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Young Artist Ryan Boultbee Talks Architecture and Ecology

13 April 22 interview: Lizzy O'Riordan
illustrations: Ryan Boultbee

From Worsdworth to Shelley, the Romantic poets dreamed of studying among nature. Now Ryan Boultbee has designed a building to do just that - a utopian school built on the waterside. We catch up with the artist and architect about his entry for the Young Creative Awards, his inspirations, and his project No Jobs in the Arts...

Hi Ryan! You won a Young Creative Award in 2017 for Design and Architecture. Can you tell us about what you entered? 
In 2017, I was studying architecture at UoN, so I submitted the project I was working on at that time for my course: my take on a forest school, one that bridged the canal, blending in halfway along Castle Boulevard. The idea was about knitting secondary school kids into the ecology and environment by the water side. The utopian hope was that they could learn from nature and grow together, acting as custodians for each other.

Since then you’ve moved more into visual art and design…
I work between art and architecture on a range of creative projects - from digital publications to exhibitions. I usually lead or contribute to some type of creative service around my areas of interest, including commissions, residencies, workshops, teaching, or public events. I’m working on a project re-imaging the future of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station with a collaborator, Will Harvey. We recently wrote an article about this work for Leftlion, and have been running workshops around Nottingham. We’re pulling everything we’ve been doing together into an exhibition in Nottingham, in summer 2022.



The utopian hope was that they could learn from nature and grow together, acting as custodians for each other.

Is architecture still an inspiration for you? 
It’s hard not to be inspired by architecture, buildings shape what we do and how we do it; the days we all spent at home during the lockdown illustrate this point - it was this experience that inspired an activity pack I made with Young Creatives Nottingham. When I collaborate with buildings to make artworks, I don’t often come out the other side with things you can hang on the wall or take away with you - they tend to on make sense in that place, or end up stuck to walls or the floors. 

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve embedded copper in the floor of Surface - a noisy process, and split their gallery space in two with a continuous loop of gaffer tape. So, I'd say my art impacts the architecture I’m playing with, and this architecture also impacts the art I am making - they’re kind of inseparable, an art-architecture; because of this relationship, it usually means my work is nightmarishly difficult to photograph, but I still I love hunting down new spaces to work in. 

You recently hosted a talk ‘Hang on, why aren’t you paying me?’ 
The discussion was about the good, the bad, and the ugly bits of unpaid roles in the Arts, with UK New Artists and Voice Mag. We gathered to share experiences, opinions, and tips unpicking the topic of free labour. The discussion focus was understanding what criteria people use to decide which projects they support with their creativity energy.  I’ve been working towards my Gold Arts Award, so this event was part of my course work. To achieve an Arts Award, children and young people (under 25 years) collect evidence of experiences of participating in arts activities, researching artists and their work, and sharing their arts discoveries.

You’re also involved in No Jobs in the Arts. What’s the mission there?
We noticed the gap in support available for creatives at the start of their careers, so decided to do something about it.  No Jobs in the Arts is a creative project I co-run with Charlie Collins. We create professional development opportunities for early-career creatives working in the Visual Arts, through projects linked to the East Midlands. 

And finally, the Young Creative Awards 2022 are now open. What would you say to anyone considering entering? 
Why are you reading this? Go and enter the Young Creative Awards. The deadline for entries is 25 April 2022.

You can find Ryan's website here and learn more about No Jobs In The Arts here. 

You can enter The Young Creative Awards here



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