Meet the Faculty 5 – Elena Shampanova

As part of our ongoing ‘meet the Faculty’ series, it is a pleasure to gather thoughts from Elena with whom I worked when I was at Anglia Ruskin University and subsequently when we worked for a museum/experience creator in Kolomna south of Moscow on the reintroduction of the sweet delicacy of pastila to the UK based Russian and non-Russian buyer.

Kolomna Pastila

What inspires you to be a creative producer (and/or keeps you going) ?

My career in the arts started in British Council Moscow, when I joined the arts team as arts projects manager. Having a corporate professional experience in project management, I had to apply my knowledge and skills to the arts context, learning each day, hands-on. During this time I found that my management, organisation and planning skills came in very handy in the arts world. And I just loved working with creative people, finding out about new artists, seeing how ideas take shape and are brought to life. The ever-changing landscape of the arts is something that keeps me inspired and passionate about my work every day.

My professional interest extended to creative economy and cultural industries, the notions that came to Russia from the UK. In 2014 I decided to move to the UK to do an MA in arts management, and following graduation founded my own consultancy, which is about helping creative people bring their ideas to life. My work is about managing arts projects, designing business development and marketing strategies, evaluation frameworks, and also mentoring artists who are willing to set up their own creative enterprise. 

Is there a style of art/theatre you particularly want to create/produce ?

Not sure if I am creative producer myself, but I love working with creative producers and supporting them with daily project and event management, marketing, evaluation, recruitment – anything really.

Are you someone who works on one or multiple projects – tell us a little about your style of work ?

When I moved to the UK I found that many people have a portfolio career and work for several employers, sometimes even doing different jobs altogether. Juggling many projects and roles is quite common in the arts, so I do work on a range of projects as a freelancer and often take on different roles. I worked as marketing manager for a Creative People and Places project, set up a charity for research into Russian avant garde art, designed a marketing strategy for a London based non-for-profit gallery, supported a range of community projects with business development and project planning, mentored a range of artists, wrote funding applications, and developed education projects. I work with clients from Russian and UK, many of the projects are international collaborations.

Who inspired you and/or who would you love to collaborate with/produce ?

Throughout my work with the British Council I was honoured to have met and worked with a range of artists and art producers, who I looked up to and learned from. My colleagues from British Council Arts Unit in London, Declan Donnellan theatre company, Edinburgh Film Festival and their former artistic director Shane Danielsen, Random Dance and Russel Maliphant dance companies as well as Olga Sviblova, the now director for Moscow Multimedia Art Museum, Elena Tupiseva, director of TSEKH Dance company and contemporary arts festival producer, Alexandra Sankova, founder of the Moscow Design Museum, and all my former British Council colleagues, who now work across the world in different capacities in the arts. I would love to collaborate (and I often do!) with my former BC colleagues, our MA in Arts Management cohort, and all new connections I’ve made and keep on making. I just love collaboration overall! 

As an international practitioner, what might we not know about working in your region/country

We use a lot of exclamation marks! I find Russian people very hard-working, and those in the arts especially – they are very passionate about what they do, and are always striving to do more and better. Producing in the arts may be less structured, but it is very fast-paced, and amazing things happen really quickly. People invest all their energy, their knowledge and skills, their time and lives into their favourite art project. The country has a long history of state funding, however, recently many independent art projects evolved and even became commercially successful. There are not many grants available in Russia for the arts, however, Russian producers are very open to international collaborations and successfully apply for international grants. I feel that this course would be highly valuable for Russian producers and artists (live performance) who are thinking of developing stronger links with international producers, learn more about international producing practices, funding and collaboration opportunities. 

What are you working on now (which you can tell us about) ?

Currently I continue my work as arts consultant in business development and marketing, support Russian Art and Culture online platform as an editor, research entrepreneurship in the arts at Birkbeck, University of London, and develop an arts evaluation consultancy and education company with a partner. 

Within the Diploma programme/idea what are you most looking forward to helping/experiencing ?

This online course is very timely given the pandemic, limited funds across the board and in the arts especially. I am honoured to be part of the faculty and look forward to seeing how the course is being shaped and contributing my ideas and expertise. I look forward to welcoming the first cohort of students and supporting them throughout the course, following their creative journeys and seeing how the material we will offer takes them to a new level, and new collaborations!

Are there any inspiring/useful books or texts we should know about. ?

Creative Justice

At this point in time I am looking at how artists work – the notion of work overall, trying to understand the value of the arts, the balance between creative practice and earning, and precarity in the neo-liberal society we live in. I would recommend Creative Justice: Cultural Industries, Work and Inequality by Mark Banks and Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries by Angela McRobbie. 

How do you ensure your own personal wellness (especially at this time) ?

Being with family and appreciating very simple things every day helps to get through.

Any superstitions or special phrases you hold close to you ?

Our life is what we make of it. 

Any lessons learnt or experiences to look back at which are amusing/lifechanging ?

There are so many… I keep on learning with each day, each new project, each new person I meet. I would say being open to new ideas, working together rather than competing, sharing knowledge and skills and accepting help and support from others, would be a few I would name. 

Thank you Elena.

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