Art4Me is a creative space for rural communities on the West Coast of the South Island. Here, artists can meet weekly to follow their own creative direction in the company of others. Art4Me is dedicated to visual creativity and offers a range of quality materials and tuition.
Kate Buckley is the founding tutor of Art4Me, West REAP’s creative spaces programme. These days she combines tutoring with the role of Programme Coordinator and artist.
She works to find ways to link art, people and place. Born in Ireland, she studied art and then adult and community education, which matches her interest in developing projects that promote accessibility and engagement using the arts. Kate exhibits regularly and has work in New Zealand and Ireland.
In this Q&A interview, Kate answers three questions put to her by Arts Access Aotearoa.
1. Is there one key principle that defines your role as an art tutor?
My role as a tutor is not separate to the role of the group. It’s a symbiotic relationship, close and mutually beneficial. My job as tutor is to take care of the group as much as taking care of individuals within it.
The group is the space for two levels of activity: between people and within each person. This is what brings our kaupapa to life.
Everyone has a creative spark in them, and connecting with that spark can be an empowering and uplifting experience. For some, that spark is a raging fire and for others it needs to be kindled and stoked. And it’s unique to each person. I can’t teach anyone how to express it but I can try to create conditions for a good fire.
How? Well, firstly by providing a safe place for exploration and by being kind and respectful, and then, by paying very close attention to what’s going on for them. I need to tune in, notice, engage and, importantly, I need to know when to get out of their way.
2. How do you build the capacity of new and existing tutors?
Art4Me is based on the principle that each artist is in charge of their own learning and that they know what’s best for themselves. We’ve approached our tutor training in the same way, using an Action-Research model.
We invite new tutors to join in and get a taste of the whole Art4Me experience and how we work, and to then to reflect on how it works for them.
The West Coast has a small and scattered population. Our aim is to develop Art4Me groups in different communities up and down the coast, finding people within these communities as tutors. We use the established groups to train new tutors, building capacity as we go along.
People interested in tutoring are invited to attend a session to see how Art4Me works. If they feel it’s something they would like to try, they are paid as “visiting tutors” on a session-by-session basis, working with a more experienced tutor.
This way they are supported over a trial period and can assess for themselves whether the role is a good match with their skills and values. The tutors then transition to running an Art4Me group in their community and become part of the Art4me whānau, sharing projects, skills and learning with other groups and tutors.
We found the Action-Research approach to tutor induction and training gave new tutors the chance to experience Art4Me holistically, in a non-threatening and supportive environment. Our current tutors strongly recommend this process stays as a key part of the training
3. What are the key skills an art tutor/facilitator needs?
When Art4me was making the transition to a creative paces programme with new tutors and groups we spent time asking our Art4me artists about the programme.
We gathered 56 direct statements and the artists were clear in their responses. They described how important respect, connection, creativity, constructive feedback and support, learning, belonging and equality are to them. Our job is to share this with new tutors.
The tutor role calls for flexible, skilled and confident facilitation. We designed a graphic to help tutors see the requirements of the role more clearly and to reflect on how they were doing in this.
Throughout the early months of the programme, we frequently asked tutors and artists for feedback, and we followed up with regular discussions about ways to support artists and each other in meeting challenges.
In April 2022 we produced an Art4Me Compass.
Each segment of the compass constitutes an experiential outcome of the programme. The compass also describes key aspects of the tutor role, and is a tool for evaluation and identifying training needs.
This provides a framework that enables tutors and artists to reflect and evaluate themselves and their partnerships, and to receive feedback from participants. As with a compass, we use it to check our alignment at regular intervals and make changes to our course as needed.
This interview is part of a series about the role of arts tutors in creative spaces around New Zealand. For more information about Art4Me and other creative spaces on the West Coast, visit the creative spaces directory.