Medialab Prado

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Clayton Shaw

My experience in Medialab-Prado

How and at what time you came to Medialab?

I discovered Medialab as a result of the serendipitous coming together of a series of events. Following a visit to the Ars Electronica festival in 2007 I came across the ingenious work of artist Pablo Valbuena, and interested in finding out more about the artist’s work I subscribed to his mailing list. Around the same time I began a masters course in European Cultural Policy and Management at the University of Warwick where one of the modules was to undertake a work placement within a cultural organisation. Having had a reasonable amount of experience of the arts sector within the UK, my interests lied in developing greater knowledge from outside of the UK cultural institutions. Unexpectedly, during my search for a potential work placement host organisation I received an email update from Pablo about a piece of work at Plaza de las Letras newly commissioned by Medialab-Prado. Recognising that this was the ideal organisation I contacted them to ask if they would accept me for a placement. They did, and fortunately my employer at the time, Arts Council England, supported me to take the six weeks out that I needed.

What tasks did you undertake?

During my placement I supported the Interactivos? 2008 workshop with my principle role being to carry out an evaluation of the project. Further to this I was tasked by my university to assess the functions of the organisation and produce a report. Other tasks included some translation duties, which I discovered I'm really not good at!

What exchange contributions did you make to the team, the users, the content; and do you think that it developed in your time at Medialab?

I feel I was able to make contributions to the team despite my placement being only six weeks long. For the organisational assessment report I needed to find out a lot of information in a short space of time and with nearly all members of the team. For example I remember carrying out a SWOT analysis with the team about the Interactivos? project to form part of the evaluation, something which felt like a potentially useful discussion tool which could be used in part to evaluate future projects and developments. I also attended some team meetings, but my level of Spanish meant that I quite quickly lost the thread of the discussions – I should have been more ‘linguistically’ prepared.

To the users, principally the Interactivos? workshop attendees, I supported general day to day needs, helping to find the right people that could help them, and gathering their thoughts and feedback about the project, the process, and outcomes for the evaluation. I really enjoyed working with the users and remain in contact with some of them.

In terms of contributing to the content of Medialab, as a newcomer and outsider I was interested in finding out what the organisation did with no desire to influence it, however in the Interactivos? evaluation I did make some recommendations to support ongoing developments.

Overall I felt that the team accepted me and that I was able to contribute where necessary to various aspects of the organisation. As time progressed I felt that I settled into the organisation’s ethos and way of working and was keen to bring this back to my work in the UK.

What have you done since your time at Medialab and do you think that Medialab has influenced you?

Since I left Medialab I completed my masters and said goodbye to my good friends and colleagues at Arts Council England to take on a management role within a South Asian arts development organisation called Sampad based in Birmingham, UK. At Arts Council England I was responsible for managing the relationship of a large number of clients and cultural institutions as well as assessing grant applications, however I was keen to develop my skills in management and organisational development which I’m able to achieve in my new role. At sampad I am responsible for business development, artists’ and sector development, cultural leadership initiatives, financial management, marketing and PR management, policy and operations.

The characteristics of Medialab have left an indelible mark upon me and my work. It is like an organisation on a mission towards an indefinable goal. It is an industrious powerhouse of creativity and innovation driven by a dedicated and enthusiastic team which encourages and supports its many users to whom it remains loyal to. I can’t express enough praise for the team of staff, all of whom made me feel very welcome and showed me what hospitality really means. It was also a privilege to me to be able to return to Medialab to carry out research to support my masters dissertation in 2009. Overall I feel that Medialab is an immensely generous organisation and one that is interested in exploring new ideas and ways of working, and whose influence doesn’t falter. I am continuing to work with Medialab on a European funded sector development research project that my organisation will be doing with Medialab in 2011, and hopefully more collaborative projects beyond.

 

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