Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Art ‘n’ That

“Try it yourself”. That’s what Neil Buchanan use to say as he’d demonstrate his creation, undoubtedly involving dried pasta, PVA glue and sugar paper, to the screens, “Try it yourself, a scale model of the Louvre, t’ra”.

We’d all believe him, that we, like our hero Neil could create something so wonderful so quickly and with relatively little preparation. All told if we’d had access to huge amounts of sheets, plastic bin bags we’d have “art attack“ed to our hearts desire. 

What was great about Art Attack was how it made you believe that art was for anyone, that you, yes you, sat on your sofa eating beans on toast with a glass of milk, fresh from playing Zool on the Amiga 500 could be the next Dali, or Picasso, or Neil Buchanan.

This is relevant for me now because I feel like I’m entering a weird stage in my career. I love the creative side of my job, but I feel trapped by my past and my job title. As if Art Attack only made art with dried truffles and Caviar.  It seems that once you start down a path that every other path becomes blocked no matter how good your transferable skills or experience. Whereas Art Attack made the possibilities (at least relating to dried pasta based art) seem endless, life seems increasingly more tricky.

I’ve had a few interesting conversations in the last couple of weeks which have brought this to the fore.

Firstly with a few theatre practitioners and creatives (and no, I’m not going to name names). A couple of times it’s been implied that my opinion about isn’t as valid as theirs because I work in Marketing. Ignoring that I am also a creative, my day job title seem to exempt me (in the eyes of a few) from having an accepted opinion. It seems further that (they believe) because I have an understanding of how it all works financially as well that my opinion is incapable of being balanced – that money overrides the art – my head rules my heart and that’s not how art should be.

It should be noted that I go and see lots of genres of work and try to see them with an open mind but they (entrenched theatre types) tend to dismiss standup as not art – it can be, and it can be as good as any other art – and is the new artform in dominance.

On the opposite end in standup where people know me as working in theatre but less that I am a marketing manager (who also directs and writes and produces and sound designs, yep, find many of them?), that my artistic side rules and that while I’m all about the art and craft my understanding of how the business side works it therefore naturally lacking. There is somewhat of a contradiction.

It seems that it is impossible in many people’s eyes for the business and the artistic sides of art and theatre to converge. As if one will always work against the other.

I would ask can these two things not walk hand in hand?

Sure it’s unusual that someone can have a grasp of both the art and the money side, but to dismiss one on the basis of the other seems churlish. Art without audience misses the point of what art is about, connecting with people, telling stories to people, helping people – the key is people, without them the work is pointless, or misguided, or in the wrong form. And surely the artist who sees the great show with no audience should look to develop the marketing, the director should understand how their work is to be sold, the sound designer should know how lights are rigged, finance director should understand devising processes. Surely in developing artistic craft we must develop and appreciate and balance this with the knowledge of the financial craft and visa versa.

If we could develop our artists breadth of critical analysis, break the boundaries between artists and enablers, open the craft and broaden our understanding while developing our key skills, now that would be an Art Attack.

In the meantime however my career is increasingly straddling two diverging paths. The question is do they come back together further down the track.