Emily Feibusch is a third year History of Art student. In the summer of 2019 she undertook work experience at Soho Curious & Co, a global art consultancy based in London founded and directed by Sarah Williams. I interviewed Emily to find out more.
Mollie: Firstly, what is arts consultancy?
Emily: Arts consultancy advises companies and brands on how to improve their businesses by using art, and this manifests itself in a range of ways. For example Sarah has directed/curated window installations for certain restaurants/brands. To name one example, a restaurant in London approached Sarah asking for a specific installation with an idea of the dimension and design. Sarah then used her creativity to connect the restaurant with a select few contemporary artists (from the range she works with), who would be suitable for the restaurant’s vision. She acts as the ‘middle man’ between the artist and the restaurant and then would oversee and direct the project to make sure the finished product fit the original brief.
Mollie: This process sounds quite corporate. It sounds like it is about promoting businesses and brands through art. This makes me question about the creative side of art? Is there creative process at all in arts consultancy?
Emily: I think it depends on the project! Mostly, yes. The creative process starts from the beginning with the vision of the brand. Some projects are more creative than others- in the less creative projects Sarah may act mainly as the connection between the two contacts, for example. An example of a more creative project- A clothing brand came to her and asked for some artists that fit a certain brief which was very specific (I was in the meeting) and Sarah has a great eye and knowledge of how to creatively find just the right match. Another example of a very creative project was the Moniker Art Fair. Soho Curious & Co. were asked to curate the talk series. This project involved approaching artists/speakers and also curating a space where visitors would be immersed in the contemporary urban art scene (the fair is an international contemporary urban art fair). Again, in consultations with artists, Sarah often bounces ideas off the artists and visa versa, she was very much part of their creative processes. Interestingly, I felt that sometimes I wasn’t creative enough for the job. I would be given a brief to find a certain ‘type’ of images for a project or I would search for artists that would suit a job- often I found it hard to know where to start. I actually ended up using Instagram a lot for this as well as other art magazines such as Dazed or ID! Sarah was very approachable if I was stuck, too.
Mollie: How did you get work experience with Soho Curious & Co?
Emily: There wasn’t an official application process. I went to an event hosted by the Soho Supper Club in London with my Godmother that involved drawing, artist talks and dinner. Sarah happened to be there, alongside the founder of All Saints!! I got talking to her about arts consultancy, which I thought was really interesting. I started asking lots of questions as I was unsure what exactly she did. The more I learnt, the more interested I became. Sarah was sitting opposite me at dinner, which was lucky and I decided I was going to focus on ‘networking’ [laughter ensues]. She offered to put me in contact with people but I mentioned that what she did was really (emphasis on the really) interesting, and if she had any opportunities it would be really appreciated, and it developed from there.
Mollie: You networked well, very well done.
Mollie: Was there any crossover between studying History of Art and arts consultancy? Or did studying History of Art help you in any way?
Emily: My knowledge on Land Art, especially Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty and Christo and Jeanne Claude’s wrapping of buildings (for a specific project). I think one of the main things the business does is trying to get across is how art can help businesses. Art can do so much for physical spaces like boosting wellbeing and increasing mood. I was asked to create a map for businesses that explained what Soho Curious & Co. do. For this I used my previous knowledge of art and its huge impact historically and currently to portray how important is to our everyday lives.
Mollie: I remember you messaged our third year History of Art Facebook chat asking for words to describe what art can be?
Emily: I remember, I thought a good way to tackle this visual map was to come up with words that art could be described as like emotional, inspirational, comforting. I thought some extra artistic brains could help out!
Mollie: I suppose studying art would have given you a good sense of everything art could be?
Emily: Yes, I had a breadth of understanding and I know the parameters of what art could be! We have studied the theory of art on the undergraduate course and we have often debated the range of what art actually is as a category as well as how many factors in everyday life, politics and business it can affect. I began to use historical evidence/ the research skills I had learnt on the course to back up the success of business/ art collaborations and to promote the business model.
Mollie: Can you talk us through the summer structure of your work experience? You still seem to be involved? Talk us through a day-to-day break down?
Emily: I started in June, when we broke up and it sort of kicked off from there! I stayed with her until early October. The initial idea was that I would do 1 or 2 days a week but sometimes I did 3 depending on her work load, and because I really enjoyed it. I got involved and tried to go to everything Sarah invited me too.
Mollie: Art is obviously a visual thing, and a lot of Sarah’s work is about a relationship between art and the intended space. So was there a lot of on location jobs?
Emily: Yes, which suited me, as I don’t like sitting down for long! We would often have a morning working from the Soho House in White City and the afternoons would involve going to see artists or clients. One afternoon we went to see artist Yinka Ilori (Designer of the Dulwich Pavilion) in his London studio, which was such a privilege! Sarah builds up her clientele and relationships with artists on a day-to-day basis through these meetings. Often the artist, or the client would engage with me, which was really inspiring as it made feel as if I wasn’t just a sidekick haha!
Mollie: Sounds like there were a lot of perks of this work experience!
Emily: Yes! I went to a couple of private viewings with Sarah. One was at Shoopy Studio- artist Laetitia Rouget. She makes beautiful ceramics. The other was Al Murphagram whose work is very entertaining and vibrant. I met both artists as well as other creatives and it was just so inspiring and fun to be in an environment with such interesting people!
Mollie: Was there a highlight for you, or a moment that sticks with you?
Emily: I think the events that Sarah put on over summer. There were three: The Art of Wellbeing, Creative Sustainability, and Creative Entrepreneurs. I was involved with organising them. I was given a certain amount of freedom and responsibility regarding whom to invite, for example or finding sponsors as well as helping to choose the speakers on the panel! In fact I got my own email address, which was very exciting! I also helped with promoting these events on social media, and creating the Eventbrite page for example, which was really fun! My eyes were opened to a whole new world and I learnt so much. Through these events I came across so many interesting people, artists, and brands that are all doing incredible and positive ventures such as Help Refugees through their Choose Love campaign. There are too many to mention!
Mollie: Do you think arts consultancy is what you want to do after university?
Emily: It is definitely something that I would love to do. Sarah was so motivating and inspiring, which made it such a pleasure! I had the best summer doing it and everyday it was different, which was challenging but also intellectually stimulating and very exciting. This internship has shown me that I would love to work in the art world.
Mollie: Thank you for letting me interview you. It’s been very interesting, and a pleasure!