What’s surprised me so far by Kickstarter Sam Cole

Artwork by Emma Bennett from ‘Down Town’ Exhibition. Photo Credit Rachel Deakin

My name is Samantha Cole, and I am 23 years old. I was born in London and moved to the Middlesbrough area at age 11.

I started having a passion for art once I started secondary school in Middlesbrough as being surrounded by an unknown town and landscapes made me feel more creative and open. At the time I was interested in drawing, photography and ink painting.

Once I left school, I studied at Middlesbrough college for 4 years. In that time, I was looking for more development in my practice and that’s when I found my new love for editing. After 3 years on BTEC Art and Design I didn’t feel like I was mentally ready for university and ended up studying another year at college on Access to higher education art course.

Once I finished college, I then decide to go to Teesside University. I applied for Fine Art BA (Hons) full time and started studying in September 2017 – 2020. During my second year at university, we had group exhibitions where the students would find a venue, plan and then curate and it was a way to experience how a gallery or creative space would organise and orchestrate an event or exhibition show. In our third year we have a degree exhibition show open to the public and part of our final marks, but unfortunately because of the pandemic the university shut, and we couldn’t hold the degree show. This did take a hit at me and my practice not being able to finish or take photos of my developing piece at my studio. Later we were able to hold a digital exhibition, but I was not apart of this for the fact I didn’t have any of my work to submit nor the funds to create a new sculptor piece. Spending 3 years studying and not being able to hold our exhibition was upsetting and most of my motivation to create vanished.

Artwork by Emma Bennett from ‘Down Town’ Exhibition. Photo Credit Rachel Deakin

During 2020 I decided to focus on my self-employment creating candles, tealights, wax melts, jewellery etc.  but it was a struggle to find the right market and trends, while trying to fund it alone. While personal/family issues started to affect me, I ended up finding a temp position in customer service which didn’t last for long, but it did give me experience about a business and how it functions. On the side doing customer service and skills for employment, training and personal development courses I then found a new job. I left after 3 days because of contract issues. 1 month later I found myself applying for a job with The Auxiliary Project Space. I hadn’t thought about working in a creative setting for a few years and I neglected my practice.

I started working for the Auxiliary March 2022 and not long after Navigator North. This is my first job in a space like this. The job consists of things like artist detail forms, social media, photography, events, invigilating and more. Through this job I have had the pleasure of meeting many individuals in the art scene and take part in events. I have been introduced to apps that are very handy like gimp and mailchimp, while also learning how to use them. I also didn’t realize just how much the arts scene in Middlesbrough had expanded and developed in the last couple of years making Middlesbrough seem more welcoming and livelier. I like how all the local spaces are in communication together and hold events and activities together.

Artwork by Emma Bennett from ‘Down Town’ Exhibition. Photo Credit Rachel Deakin

Being back surrounded by art has made me feel bittersweet. I haven’t taken any photography in a long time nor edited photos but being surrounded not only by artwork, but enthusiastic people has encouraged me to make my own social media and post work. Though I’m starting off slow, this job has reminded me of youth and the ambition I had when I was a teenager. Although I could never imagine having my own exhibition in a gallery, I can imagine being apart of a team or working at a gallery in the future.

The kickstart position ends in august. Hopefully what’s next for me is more work in the arts scene or work in digital marketing. It is something I am interested in since I ran my own business I would love to learn more about marketing and advertising in an effective way.

What’s surprised me so far is how welcoming and lovely people are in arts scene. While at university, it felt like a very controlled atmosphere, there was tons of tension with space and work. Today working for The Auxiliary and Navigator North, it’s a very relaxing and comfortable space. While its easy to speak to my employers about concerns, they also care a lot about their staff.

Emma Bennett Down Town exhibition at The Masham. Photo Credit Rachel Deakin

Emma’s work is eye-catching, pleasant and easy to interoperate. Each piece of the exhibition is based off of architecture in the Middlesbrough area with a twist on the shapes and colours. They represent a historic, important time or space and through the eyes of a local this is clear. Through the eyes of someone outside the area, they may interpret something differently, but art is subjective. The work being based on architecture and memories of Middlesbrough makes me feel more pride for my home. Each piece has had time and care put into them with a lot of thought. That’s why Down Town is a very impactful exhibition. use of line and colours complement each other creating an aesthetically pleasing piece. The use of various surfaces makes me appreciate it more. Each piece is executed the same way with the same technique but have a different output. Emma using different surfaces like aluminium, wood, cement and paper makes each piece unique. As i wasn’t born in Middlesbrough I was unable to appreciate the heritage and history of some of these places but seeing Down Town exhibition gives me an insight to what they were like.

I think the work adds a new meaning to the local area. There’s a feel of nostalgia in every piece and opportunity for people to look at Middlesbrough in a new light. The exhibition showcases what the area was, is and could be, with more art and colour it could bring life back to Middlesbrough. The use of line and colours complement each other creating an aesthetically pleasing piece.

Meeting the artist in person, speaking to her and watching the development of her work in the Masham made the experience meaningful. Instead of an onlooker, I felt a part of the exhibition and the journey throughout.