended a dress rehearsal and communicated details of their performance to the Senior Visitor Services Manager and Assistant Learning Curator to think about managing risks to themselves, the audience and the artwork. 
  • On the evening, they briefed learning staff and Tate Collective Producers on their final performance. 
  • They were interviewed by Tate Collective Producers to create a special feature for the Tate Collective Instagram page. 

Long Distance Collective created a beautiful performance which was well received by the audience, Tate collective producers and staff. Their professionalism throughout the process was astounding and they have paved the way for the gallery to continue to work with them and actively seek opportunities for paid work and professional development experience for other young emerging artists coming through our Tate Collective programme, our partnership with Falmouth School of Art at Falmouth University and in our region.  

A Long-Distance Collective, WEMADE (performance view) U Studio, Young People’s Programme at Tate St Ives. Photo: Tate © Kirstin Prisk

Participants 

Since working with Long Distance Collective in this way we have been looking at more ways to embed paid opportunities for young artists into our programme. We have been working with young artists (who have previously engaged with the young people’s programme) to lead sessions for our Tate Collective Producers group, create commissions for U Studio Festival and as speakers for young people’s programme events. These opportunities are all paid at our artist rate. 

At present we are working in partnership with Falmouth School of Art at Falmouth University to run Professional Practice and Emerging Artist Programmes with School of Art students, that we hope to use as a blueprint for opportunities for more young creatives in the region. Our partnership has also delivered a Creative Industry Careers Fair in 2019, that saw 250 local young people engaging in inspirational workshops, pop-up stands, talks and tours from Tate staff and creative businesses and practitioners from all over the South West. We work regularly with local youth projects and charities, Secondary schools and Colleges to run Art Lab sessions where young people are encouraged to find their creative voice, build confidence and aspirations and share their achievements at the gallery and we are offering a month’s artist residency each year through our partnership with Porthmeor Studios

Outcomes and Learning 

This was a valuable learning experience for Long Distance Collective, giving them the confidence to pursue similar opportunities in future. 

The logistics of beginning your career can be daunting to young artists. We found that being able to support with practical aspects of beginning freelance work were really valued by the young people such as; 

  • How to set yourself up as a freelance artist 
  • Artists rates of pay  
  • How to Invoice 
  • Creating a proposal 

In terms of our programme, we felt that working with young people to co-produce in this way was very successful; 

  • Work produced was relevant to the audience. It was exciting for young people aged 15–25 to see their peers working in this way and changed their perception of what is possible at Tate St Ives. 

Its been so great to take part in the Producers group and this is my first U Studio event, its really opened my eyes to what we can actually do at the Tate

Tate Collective Producer 
  • The invitation to create a new performance for Tate St Ives was a big career step and invaluable opportunity for A Long-Distance Collective.  

We thoroughly enjoyed creating a performance independently and it was received really well! We felt really supported and cared for by the whole Tate St Ives team and it was a joy to work with everyone again… We will keep creating things together and will keep in touch!

A Long Distance Collective 

Long Distance Collective have written a paragraph on outcomes from their perspective, to express their identity as a collective and some of their plans for the future; 

Since having formed our collective, we have identified our core values and continued collaborating and working across different forms and media. During the last year of all of us living in Cornwall we made a screen printed book and hand-bound three copies consisting of drawings, writings and inside jokes that formed from our conversations, coffee dates and sea swims. The book was a collection of experiences we shared together and a memento of our friendship. While we were making our book in the printmaking studios, a print technician heard our laughter echo from the room next door, and she told us to keep working as a team because we clearly have so much fun together.  

Our current project is a film put together from clips from our personal lives to see how those moments can overlap and connect between our respective locations. We wish to obtain more work opportunities, like the performances at Tate St Ives as well as workshops and discussion panels to share the essence of our practice and the current issues that feed into it.  

Friendship, conversation, play and the joy of making and skill sharing are at the core of our motivation for working as a collective. We are constantly looking for new ways to connect with each other and the world around us through art and practicing collaboration, even if the circumstances mean that we have to do it long distance. 

Tate have given us an incredible door into the art industry and into forming a professional artist collective we never realised could emerge from the Saturday Sessions and the U Studio events. That for us has been so valuable, we wish it to be a reoccurring opportunity for other young artists as well. 

A Long Distance Collective 
Illustration by A Long Distance Collective

For me, as a new Assistant Learning Curator, this was a brilliant time to step into the role and kick start working with some incredible young artists. My colleague, Elizabeth Howell who is currently on maternity leave had worked hard to establish the beginnings of these opportunities and mentor the young people towards being ready for the responsibilities of these roles. At a time of transition and change, I was fortunate to have complete support from my manager Rachael Woodhead as well as Elizabeth’s expert preparation. 

In terms of resource, it was important that these were paid opportunities and that we recognised the commitment of the young artists who were travelling to take up our offer of work (2 of the young people involved had recently moved from Cornwall). This does require staff time to coordinate and this was a time precious period, three weeks into my new role the U Studio Festival took place. The extra time spent coordinating, booking travel, liaising with artists and the gallery and rehearsing with the collective was completely worth it. It has been a joy to work with this collective and to have since developed more paid opportunities for young people within the programme. 

Kate Turner 
Assistant Learning Curator: Young People’s Programme  
Tate St Ives