What is EASEL?
Easel is a social mobility initiative set up to help further equal opportunity and accessibility within the art industry and support and encourage people of all backgrounds to consider it a viable career choice. We intend to counter the trend that a career in the arts is exclusively for the privileged by providing a free resource to guide and advise all students who wish to pursue a career in the arts but lack the contacts, knowledge or funds.
The art industry has a well-earned reputation for exclusivity, that it offers few opportunities for entry and generally only to a privileged few, for whom art has always been part of their immediate surroundings. Recently, spotlight was shone on the inaccessible nature of the art world following the news that, as of 2018, the History of Art A-Level was to be cut from the Curriculum. A huge level of public backlash ensued, demonstrating the national appreciation for the subject and the A-Level has since been reinstated. We argue, however, that the work has only just begun. The struggle, and recent reports on the current cultural climate, have highlighted the effort needed to encourage students towards a subject that is integral to working in almost every facet of this industry.
Several of these reports addressed the disparity in the art industry between interest and opportunity, and how this imbalance might affect cultural, social and economic perceptions of working in the arts. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility (APPG) observed that financial barriers to accessing the profession could, in fact, be minimized, and emphasized the importance of mentorship and informed career advice. Likewise, the Warwick Commission estimated that the Arts Sector ‘contributed almost £77bn in value added, equivalent of 5.0% of the economy’ and that these figures argue in favour of not only understanding, but developing the art industry’s significant economic contribution and nurturing the next generation of talent.
In order to increase the social mobility of the Art Industry, Easel's plan is threefold:
The website is first point of call for the Easel community, detailing the variety of jobs available within the art world, blogs from people who hold those jobs, professional portraits, industry news and reports and will host the mentoring programme and the grants scheme. Our vision is that the website, and the knowledge held within, will help sixth form students learn more about the Art Industry and access information that otherwise would be unavailable to them.
The Mentoring Programme, launching November 2017, will be aimed at University candidates who are planning and thinking about careers upon graduation but need guidance and support. We will connect prospective and established candidates with professionals from the art industry via our website and app. Career mapping services will also be available to Easel candidates.
The Grant Scheme, launching early 2018, will be for graduates who have come through the Mentorship Programme and secured an internship but are not able to support themselves financially on the low salary offered to them. We will subsidize their income and bring them up to the London Living Wage.
Easel, in partnership with Art History in Schools, is hosting a careers fair at the Institute of Contemporary art on the 8/9th June 2018. Schools, Universities and Art institutions will be present for candidates to speak to educators and industry professionals about their next step.
To measure our impact on the demographic of the industry we will undertake an Art Employment report and mentor survey in year one, and every three years following, to raise awareness about the degree of social mobility within the Art Industry and monitor our improvements.
Art History is a lot more than it says on the tin. Whilst it encompasses the academic study of the history of painting, sculpture and all forms of visual art, it also encompasses a host of other disciplines including psychology, religious studies, economics, sociology, politics, anthropology and many more. History of Art teaches students to use critical analysis and visual literacy skills to read any work of art, or indeed architecture.
Art History teacher and author of the text book 'Thinking about Art: A Thematic Guide to Art History', Penny Hunstman, explains the subject and its importance:
"Art History is many things which are time - and context - dependent, but above all, art is a form of communication, and everyone should have the opportunity to speak its language. Art History teaches us how to decode encoded messages and to become critical analysts. Art History can even teach social justice; characteristically inter-disciplinary, the subject can also teach global citizenship in a world where tolerance and understanding need, more than ever, to underpin every facet of a child’s education."
However, the academic study of art is not the only path to pursuing a career in the art sector. Similar to the number of disciplines History of Art is made up of, a whole host of subjects could lead to a career in the arts. A job in restitution could begin with a passion in history, likewise becoming an art market analyst could begin with the study of economics, the list of examples is endless. Increasingly now, students are encouraged to make a decision about their careers or at least eliminate options as young as 15, but how are they supposed to do so without all of the information? If they study X, Y and Z what careers are possible? Some subjects have a simple equation to this question, however not the arts, which is why Easel is here to help.