Liverpool Artist Network (LAN) and Contemporary Visual Art Network (CVAN) sit at opposite ends of a spectrum. They each make incredible things happen, and each engage and inspire new work every year, but where they do that and how they do that is very different.
In September, at Tate Exchange, Independents Biennial took up residence, twice.
The first time, writers developed new work and worked with members of the public on work of their own, exploring ideas in a very public place. The second, talks from Liverpool Artist Network and CVAN inspired quite a lot of change. New projects developed from artists meeting and understanding the work of others at LAN, while CVAN came and discussed very national problems and how they impact local artists.
It was a fairly rare event, doing what CVAN does but without the middleman, building policy based on conversations with artists rather than on conversations with organisations, who have had conversations with smaller organisations who have had conversations with artists.
Cities need spaces for artists to thrive, and artists need access to the space when they happen. The beauty of having these two networks in the same space over two days was that the same conversations were being had at both. Though at LAN the conversation was about space being an issue, and at CVAN it was about tackling the issue in a particularly constructive way.
LAN, hosted by Josie Jenkins and Colette Lilley, are very strict on their stance on not leading the conversation. They bring people together and get them to share. The result is a very natural conversation that gets right on the pulse of what is happening in the lives and work of artists in Liverpool. Whether you’re audience or artist, their meetings are useful things to attend, and can be a really important stage in finding your feet as an emerging artist.
Equally, for artists who are interested in making real change, joining the local branch of CVAN is incredibly worthwhile, as however small your voice is it can make a big difference to the issues faced by local artists.