Open School East, call for 2021-22 Associates artists

Chris Joseph

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Louis Palfrey
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Deadline for applications: Monday 4 January 2021, 10am GMT
Zoom open evening: Tuesday 8 December 2020, 6-7pm, book here

We are seeking applications from emerging artists, makers, producers, researchers and writers of all generations to join the eighth year of Open School East’s independent, self-directed and outward-facing development programme.

As an organisation committed to anti-racism, LGBTQI+ rights and neuro-inclusion, we particularly welcome applications from individuals who identify with this ethos. While our building is currently only accessible by stairs, we are committed to providing alternative spatial solutions to enable full participation.

About Open School East

Established in 2013 and located in the coastal town of Margate, Open School East is a free, independent art school and community space that focuses on collective learning through the arts. We support cultural practitioners at an early stage of their career to develop and sustain their practice, and enable young people and adults alike to learn new and transferable skills, develop their confidence and shape their creative voice by becoming active learners and co-producers of OSE’s programmes.

Our learning and development programmes are:

  • The Associates Programme: a part-time, year-long development programme for emerging adult artists and cultural practitioners from diverse backgrounds;
  • The Young Associates Programme: a full-time, year-long, accredited art and design / functional skills programme for local young people aged 16-18 who experience difficulty in their education;
  • The Despacito Art School: a weekly art, craft and functional object-making class open to 5 to 12 year olds who lack opportunities to develop creatively;
  • The Public Programme: a multifaceted programme of events, activities and short courses open to everyone.

Open School East is committed to making the arts a more open sector and to enabling meaningful cultural and social exchanges between artists and the broader public. We do this by making our programmes entirely free of charge and opening them outwards, responding to our locality, and providing an informal and welcoming environment for the development and sharing of knowledge and skills across all communities and generations.

Associates Programme overview

The Associates Programme is a free development programme offering a critical, informal and non-competitive environment in which to develop your practice and expand your networks. The programme is run according to principles of collaboration, experimentation and openness, and welcomes those who engage with these notions in different ways.

The Associates Programme runs for a year and is principally self-directed, creating platforms to experiment and meet long-lasting collaborators and peers.

We provide the Associates with:

  • A shared workspace, accessible 24/7;
  • Weekly tuition and mentorship from internationally renowned practitioners, theorists and curators;
  • The tools and means to conceive and deliver a public programme of workshops and events around your practice and shared interests;
  • Opportunities to showcase work;
  • Critical, pastoral and practical support;
  • Seed-funding to develop, research or initiate a project.

The Associates come together two days a week (Mondays and Tuesdays) to receive tuition, meet their mentors, plan public activities and collaborate on projects. Tuition is delivered through a combination of workshops, seminars, group crits, excursions and reading groups, many of which are open to the public.

Term structure

The Associates Programme is structured around three terms:

  • Term 1 is about immersion through a collective learning project. In 2021, we will be working with Jane Hall and Anthony Engi Meacock of architecture collective Assemble. The rest of the term will be programmed around a variety of workshops and a reading group led by the OSE mentors and a range of guests invited to present their practice and methodologies.
  • Entitled ‘Who Cares? Care, Caretaker, Maintenance, Stewardship’, Assemble’s curriculum questions what an architecture of care would look like. Open School East has recently moved into its new home, a four-storey building on Hawley Square in Margate. With a new cohort of students inhabiting the space each year, the building is in many ways a participant in the making of the work that is produced within. The eclectic, domestic spaces provide an intimate setting for individual art practice yet also create a challenging environment for the production of art alongside and in collaboration with others. In reorienting the concept of maintenance through simple acts of care for the building, how could we begin to participate in an ongoing, caring relationship with the artists with whom we share the space today but also those that will follow tomorrow? Together we will test changes to the material fabric of the building to observe how a culture of repair inscribes the social and political culture at the centre of a school built on relationships rather than objects. As we assert our rights as individuals to the studio, the room, the level, the building and the garden, we will question what kinds of activities it is appropriate to take on, and in turn investigate a wider set of responsibilities as collective stewards of the city and by extension, the planet.
  • Term 2 and 3 are largely shaped by the Associates who, working in smaller groups, self-direct their learning and invite a broad range of guests to lead public workshops and short courses. Engaging with both formal and informal pedagogical methods, the sessions Associates have programmed have ranged from writing workshops geared towards film, performance and radio; artist, theorist and other specialist-led tours in unconventional locations; and short courses in electronics, ceramics and music production.
  • Throughout the year, the Associates meet their mentors individually to discuss their work, research and ideas, both in general and in preparation for an open day mid-way through the year and a final exhibition at the end of their time at OSE.

The Mentors 

The mentors provide one-to-one support in the development of the Associates’ practice and projects, and lead theoretical and practical group sessions. The mentors visit regularly, once or twice a term.

The mentors for 2021-22 include: Clair Le Couteur, Benedict Drew, Anthea Hamilton, Marguerite Humeau, Melika Ngombe Kolongo and Sally O’Reilly.

The Associates

Associates at Open School East are emerging practitioners of different generations, with or without a BA, MA or formal qualification, who are seeking a critical, informal and non-competitive environment in which to develop their practice. We are particularly committed to supporting applicants from under-represented backgrounds and without formal training.

You will join a group of approximately 14 Associates from a diverse range of practices and backgrounds. We are interested in creating a pluridisciplinary environment and as such welcome artists, makers, producers, researchers and writers who seek to interact with people from other disciplines.

Former Associates continue to work collaboratively and programme events and projects at OSE, engaging in dialogue with the current Associates and forming a growing alumni community.

Space and facilities

Open School East operates from a building at 39 Hawley Square in Margate Central. The building is currently only accessible by stairs and we are working towards making the space fully accessible in the coming 18 months. In the meantime, we are committed to providing alternative solutions to enable full participation.

The building includes dedicated spaces for each of OSE’s programmes as well as shared studio spaces for the sole use of Associates, which are accessible 24/7. OSE has four further studios rented out to OSE alumni and tutors on a two-year rotation basis. Basic tools and AV equipment are available for Associates to use and kitchen and toilet access is shared with other learners and studio holders.

Practical information

The Associates Programme will start on 19 April 2021 and run until 30 March 2022, with breaks in the summer (28 July-5 September) and in the winter (16 December 2021-3 January 2022). Tuition, project working and group meetings are concentrated on Mondays and Tuesdays (daytime and some evenings), however these might occasionally take place on other days. We will start the year with a 3-day induction week, from 19-21 April and every Associate is expected to attend this important moment in the building of group dynamics.

Successful applicants will need to ensure that they can fully commit to OSE for the duration of the programme. As such, the Associates should not engage in residencies or other durational activities, including starting a BA or MA, while undertaking OSE’s Associates Programme.

Due to Open School East being a non-accredited programme, we regret that we are not able to sponsor visa applications for overseas Associates.

Open School East does not grant bursaries, nor does it provide Associates with accommodation. However, our team will provide guidance on finding accommodation and employment in Margate to anyone moving to the town. We further provide guidance on life in Margate, and on local and social services and facilities.

Application process

Please note that we take applications from individuals only.

Your application can take the form of either a PDF file (max size 10mb) or a video (max duration 4 min). Whichever form you choose, please title it following this model: Firstname_Surname.pdf

Your application should contain:

  1. A statement: tell us about you, your background, practice, artistic, theoretical and/or life interests. Why are you applying to Open School East specifically? What do you hope to gain from spending a year at OSE? How do the proposed structure and the OSE mentors relate to your interests and practice? And what would you like to bring to OSE? (Please limit your response to 500 words or 1,5 minute if on video.)
  2. A CV: please don’t forget to include your address, telephone number and email address (2 sides of A4 max – you can also incorporate this in the video, if that is your chosen format).
  3. A portfolio of up to 12 pages presenting your recent work: besides images and captions, feel free to include text and links to video and sound works stored on the Internet – please do not send us wetransfer links. (If doing this part on video, please limit your response to 2,5 minutes.)
  4. The filled in monitoring form available from here. This data helps us to ensure that our processes are fair and transparent, and that diverse communities are represented.

The deadline for applications is Monday 4 January 2021, 10am GMT and the address to send your pdf or video file to is: You will receive an automated answer confirming receipt of your application.

Prospective Associates will be selected on the following criteria: quality of ideas and forms; a recognised need to access free and informal education; a genuine interest in being part of a group of people with different practices and experiences; a curiosity to expand one’s knowledge base and engage with a range of topics and ideas; a willingness to work collaboratively and share space with others, be self-directed and interact with members of the public at different moments.

All shortlisted applicants will hear from us on Thursday 7 January and will be invited to join us for 1 hour on Wednesday 13 or Thursday 14 January 2021. This will take place in person if the public health situation allows it.

For those who prefer not to travel to Margate or meet us in the building, we will arrange Zoom meetings, but we encourage you, when possible, to witness both Margate and OSE first hand. For the first 30 minutes, you will be given a tour of the facilities and get to meet the current Associates and ask them questions. For the last 30 minutes you will have a conversation around a hot drink and biscuits (live or virtually) with two OSE team members, a mentor and a current Associate. We will discuss your impressions and your motivation to apply in the first place, your aspirations and needs as a practitioner, and how OSE could help you meet these. We will also answer any further questions you may have.

Non-shortlisted applicants will be notified on Thursday 7 January too. We expect a high number of applications; for this reason we are only able to give personalised feedback to applicants who are shortlisted.
For additional questions on the application process, or if you wish to discuss your application outside of the scheduled open evening or day, you can email: and we will do our best to arrange a conversation with you. Please note that we will be closed and not checking emails between 18 December 2020 and 4 January 2021. Before emailing us your questions and applying, we encourage you to have a thorough look at our website.

Zoom open evening

We’re organising an opportunity for prospective applicants to meet the OSE team and current Associates ahead of the deadline. This will take place on Zoom on Tuesday 8 December 2020, 6-7pm. You will meet different team members and Associates in breakout rooms so that we can keep numbers small and all your questions can be answered, while the Associates and team can tell you more about OSE. If you want to join the open evening, please book your place here to receive the Zoom invitation.

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