Viral Careers: Eva Rowson
13 March 2019
In this series of interviews we’re talking to people about how they got to where they are. Find out about the key moments, and people, in the lives and careers of some of the creative people we most admire.
Name: Eva Rowson
Tell us about the work you do.
Right now, I’m balancing a few different jobs. I’m super lucky to be Curator in Residence at Lighthouse, and I’m also curating the MA in Fine Art graduation exhibition at University of Bergen, in Norway – 24 student artists in one exhibition! I’m also taking part in some events and talks at the moment which are looking at alternative forms of education and ways of working in institutions. Oh! And I also run a gallery from my living room in London with my partner Luke Drozd :)
What did you want to do when you were 16?
When I was 16 I knew I wanted to run an art gallery – and that’s still my life ambition. I really liked art and going to galleries, and I was studying art for my GCSEs. But for some reason I’ve always been more interested in understanding how things work, in the behind-the-scenes and organising side of things – and perhaps being the oldest child in my family, being the leader. My favourite make-believe game with my two sisters when I was growing up was playing ‘offices’ – administration was my dream job! So running a gallery seemed to be a way to bring those things together – art and organisation. I wasn’t quite sure how to get there, but it seemed to make sense.
Was there a moment that opened up new possibilities and brought you to where you are today?
When I was 16 I did my work experience in a small gallery in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. I was convinced at that point that I would need to get a really good first-class degree in art history or art management in order to get my dream job of running an art gallery. I still remember really well the moment when the woman who ran the gallery – Catherine – told me to forget about the history and management degrees and keep making art. To keep being creative, learn how to work with other artists, understand how artists think, know how to use a drill or how a painting needs to be hung on the wall, and keep an imagination flowing. That being an artist and making art would be a hundred times more useful than a degree just learning about it. She encouraged me to learn through doing and making.
Who has influenced your career?
Catherine was a real inspiration to me. I did go on to study Fine Art, and having that creative practice underpins everything I do now. Having her mentorship at that moment in my life – to open up another path for me – really was fundamental to what I do now.
I’ve been very lucky to work in lots of different art institutions and through that have met and worked with lots of people who have influenced my career and mentored me in many different ways. Without listing everyone – or only picking out a few – I think some of the most important opportunities for me have been gallery traineeships. Through being mentored by different members of the team, I’ve learnt so much about the different roles that keep an institution running.
A big influence on my career has also been meeting new friends and peers through these funded traineeships and study programmes. Sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, and taking risks together has probably had the most important impact on my life and way of working.
What advice would you give your 16 year old self?
Hmmmm….! Don’t wait for opportunities – make them yourself! Get your friends together and make an exhibition, event, mini-concert (whatever you want to do!) with whatever you have – in your bedroom, with friends, in a park, in a community centre. Make it happen on your own terms, however small or weird. Just try it and see what happens! And – don’t ever let go of your creative energy.
Opportunities in the creative industries can be difficult to identify and aren’t always accessible, or visible, to young people from all backgrounds – something that our Viral project aims to change.
Viral is a collaborative learning programme that provides production training, business development, mentoring, showcasing opportunities and peer-to-peer support for a diverse group of 16-25 year olds from Brighton and the surrounding areas.
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