BA (Hons) Fine Art alumni, Emma McKinney, tells us about life after university…

Emma graduated from the BA (Hons) Fine Art course at AUB in 2015. Since March 2016, she has been working at Eastside Projects, an artist-run organisation based in a gallery in Birmingham.

Eastside Projects describes itself as a “multiverse: commissioning, producing and presenting experimental art practices and demonstrating ways in which art may be useful as part of society.”

Emma’s role in the organisation is Distribution Assistant. Her responsibilities include proof-reading press releases and copy for the website and other marketing materials, helping to write copy for marketing purposes, sending monthly mail outs, managing social media channels, sending out press releases, keeping listings up to date, managing the archive, managing book and edition sales as well as the more day to day general runnings of the gallery.

Emma tells us more:

Although I have certain responsibilities within my role, most of the time my job involves responding to whatever is happening on the day.

“Sometimes we will have artists in making or installing work so I’ll need to assist them with that, sometimes we will have events, workshops or talks on which I will need to help out with.

“During installs my more admin-y tasks have to take a back seat as it’s all hands on deck to get the show ready in time for the opening.”

In December, Emma organised a two-day art fair that saw the gallery filled with affordable artworks, artist books and editions, music, homemade refreshments and showcased independent artists and self publishers from the West Midlands and beyond.

Before the event Emma went on a research trip to the Artist Self-Publishers’ Fair at the ICA to experience how this kind of institution organised a fair and to scout out a few possible artists to get involved in the event.

The event was attended by over 350 visitors and included over 15 artists, including Cat Smith and Alison Clare who also studied at AUB.

Emma explained: “At the beginning of the year, I was unsure whether I wanted to make artwork or organise shows but I think that working at EP, making connections and sussing out the art scene in the city has enabled me to start figuring this out.

“Over the course of the year I got a studio and took part in a scheme called AA2A (Artists Access to Art Schools) at Wolverhampton university.

“Whilst my object based practice has taken a back seat, I am working on projects with two artists I met through EP, that are part of the galleries associate members scheme ESP.”

Emma has also started project managing Digbeth First Friday, a monthly micro festival that sees the area of Digbeth come alive with exhibitions, performances, live music, street food and culture in unexpected places.

This led to a partnership with a local radio station ‘brum radio’ whereby she now organises a monthly curatorial project as part of Digbeth First Friday where she invites artists from across the UK to present work over the radio, experimenting with how the radio station can be used as a platform for art work and also extending the reach of Digbeth First Friday passed the confines of the Digbeth postcode.

I really like that Digbeth First Friday challenges venues to make something happen every month so I decided that this year I wanted to do the same and spoke to Stryx, an artist run gallery and studios, about doing a monthly project there.

“Each month I invite an emerging artist/collective to create a presentation of their work somewhere within Stryx, depending on their own gallery programme.”

“As part of my last week I’ll be joining the team on residency as part of Time Timeshare Project at the Kunsthal Aarhus to celebrate their 100 year anniversary. Although I’ll be a bit sad to leave Eastside Projects I feel excited to move forward with the things I’ve learned and people I’ve met through working here to see how I can use these things to achieve my own aims.”

One of the core values at EP is self organisation which is something I was always interested in when at university but struggled to see how it could exist in the ‘real world’.

“My experience at EP, of meeting artists and curators, seeing what opportunities are out there and how people make things happen, has helped me to understand how I can go forward and make things happen for myself rather than relying on institutions.

“My plans for the future after leaving EP are to start writing my first Arts Council application for a project I want to start next year and to continue working with the artists I’m currently working with.”