Today was the first of our AEP, Artists’ Conversations tour dates, and our first collaboration is with BEEE Creative, Dance Re:Ignite programme in Hertfordshire
Artists’ Conversations are bespoke to the group, and are initiated by a dialogue around the core themes of the AEP - Artistry, Roles, Resilience and People.
Our conversations centred around self-care and resilience, and how we value and acknowledge our strengths as artists. Following a group discussion on this theme, artists practiced identifying their core values with a free writing task:
Spend 5 minutes free writing on the following two questions:
‘What inspires you’
‘What interests you
From this list, spend some time looking at whether what you have written falls under categories - these could be clear like ‘Art’ or more abstract like ‘Sharing’.
From your categories, look at the headings you’ve given them and try to think of these as values - things that you uphold as a person and as an artist
Try to narrow down to the four or five most important values that summarise the inspiration behind your work and how you live your life
This task can help us think creatively about who we are, what is important to us, what motivates us, and why we make the choices we make in work and day to day life. I recommend doing it regularly, and using your core values as a way to evaluate your current situation, help you make choices, and as a guide when you are feeling stretched or challenged by a situation out of your control.
Stemming from this we began a dialogue around our roles in work and at home, what stretches us, what inspires us, and how we reduce the stress associated with ‘wearing too many hats’ - somethings that many dance artists identify with.
To finish the session I introduced some ‘Active Listening’ practice as a tool for peer to peer reflection and mentoring. In day to day life it is hard to feel genuinely connected to other people as a respondent often doesn’t leave space in order to help us feel heard or supported. When a person talks about an idea or problem, we are more inclined to respond with our own thoughts, feelings or ideas, rather than holding space to enable them to explore and come to conclusions independently.
A useful structure for peer to peer support is to begin a conversation with Active Listening. Bring a topic, idea or word as a starting point:
With your partner set a time parameter - you’d be surprised at how long it feels to talk un interrupted even for a few minutes, so I’d suggest perhaps trying three minutes to start
Set the topic - choose something small like a word or an idea - keeping the conversation simple and broad to start will lead you down many different avenues
The speaker then speaks un-interrupted for three minutes about the topic, following any thoughts or directions that the thinking takes them down. The listener just offers a sounding board, saying nothing but holding space for the speaker to share their thinking
This can often be enough for a person to talk through and realise something new about an idea. However, another level of the engagement is that the listener can respond after three minutes with one question or reflection on what they have heard. This can lead to a further conversation with to and fro responses, however the time should only be set for another three minutes
This can be repeated the other way by swapping roles and the option is also to swap topics
If you are interested in setting up a peer to peer mentoring relationship with another artist, colleague or friend, this is a great way to initiate a neutral and supportive conversation.
Artists’ Conversations are designed to support artists to share at all stages of their career and practice. The event is flexible and the content varies from location to location depending on the group.