1. Co-opetition – not just some crazy buzz word
You might know that in my pre-gallery life, I was the Blue Mountains creative industries cluster manager, working for the local economic development agency to help creatives come together to collaborate and grow. One of my favourite concepts from that time was co-opetition – the combination of co-operation and competition.
It basically means that you should look to work together with others when it makes sense to, and remain independent and competitive when that makes sense. You can apply this principle to everything from your arts business to art projects to grant proposals.
Grant assessors have been favouring interdisciplinary teams and projects recently, while the pool available for solo artists is getting more and more competitive, which is something to keep in mind if you’re thinking about applying for a grant. Likewise, artists with different skill sets can enhance each other’s work through collaboration.
Last year for her solo exhibition in my gallery, textile artist Kevina-Jo Smith teamed up with sculptor Frank George Meura to create ‘dressed’ sculptures that were an exciting addition to her usual work – and the three sculptures were the first three artworks to sell in that show.
For artisans, there is a lot to be gained through co-opetition. For example, you might keep your own design and production practices separate, but pool resources to create new sales opportunities for everyone, such as working together to start a new local artisan market.
In my case, I am currently working with three other gallery owners on a collaborative marketing campaign. Our four galleries are all side by side, and while our artists, styles and internal processes are all unique, we figured that by pooling our marketing dollars to promote this area as an arts precinct, we will reach a much bigger audience than we would marketing alone. If you think about times when you have seen galleries in a row, you never just go into one – you go into all of them! It’s a win for everyone.
Once you overcome the fear of working with your ‘competitors’, you might see just how much sense it can make to work together. Everyone has different experience and insight that they bring to the group, and together you can do so much more than you could alone.
Is there something you could be collaborating with your peers on, that would make life easier or better for all of you?