With just over a month to go until the Art for Youth London exhibition, which runs from 12th – 14th December, we’re using this International Artists Day to sit down with esteemed Creative Consultant and Art for Youth London Creative Director Caitlin Mavroleon.
Caitlin has been involved with Art for Youth London for 30 years, with 15 of those as Creative Director, and she has an excellent eye for art as well as aspiring artists. Since she has taken over as Creative Director she has continued to expand the exhibition to reflect the values of both Art for Youth London and the charity it supports, UK Youth.
Caitlin, you have been a part of Art for Youth London for years – why is Art for Youth so special to you?
I attended my first Art for Youth London exhibition many years ago as a guest and can still remember the excitement of going past Buckingham Palace to The Mall Galleries and walking through the door. It was a very special experience and it has informed many of the initiatives I have added to the exhibition. Now, as the Creative Director and curator of the exhibition, I often reflect back to that moment in order to build on the experience for our guests and supporters.
Being part of a Committee that spans three generations of family and friends is also a tremendous base to work from. In my role, I’ve initiated new prizes such as the Reach Prize, originally in collaboration with Nathalie Teitler, for Diversity and Inclusion. This cash prize has recently been relaunched as the Afshin Naghouni Reach Prize. The cash prizes are incredibly important for aspiring artists to help develop their confidence and launch their careers. Other new initiatives I have developed include Youth Art Ambassadors, founding the Alice Shirley project space, mentoring artists, sourcing artists far and wide. I have also been lucky enough to also gain the support of some individual donors which ensures the exhibition stays responsive to both the artists we exhibit and our guests.
I am passionate about the work the charity we support, UK Youth, does with and for young people and I try to reflect this in the art we curate. The quality of artwork that we exhibit each year is incredible – we have many supporters who say they have run out of wall space and come anyway and support via the silent auction. Whilst many of our supporters come to collect these wonderful pieces, and to discover talented young artists, they also continue to support us because their purchase supports UK Youth and helps to make a tangible difference in the lives of young people across the UK.
You obviously have a great eye for art – what do you look for in art as part of the selection criteria for Art for Youth London?
Thank you. There are two ways an artist finds a space at Art for Youth London. The first is through the selection committee (details can be found on https://www.artforyouth.com/) and the second is when I invite an artist based on their work which I’ve seen elsewhere. It is important to have a balance in a group show. I try to ensure we cover many mediums and disciplines as possible to ensure that Art for Youth London has that balance and inclusion.
Art for Youth London seems to have built up a wonderful community of supporters who continue to support in a variety of different ways. How do you think the exhibition has allowed for the community to grow?
Art for Youth London is not just your average exhibition – there’s a brilliant synergy between the Organising Committee, UK Youth and the exhibition which has now developed to mirror the ethos of the charity. The exhibition mirrors many of the values of the Committee and UK Youth offering mentoring of young or new artists and an opportunity for undiscovered artists to showcase their work at a large exhibition. This supportive and inclusive environment is what I believe brings people back to the exhibition year after year. Many artists whose early careers were helped by the exhibition do come back to volunteer, exhibit or donate.
We also maintain close relationships with our artists, artists like Alice Shirely who I invited to exhibit who went on to win the Dianna Brooks Award. I was so inspired working with Alice that I created a project space and invited her to have a solo exhibition in it. I went on to curate two other solo shows in the space with artists Guy Haddon-Grant and Kate Morgan, but in the fourth year I asked Alice to come back to curate a group show in that space. It was so much fun and so successful that I relaunched the space as the Alice Shirley Project Space. Alice also continues to support Art for Youth London by giving out a cash prize called the Parker Prize to an artist she thinks stands out at the exhibition.
I think that it’s these personal connections and the lasting network and impact that we collectively have that has allowed us to grow this thriving community. At the heart of the network is Art for Youth London because it’s a dynamic and happy place. People come from all over as artists, guests, and volunteers. Last year one of our volunteers came from another country and stayed in a hotel just to volunteer. That’s the spirit I love! And I try hard to be sure to embrace this spirit in my mentorship and sharing the good work UK Youth is doing.
We noticed that you sell ‘Mystery Postcards’ at the exhibition – Could you explain these?
The Mystery Postcards are a really fun initiative. Selling for £35 these are pieces of art that are postcard sized that are donated to the exhibition by the artists. They are ‘mystery’ postcards because you don’t know who the donating artist is until after you have purchased it. I love this because I believe it helps the exhibition stay inclusive and high energy for everyone!
At Art for Youth London I like to try and make everyone feel comfortable – from our experienced collectors’ right down to those who are purchasing their first pieces. The Mystery Postcards allow a wide range of artists to join the exhibition and really do bring out those values of inclusivity and the idea of unlimited potential that we try to encourage at the Art for Youth London Exhibition.
Now, we know it’s not fair to ask but are there any artists that you are particularly excited about and why?
Tricky for me to single out a handful of artists as I believe in all of them – but there are a few I’ve had a great time watching in their studios. Roxana Halls, Sarah Jane Moon, Hannah Campion, Stephen Rew, Alex Echo, Rose Wallace, Afshin Naghouni, Fred Gordon.
However, like I said – all the artists we have exhibiting this year are amazing and I am very excited for you to be able to see all of them in a few short weeks! Don’t forget to buy your tickets here.