Young Professionals in the Arts - YPIA - is ten years old today and celebrating with a special launch this evening at The Koppel Project in London. The organisation has grown in a decade to become a significant driver of change in the arts field, encouraging the leaders of tomorrow - who sometimes turn out to be, in fact, the leaders of today.
Katya Kazakevich, one of YPIA's three directors, has written a guest blog to tell its story from the inside. And if you're a young pro in the arts, eager for opportunities and ready to change our part of the world for the better, YPIA is for you. Joining details are in the article. Over to Katya...
|YPIA in a Creative Cities workshop at the Royal Festival Hall|
The world of work can be daunting for most fresh-faced music graduates. It’s not just the un(der)paid internships, during which you wonder how you’ll make next month’s rent, but the first proper job hunt can be a real struggle. Even when you're "in", it isn't always a bed of roses – junior roles often consist of uninspiring admin (believe me, I've been there), and when your senior colleagues leave the office for networking dos, you’re asked to stay behind to man the phones...
|A YPIA session at the Foundling Museum, London|
It was exactly this sort of problem that Nicki Wenham, Andreas Flohr and Lis Lomas wanted to tackle when they founded Young People in the Arts ten years ago: to give young arts professionals the chance to communicate face-to-face with their peers, and to access opportunities for career development in ways they just couldn’t do at work. The three music graduates founded YPIA right at the start of the economic crisis, when the need to raise and discuss relevant issues was of the essence. Events soon began to include panel discussions as well as the all-important social element, and the network grew.
I attended my first YPIA event when I was a trainee in the Concerts Department at Philharmonia Orchestra. It was a ceilidh-come-networking drinks, and as a newcomer to the profession I was excited by the prospect of talking to people from different organisations in a relaxed environment, with a view to finding out more about the industry and exploring different career paths. I felt that there was a real support network present, and it was the social aspect that propelled me to obtain membership.
|Katya Kazakevich and Stella Toonen, two of YPIA's directors|
Photo: Rhian Hughes
Soon I joined YPIA's Executive Committee of volunteers and I remember with fondness the first event that I project-managed – a panel discussion on classical music in the media and the changing ways in which audiences consume classical music beyond the concert platform. After what turned out to be rather a heated debate (at the very end, one of the panel members rather shockingly suggested that the compact disc was “dead”!) it was fascinating to hear people’s opinions on what had been discussed, and needless to say there were a few who heartily disagreed with the statement above…!
As an organisation, we fully appreciate the importance of peer-to-peer dialogue and the sharing of inter-generational know-how for inspiration and professional development. When Stella Toonen, Imogen Morris and I took over as directors three years ago, we were adamant that we would continue in the same inclusive, informal spirit as the founding directors. More than ever now, our discussions venture beyond music to encompass other art forms (including visual arts, museums and film), and cover pertinent topics such as leadership, the art of fundraising, diversity, access, the social impact of the arts and most recently, of course, the projected outcome of Brexit.
For instance, we held a sold-out event focusing on Diversity last season. As one of the most important issues of our age, it is vital to keep talking about concrete steps we can take to ensure a more diverse and therefore representative workforce. Heavily referencing Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity, the speakers (including Chi-chi Nwanoku, founder of Chineke! Foundation, Mwila Mulenshi from Creative Access and Milica Robson, Senior Relationship Manager for Diversity at ACE) engaged in a lively conversation about what we need to do more of to embed better practice in reaching under-represented individuals, and encouraged continuous dialogue with the floor throughout the discussion.
Audience members included junior colleagues from the Africa Centre, Arts Council, Royal Opera House, Whitechapel Gallery and English Heritage, to name but a few. At the drinks afterwards, I gauged some of our members’ reactions to what had been expressed and, encouragingly, the majority said that they would write up notes from the talk and disseminate these amongst their more senior colleagues. There’s much to be said for younger members of staff taking a leading role in driving the conversation, and in some cases demonstrable developments within organisations.
YPIA has become a leading platform for those who want to reflect on the issues in the current arts climate, and effectuate change – giving young voices more prominence in discussions about the future of the sector remains at the forefront of our yearly events programme. We have proactively approached new venues and speakers, and received support and invitations to partner with various organisations, including the Southbank Centre and National Theatre on some of their (young people’s) programmes.
|Chi-Chi Nwanoku speaks at a YPIA session at Diversity Works, Soho|
I think our success is also evident in the number of initiatives we as an organisation have been asked to put our name to – for instance, we contributed to Ed Vaizey’s Culture White Paper back in 2015; we were asked to be a signatory on the Cultural Learning Alliance’s recent publication “ImagineNation”, which delineates the value and impact of cultural learning on the lives of children and young people; we've also provided representatives to speak about the importance of our existence at the Women of the World Festival and the AntiUniversity Festival, and informed an enquiry into the civic role of arts organisations last year, put together by What Next? and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
We now have nearly 120 events to our name, including over 200 participating speakers, often featuring leading industry figures such as Sir Nicholas Serota, Jude Kelly, Darren Henley, Tony Hall and Alex Beard. We’ve expanded beyond the confines of the M25: last year, initial networking drinks took place in Cardiff, Glasgow, Birmingham, Nottingham and Cambridge. Our ambition is to make regional hubs in the UK a permanent fixture (to provide outlets for the huge and growing number of arts institutions outside of London), and to eventually export YPIA’s model and expand its reach into Europe and further afield (of course, the latter is a long-term goal!)
Today, 20 September 2017, we'll be opening our 10th anniversary season with a season launch at the Koppel Project in London. There’s never been a better time to join the movement – to carry on learning about the context of your industry, to be re-enthused about your work and think about how you can make a difference to the ecology.
For more information about the upcoming season, check out our website or follow hashtag #YPIA10 on Facebook, Twitter and Insta
Katya Kazakevich read English at the University of Cambridge, graduating in 2011. Following a traineeship in the Concerts Department at Philharmonia Orchestra and an internship at Askonas Holt, she spent three years as Music Co-ordinator and PA to the Music Director at English National Opera before becoming the Artistic Planning Manager at the National Opera Studio. Other positions have included ushering at Wigmore Hall, copy-writing the latest 'e-edition' of The Opera Guide (compiled by Amanda Holden) and administrating for London-based groups the Cantus Ensemble and the Paradisal Players. As Director of YPIA, Katya leads the Advisory Board, project-manages YPIA's regional networking events and works to maintain and develop YPIA's external relations.