In a good week for announcements, we’re delighted to give details of the appointment to the second of our two 3 year Research Fellow posts, this one based at the University of Salford’s SURF Centre.

Dr Karen Smith has worked over the last twenty two years as a freelancer and in various salaried posts with arts organisations, artists and agencies. She has focused particularly on the challenges of participation, artist-led leadership, vision and professional artistic development within the arts ecology.  She has worked as a director, an arts practitioner, researcher, evaluator, facilitator and mentor, in numerous Arts Council officer posts and as an artist.  Karen has diverse knowledge of working in collaboration with people and organisations in government and public policy, museums and galleries, cultural organisations and industries and with communities and voluntary bodies. She is excited about the opportunity to translate her experience into the Research Fellow post based in SURF.

As a freelancer Karen has undertaken a diverse range of work including sector-specific research: for example, for Arts Council England, mapping the needs of participatory arts workers in the North West; for Dartington College of Arts and Falmouth College of Arts on Widening Participation and has researched and written publications including Reflective Practitioner (2005) following up work with artists in On Reflection (2003) in the South West of England.  As a consultant she has developed artists’ open studios and festivals and undertaken organisational reviews and facilitated strategy development with cultural organisations commissioned by or in partnership with other stakeholders. She was temporary Head of Arts at Bristol City Council (2005-6) and has worked with, for example: Arts Council (National, Yorkshire, London, and North West Offices), London Literature Directors Forum, NALD (National Association for Literature Development), nalgao, FABRIC, Bristol CC, Derby CC, Manchester CC, Manchester Jazz Festival, CHOL Theatre, Dartington College of Arts, Wilson+Wilson, Third Angel and Circ Elation.  In the early 1990s Karen worked in participatory arts as Director of Cartwheel Community Arts (1992-95) and with mind the…gap theatre company and DARTS (Doncaster Arts Project).

Karen successfully completed an AHRC funded collaborative doctorate in January 2011. A partnership with University of Plymouth and ArtsMatrix, the research focused on the needs of mid-career artists in the south west of England. The Thesis title was: In Momentum: The Navigation, Narration, and Negotiation of Continuing Professional Development by Mid-Career Artists in South West England.  Karen’s approach included methods developed via her facilitation practice; of walking and talking. Since August 2010 Karen has been working as Relationship Manager, Visual Arts, in the Yorkshire regional office at Arts Council England.

The accumulation of industry experiences and broad spectrum of research and arts activity has given Karen grounding in both an objective assessment of the cultural sector and a subjective knowledge of working in it.  This experience is transferable to working at SURF and exploiting Karen’s evolving knowledge of both the university sector and her existing strong network of arts and humanities contacts in a broad range of settings.