Interview with Davide Mengoli of FloatArt London
FloatArt London provides a platform for talented graduates to present their work to a wider audience. Their programme of support and guidance; professional, personal and educational development; and their annual graduates’ show all contribute to the way in which this unique organisation celebrates talent and promotes art. I spoke to co-founder Davide Mengoli to discover more about FloatArt London and to find out how we can get involved.
[Dates and info for this year’s FloatArt London event can be found following the interview]
What inspired you to start FloatArt London in the first place?
Both Anand [co-founder] and I have had a passion for helping arts graduates for a long time, as we recognise the difficulties they face making it out into the industry after leaving university. We want to ensure that we can do our bit to help; even if it is just a small portion of graduates that can take part in FloatArt London each year, we want to contribute to the industry by providing another much needed platform for these arts graduates to launch their careers from. We set up this organisation to use our knowledge of and connections within the industry to ensure we did our bit to nurture new emerging talent. FloatArt London started off as a large-scale exhibition to provide exposure for new arts graduates, this year we are focused on providing more than that. While showcasing 65 new artists’ works, we are providing these artists with a consultative, educational support network for their professional and creative development. We are now supported by registered charity, The National Funding Scheme, who considers us to have worthy charitable purpose pending our own charity application, which we hope to have gone through by our next event in 2016.
The name of your organisation is really intriguing. Could you please explain it to us?
The name refers to the phrase “to float an artist”; which means to take an artist and “float” them into the professional art world. FloatArt London looks to do just that.
FloatArt London is focused on supporting arts graduates after university. What opportunities are available to arts graduates through FloatArt London?
We are under no pretence that the opportunity we provide is one of a kind, but it is one of relatively few platforms that provides the opportunity for an artist to learn valuable business skills and receive career advice, while showcasing their work in a large-scale exhibition. Through a series of seminars, we provide our selected artists with important information for their professional and creative development. Through our experiences as gallery owners and art collectors, we have found that often the incredibly talented emerging artists we work with have left university or Art College with relatively little knowledge of the business side of the industry. We want to help ensure that the artists we work with during FloatArt London feel confident to make effective business decisions in the future; whether it is in regards to signing a contract with a gallery or just simply pricing their work. We provide a network of support providing a place for these artists to ask questions and receive valuable advice and guidance.
Are there any specific success stories that you can share with us?
In just two years and in two events, we have helped over 100 new emerging artists showcase their work and receive valuable exposure at the beginning of their art careers. Both events gave the artists valuable experience in the preparation behind and work involved in taking part and running a large-scale event. They all had the chance to showcase their work in a central London location. Last year, we had over 3500 visitors to Bargehouse on South Bank, and many artists sold their work. In its third year, FloatArt London is focused on the educational benefits that the organisation can provide for new artists, while still having the opportunity to showcase their work.
As I understand it, your organisation is reliant on donations. How can people contribute financially to FloatArt London? Are there other non-financial ways in which people can offer support?
That’s right, we receive donations through the DONATE platform provided by the National Funding Scheme. People can donate to our cause by visiting www.don8.to/FLAR001 to give any amount, or texting FLAR001 to 70970 to give £5. Non-financial ways to support us would be, firstly, to volunteer at the event; helping the artists set up their work and then acting as an invigilator and tour guide, and helping with promotion and advertising of the event. We rely on a strong group of volunteers to make show the event runs as smoothly as possible. Secondly, we really need those in the industry, business people and established artists to come on board to act as mentors. We need people who share our passion for helping arts graduates and who feel they have something they can share to help prepare them for the business world. If anyone felt they would like to be involved in this way, we would be delighted to hear from them.
What FloatArt London achievements are you most proud of?
I think last year’s event really confirmed to us all the scope and potential FloatArt London has and what it can achieve in the future. We were part of the Totally Thames Festival, had over 700 people attend the private view and thousands of people visit. All of the artists involved give fantastic feedback and were so grateful to be a part of the show.
Where is FloatArt London heading? What can we expect over the next few years?
Once we become a registered educational charity, we are looking to expand FloatArt London, taking it to different locations across the UK and providing more of a yearlong support service for our graduate artists. Ultimately, the goal of the organisation is provide mentorship services, advice and guidance for emerging artists on a larger scale and over a longer period of time. We would also like to be able to work with Universities and Art Colleges more closely. We would like to be coming into institutions before graduation and giving talks and advice to the students before they have embarked out into the professional world.
How has FloatArt London grown since it started 3 years ago?
The number of followers and supporters for FloatArt London has grown and our mailing continues to grow. Now that we have the support of the National Funding Scheme, having been appointed a cultural ambassador for their charity within a few months, FloatArt London is really well positioned to continue its work providing a platform for graduate artists and become a registered charity.
Your annual graduate show is happening in London, this Autumn. What can we expect from this event?
That’s right. We have 65 new artists showcasing their work at Bargehouse, all of whom have graduated this year. The exhibition will be open for five days and as always it is free and open to the public. This year, we are very excited to have curatorial team, Comma Collective, on board with us to curate the show and also manage a team of performance artists, who will be performing at different points throughout the five days. Once again we will also run our competition for the FloatArt London award, which is decided through public vote. We ask that members of the public use the voting slips provided to cast one vote for the artist they think should win the prize of £3000 towards their art career. We feel this element allows the audience to really engage in the work and to also feel like they have a hand in the future of an artist. This year, we also have the option for visitors to donate any amount to our cause in general. As visitors come in they will be greeted with a catalogue and, should they choose to, they can make a donation, big or small. All donations go through the National Funding Scheme and back into the FloatArt London project.
Who would benefit from attending the FloatArt London annual graduate show event?
Anyone who enjoys great art! We would also encourage those in within the industry to view this as a chance to see a selection of brilliant new talent in one place. It would be a fantastic opportunity for galleries and art collectors to view graduate work from across the country. FloatArt London does not take any part in the sale of work during the exhibition and the artists featured are not held under contract once the exhibition is passed. This means it is a great place for galleries to seek new talent.
If a graduate is interested in entering into the educational programme and annual exhibition that you offer, how do they go about being involved?
To be involved, an artist would have to have graduated the year the event is taking place. They would then submit online. The judging process is over for this year, but students graduating next year should see our website for more details closer to the time.
What sort of artists do you hope to engage with?
We have selected artists from a wide range of disciplines. What we hope they all have in common is a strong desire and passion to follow a successful career in art. When selecting our artists we were interested in those who showed real determination and aspiration when either writing or talking about their practice.
What sort of arts climate do you think we are currently experiencing in Britain?
One that for a while was struggling, but over the last five years, has become increasingly more exciting. The public has been drawn back to believing the importance of celebrating culture and creativity. We are part of this year’s BBC Arts, Get Creative Campaign, a great example of an effort to enrich culture and creativity in the UK. I think this is a brilliant time for an organisation such as ours, as our events in the last two years have shown, the British public, as well as the hundreds of tourists we had visit our show, share our passion for supporting new creative talent.
What are your hopes for the future of British art?
That it carries on in the direction it’s going! The industry just needs to provide better mentoring and apprenticeship options for emerging artists with financial aid included in order to ensure that creative talent isn’t lost and that more artists can “make it” successfully.
Do you have any advice for aspiring professional artists out there?
Absolutely, you need to ensure that you are equipped to be able to deal with the business side of “being an artist”. Whether its seeking financial advice or gaining experience within the industry through internships or apprenticeships, aspiring artists need to be prepared to go that bit further. Their work might be fantastic but not everyone is lucky enough to be talent spotted, and even if you are, you should equip yourself with the skills to make sure you are getting a fair deal and making sensible business choices.
Which emerging artists really excite you at the moment? Who should we be looking out for?
We have a really great selection of emerging artists featured in this year’s show, some of who have begun to sell their work very successfully already. You will have to come along to the show and see for yourself!
What else can we look forward to from FloatArt London in the coming months or year?
As I’ve said, we are working hard to turn FloatArt London into a registered educational charity, once this happens in the next year or so, we will hopefully be running regular events and fundraisers to raise awareness of the importance of supporting young and emerging artists. This will be to raise funds for selected graduate artists to carry on receiving from us the guidance, support and financial aid they need to follow a successful career in the arts.
To find out more visit their website: http://www.floatart.co.uk/
If you are interested in volunteering with FloatArt then send your CV and a covering letter to firstname.lastname@example.org
For any questions or further information, contact email@example.com
Don’t forget to visit the show at Bargehouse, South Bank London
Oct 7-11th 2015.