Dr. Laura Tansley is the Graduate Attributes and Work-Based Learning Tutor for the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow.
What does sustainability mean when working in the Arts? What skills do we need to contribute to, or create, a sustainable practice in work or in the community? What does sustainability mean to students considering their personal, community, and career goals? In Spring 2023, through a series of talks with people working in and around the University, in and around the Arts, the Graduate Attributes Lunchtime Sessions with The Dear Green Bothy sought to explore these questions and support UG, PGT, and PGR students in their skills awareness and development in relation to sustainability and the UofG graduate attribute ‘ethically and socially aware’. The sessions were led by professionals, freelancers, and community organisers who discussed their work and the skills they employ to perform their work on sustainability, or in sustainable ways. This meant different skills and practices to different individuals, but all of the invited speakers spoke to the idea of sustainability being a working practice, and a mindset, as well as a societal and global endeavour.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”Andrea Fisher, The Children’s Wood
The first session with Andrea Fisher from The Children’s Wood offered students an insight into the history of a site of community action, and the philosophy of people-led activity that is fundamental to the space and the community that benefits from and maintains it. This session raised issues around the importance of community archival projects and securing the legacy of The Children’s Wood by documenting and recording the voices that contributed to the space being saved from development – skillsets that are well-matched to College of Arts students.
“My brand is me, my approach and my ethics … Apply sustainability to yourself… sustain and nourish yourself”Louise Oliver, Paisley Book Festival producer, writer, actor and director
Louise Oliver joined us for session two where she offered a perspective on her creative career after graduating from Theatre Studies at the University of Glasgow. What was clear from Louise’s talk was how significant sustainable working practices are to a freelancer in the arts, and how her ethical and social awareness impacts the work she does in a variety of ways: as a theme, a working practice and endeavour. Not only was she keen to address how Paisley Book Festival, the event she produces, addresses sustainability concerns, she also expressed how personal choice around working practices mirrors sustainable practices, supporting an empathetic, nurturing working life as opposed to something fixated on perpetual growth and draining resources.
“[The skills I developed were] though following interests and pursuing this”Sapna Agarwal, Woodlands Anti-Racist Community Group and Library
Sapna Agarwal’s journey of skills development has seen her active in areas around tutoring, home education, and community organising. By acknowledging the needs of her community and taking action to fill those requirements, Sapna has experienced the continual development of her critical thinking, independent learning and reflexivity skills which led to the creation of the Woodlands Anti-Racist Community Library, and again highlighting how the skillset of an Arts graduate can support a lifelong journey of skills and knowledge development in different contexts and sectors.
“[Pursuing] vision and values that align [in the workplace]”Romane Boyer, Green Arts and Edinburgh Festivals Officer for Creative Carbon Scotland
Romane Boyer’s work with Creative Carbon Scotland and her journey into this ‘dream’ role sprang from an interest in people, communication, and empathy, again skills that Arts students have in abundance. Romane’s advice to those of us invested in sustainable working and ensuring this issue is at the forefront of our practice was very practical for soon-to-be-graduates: ask questions about sustainability in interviews, offer your interest and support of sustainable working practices in interviews; demonstrate a proactive interest to the organisation you are seeking to work with to ensure that sustainability is not only considered, but prioritised.
“These sessions helped me to gain a greater understanding of my graduate attributes and how I would articulate and demonstrate these to an employer.
These sessions encouraged me to look at how my work impacts others, raised my awareness of accessibility, and gave me strategies to ensure that my work and practice is executed in a considerate and accommodating fashion.”Lucy Beth Smart, MLitt Theatre and Performance Practices
These sessions encouraged me to look at how my work impacts others, raised my awareness of accessibility, and gave me strategies to ensure that my work and practice is executed in a considerate and accommodating fashion.” – Lucy Beth Smart, MLitt Theatre and Performance Practices
This reflection from Lucy Beth Smart articulates the nature of the relationship between Arts and sustainability as something embodied, as well as something practical. Following on from this then, next steps include the formulation of a sustainable reflective practice structure that supports students to work with the University of Glasgow’s graduate attributes in productive, thoughtful, and responsible ways. With many thanks to Kevin Leomo and Mark Banks and Dear Green Bothy for their support, Marta Pec, Casi Dylan and all at ARC for their generosity and hosting.