What skills do project managers need and what do artists want from project managers

Addressing the Dynamic

ArtWorks: Developing practice in participatory settings, is a Paul Hamlyn Foundation special initiative that had its genesis in a period of extensive research that began in 2008. ArtWorks invited proposals for grants of up to £3,500 to support developmental projects exploring new ways of working, cross-sector collaboration and practical ways in which the conversation might be changed. Trinity Laban received one of the seven grants awarded.

Trinity Laban (Learning and Participation teams) designed Addressing the Dynamic as an enquiry-based research project focused on the role and skills of arts project managers (PMs). Personnel from Trinity Laban perceived that the role of project managers in building effective relationships with participatory artists is often overlooked but can be imperative to the success of arts participatory work.

Addressing the Dynamic therefore asked the question:
What skills do project managers need and what do artists want from project managers to ensure the facilitation of high quality participatory arts projects?
Aims: 
  • To better understand the barriers and challenges that currently exist between artists and project managers in terms of management and relationship dynamic.
  • To highlight what artists and project managers expect from one another and what approaches, frameworks and models can help establish and support positive working relationships between these two groups.
  • To develop a greater understanding of how to facilitate and manage better professional relationships amongst the research project participants.
  • To develop a greater understanding of the misconceptions, assumptions and culture that currently exists around the relationship management between artists and project managers working in arts in participatory settings (AIPS) amongst the research project participants.
  • To contribute to the debate in the sector around the needs of project managers who are facilitating AIPS with particular focus on their management of relationships with artists

The Addressing the Dynamic Report was written by Hannah Wilmot who also facilitated the sessions for Project Managers and Artists.

The full report includes:

  • Factors for a successful relationship highlighted by Project Managers
  • Challenges and barriers to effective relationships
  • The perfect artist - view from Project Managers and view from Artists
  • The perfect project manager - view from Project Managers and view from Artists

Conclusions and recommendations (synopsis)

Wilmot states, 'the need for project managers to clearly and succinctly articulate the core values of their organisation and of the project are central to minimising' misunderstanding and assumptions that can lead to the breakdown of relationships and endanger the success of the project for all parties, including participants.

 'The relationship between project managers and artists can be imperative to the success of arts participatory work.'

Wilmot goes on to stress the importance project managers put on 'establishing clear roles and responsibilities, as well as the need to develop frameworks to support effective communication, facilitate reciprocal feedback and help frame conversations around quality, impact and representation'. Furthermore, the project identified that 'how to give and receive feedback was a particular concern for project managers.'

Finally, Hannah Wilmot comments, 'although this research project explored challenges and highlighted areas for improvement, it also identified many examples of good practice and accord:'

'One thought: as you grow with experience you realise that managers make things happen and they are your greatest strength.' (Artist)