Monday, 24 April 2017

‘Character Matters’: Director of Culture Syndicates, Charlotte Pratley, gives advice on careers in the arts

Charlotte Pratley

After graduating from a degree in Fine Art, Charlotte found herself drawn to organising cultural events. She began to curate her own exhibitions, run artists’ studios and managed an arts festival with fellow graduates. It is this entrepreneurial spirit which made Charlotte create her own opportunities within the art world, and she suggests that all graduates should be doing the same, especially given the current cuts across the arts.

“Be proactive: if you want to be a curator, ask a café or a library if you can hold an exhibition in their space”.

Charlotte’s Big Break
From the skills Charlotte developed in multiple freelance projects, she got her first museum job at Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham. In fact, Charlotte wasn’t offered the job straight away. During the interview process she came second. However, she had recently written an article about the museum’s Director for a local arts magazine, which he remembered. Not long afterwards, she was called in and offered a position as an Exhibition Assistant.

Culture Syndicates
In 2013 Charlotte joined the newly established Culture Syndicates. A heritage consultancy, it provides specialist advice to heritage organisations, from small, voluntary-run museums to Local Authority sites. Since joining, Charlotte has built the business up; it now has around 20 staff with a turnover of £130,000 per annum. Culture Syndicates work on an exciting range of projects, such as reviewing and cataloguing un
usual art objects.

A changing sector requires new skills
Charlotte also strongly believes that the cultural sector is “moving towards a consultancy-based approach”. She recommends that students be prepared to “be fleet of foot and be prepared to work on short-term contracts”. She points arts graduates in the direction of a new report, ‘Character Matters’, which explores the attitudes, behaviours and skills which future museum professionals will require. Amongst those needed in museums are:
  1. Digital
  2. Leadership
  3. Business
  4. Management skills

Her top tips for success:

  • Be entrepreneurial: get out there and create your own opportunities in the arts
  •  Be flexible: don’t rely on permanent jobs and be prepared to move around. Contracts can often be short-term and you shouldn’t be put off by this.
  • Network: Building up your reputation and networking is crucial. I find clients for Culture Syndicates primarily via word of mouth, and networks.
  • Reach out: If you want to hear about someone’s job, just email them.
  • Plan ahead: Look for jobs ahead of yours and see what skills you will need. LinkedIn is an excellent tool for this.
  • Get a mentor: take advice from someone who has already walked in your footsteps.

 Ruth Millington, Careers Network, 

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