Notes on Cultural Peeps Podcast Episode 17: Karen Davies
Welcome to Episode 17 of the Cultural Peeps Podcast. This episode features Karen Davies and was recorded in London, at SPACE studios in June 2019.
Karen lives and works in London and has several different roles – you’ll here in the interview that she both introduces and describes herself differently depending on who she is talking to and which priority she is trying to convey.
Karen is primarily a practising artist, who exhibits both Nationally and Internationally. Alongside this, she is also the Head of Artist Development at SPACE Studios.
SPACE is a fascinating organisation which offers affordable studio space to over 700 artists across the London area. It also runs a variety of initiatives – these include funded residencies, bursaries and free professional development programmes.
As Head of Artist Development at SPACE, Karen helps artists and creatives understand how they can set up and sustain themselves up as professional practitioners. The programme consists of workshops, one-to-one mentoring and support over a period of six months at a time and is designed to help them innovate, change or develop change their practice in some way shape or form.
Karen’s third role is working for AN, the Artist Information Company, which is based in Newcastle in the North East of England. This work is undertaken remotely and allows her to work on a range of administrative tasks that feed into their website.
In our conversation, we talk about how Karen’s interest in Art developed, and the power/impact of seeing a Max Beckmann Painting at school. We also talk about how her connections with the Arts scene in Newcastle developed, initially though BA in Fine Art at Newcastle University and then through having a studio at Waygood.
After University, Karen went on to undertake a Distance Learning Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Management at Northumbria University – which included a placement at Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s books, where she continued to volunteer after the end of her studies.
In 2002, Karen started working at BALTIC The Centre for Contemporary Art,
initially as front of house, then as a freelance artist, designing, delivering and facilitating workshops before then becoming an Education Programmer in the Learning Team.
Alongside that role, Karen continued to work as a freelancer, picking up work with agencies like Creative Partnerships as well as with other Universities in the North-East of England.
In 2010 Karen received an Arts Council England Individual Grants for Arts Award to support the development of her own work. This provided her with a natural punctuation point in her career and allowed her to focus more exclusively on the development of her own professional practice.
At this point, Karen describes wanting to break away from Newcastle and the North-East to start again – somewhere were she wasn’t know first and foremost as ‘Karen form Baltic’ – feeling that role was starting to dominate her professional identity. This was a decision that led her to relocate to London to start what was initially a Postgraduate Diploma, but then went on to become a full Masters in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art.
Following the completion of her MA, Karen worked as a life-drawing tutor as well as London Gallery Manager for Workplace Gallery.
At this point in the conversation we talk about the ongoing challenge of living in London, and what it is like to balance different jobs and manage time – and how it can often be necessary to push your own practice into the evenings and weekends (and sometimes entirely out of your timetable altogether).
Towards the end of the interview, we also touch on Karen’s choice to not be formally represented by a commercial gallery or professional organisation – and how that route allows her to be completely autonomous, both in terms of the work she makes and where she exhibits.
For further information about Karen, please visit:
Karen Davies ( Website):
Karen Davies on Twitter:
Karen Davies on Instagram:
Essay by Rebecca Morrill:
Links to Podcast content:
London Creative Network at SPACE:
a-n The Artists Information Company:
The Night (Die Nacht) by Max Beckmann:
Newcastle Arts Centre:
Seven Stories The National Centre for Children’s Books:
Glasgow School of Art:
Chelsea School of Art:
Arts Council (R&D):
Pumpkin Carving Baltic:
International Print Bienniale:
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