This year’s Brighton Artists Open House has exceeded my expectations on so many levels. So for those slightly curious as to why I would want to devote so much of my time to this community event, I wanted to share some of the experiences and takeaways. Which has been a much longer, but much needed road to creative recovery in so many ways.
I looked back on my post from last year’s Artist Open House, and feel so proud of my achievements and the wonderful show we have put on.
As I stood talking to one of our first guests on the night of our private view, I could not have anticipated how overwhelmed with emotion I would feel. I was taken aback by the tears that shortly followed, and spent the next few minutes apologising for myself. These were tears of joy, but also loss, and sheer relief that we had all got to this point. To some of you, that may seem a bit over the top, but it was the weight of the last couple of years seemingly falling away, which made this year’s artists open house even more special. The theme of joy definitely ran through the weekends, with so many guests saying they felt uplifted as they left, which is just what I had hoped for.
Putting on this show really was one of the most special times of my life and so I thought it would be poignant to mark it by sharing just a few of my observations and experiences.
For anyone scared of putting yourself out there, for perhaps trying something new, or challenging your fears, here’s a few of my takeaways from the last month, as well as the 2 years of preparation that has gone into this year’s festival;
As I’ve got to know more artists and makers, I’ve realised that taking compliments about our work, seems to be something we all struggle with to some degree or another. Our responses teeter between awkward, shy, surprised, or dismissive. Over the past 4 weeks I’ve learnt the very best way to take any compliment about my work, is to do it by being genuinely thankful. It may seem silly, but at the start of this month I felt slightly awkward and never knew what to say, yes, almost speechless! I’ve realised there is no need to be bashful, a simple thank you opens many a door and diffuses any awkwardness.
Receiving feedback is one of the most important elements to improvement. Remember that art is subjective, so don’t take things personally, and take away what you find useful and leave well alone with the comments that don’t add value. What one person likes/appreciates the next person might not.
Talking about your work
I’ve always found talking about my work slightly awkward (are you beginning to see a pattern here?!). Perhaps I have and continue to have imposter syndrome, but I am learning to get better at it. I find that the starting point is thanking anyone that I receive compliments from and then asking what the person likes about the work. Writing a short back story/description of the process for each of my pieces was also a really good process. I think it gave me a starting point to be able to articulate my thoughts and explain the process that’s gone into each piece. As it turns out people that show a genuine interest in my work, love to know more.
Don’t be afraid to ask people for help. There is always someone which will know the answer, and most importantly try to remember there has always someone who has been just where you are. From the wonderful artists and makers that shared my home, through to the wider community in Brighton and Hove have been such a huge help in getting me to this point. Community is so key!
There is no such thing as a mistake. Every thing in life is a massive learning curve, and especially in art there is no right or wrong, just give something a go. What you consider a mistake, could be someone else’s treasure!
Sharing your home with wonderful people
This has to be one of the best aspects of AOH. I have loved sharing my home with 8 wonderful artists, and genuinely lovely people! I’ve always loved meeting new people, and find that it expands my view of the world. If this is important to you and you are considering doing something similar, I’d definitely encourage you to share the experience with others, rather than going it alone.
Bringing the joy of art back into people’s lives
Sometimes we just need things in life which bring some joy, and that’s certainly what Artist Open House has meant to me. Every challenge I have had in the run up to this festival has been totally worth it for all the fantastic feedback we’ve had from guests. To see people’s faces light up when they’ve come into our house has been something which will always stay with me.
Confidence to move forwards with my passion
I went into this year’s festival with the goal to enjoy it, and learn from the experience of exhibiting my own work. I have loved every minute and I’m pleased to say it has given me the confidence to continue expanding my collections and trying new things.
Feeling the support from my friends and family
Having friends and family share this experience has meant so much to me. It feels like a poignant time in my life and something I’ve been so glad to share with those I love.
Believe it or not, I was really scared about showing my own work this year, so seeing familiar faces through the doors has really reminded me of the amazing support I have and has helped me no end.
I’ve loved to give other artists the opportunity to explore their creativity, whatever stage of they’ve been on, whether just starting out as a hobby, or turning their passion into their full time career, it’s been great to provide a space that so many have been able to see their work first hand.
I’ve loved having conversations with other artists that have visited, to share in some of our challenges, but I also hope that I’ve also encouraged a few to pursue their passions.
Feeling part of the place you live
Being a member of Hove Arts, and a trail contact gave me an opportunity to be more involved in the community and learn from the artists that have been opening their houses for many years.
When you open your home for artists open house, it’s so much more than a gallery. It’s a place where people come and talk, to meet other like minded people, to share their experiences, to laugh (and cry!). I’ve met some incredible people this May and I am very grateful for the gift of community we have in Brighton and Hove.
The share bound of camaraderie
The pandemic has brought our communities together in a way that we would have not thought possible and it certainly has never been more prevalent in our Artists Open House. We have supported each other through this journey, and put an amazing show.
I’d love to dedicate this to the 8 wonderful artists and now friends that I have shared my home with for the last 4 weekends. I will forever be grateful for the time, thank you so much.
There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares aboutMargaret J. Wheatley