Curation as Care x World Mental Health Day

Jamie Lewis, artist and CEO of Next Wave, reflects on Curation as Care for World Mental Health Day.

Artist burnout is real. The pressure of highly competitive callouts, applications, grants, collaborations, networking and – for many – all too frequent rejection.

When Next Wave moved away from the festival model, we decided our new strategic direction would centre artist wellbeing and sustainable practice.

We want to remove some of these pressures through the way we curate. We want to give artists the headspace to develop a practice that they can understand and can articulate. We want to give them time to discover what drives them to make radical and experimental new work.
That is how our Curation as Care framework was born.

Curation as Care puts people at the centre of our work. It’s process over product, and relationships over outcomes.

Without Next Wave (or any other arts organisation for that matter), artists will continue to make work – as they have always done. They may make it slower, with less resources – but artists don’t stop responding to the world.

So, just as Next Wave approaches curation as care in our programs, we want to encourage artists to put themselves first in the rat race of commerce and art. Here are my core recommendations to use your artistic practice to care for yourself and others:

Organise your ideas
Ideas are the easy part – as artists, we often have a stack of them tucked away in various metaphorical drawers. But which ones feel urgent to tackle NOW? Which ones are current and resonate with the world as we know it today? Which ones truly nourish you - and remain interesting so that you have the stamina to sit with it for a decent amount of time?

Give yourself time
How much time does work take to make? Assuming you get the funding and partnership ducks in a row on the very first go – what sort of timeline does that actually look like? More often than not, we don’t get all those things on the first go – so what timelines does this then really look like?

Nurture your relationships
Over the years, the biggest resource I have access to (and doesn’t require me to write applications for) is a network of peers, mentors and creative friends. To proof test an idea, to have a play date, to collaborate, to seek advice from, to troubleshoot, to have a rant with, to share.
Even as a solo artist, I never work alone – relationships are my biggest and most important asset.

Be transparent about power dynamics
Reflecting on my own practice, I am often the lead artist inviting people into a collaborative space, and while we can establish certain frameworks and agreements for how we might work together, the power dynamics are inherently skewed towards me – and I must be transparent and honest about that.
This transparency also means I must always ask - Who is here? Who is not here? Why? And what am I going to do about that?

Be open
When I consider these – then I must acknowledge that I am always a guest – and there are others who know more than me, or know different things from me. And there are other ways/methodologies/approaches to developing your ideas. Form takes the shape of the best response to what the idea needs – and is informed by the process.

  1. Next Wave CEO Jamie Lewis at the 2023 program launch, photographed by Mae Hatrick