Alison Wright works as a freelance art PR (Alison Wright PR) specialising in visual art. She helps small to medium sized galleries and arts organisations publicise their activities in the media.
How did you get in to PR?
I became interested in history of art at university when I took it as a subsidiary subject. I was studying French and Italian, but spent a lot of my time in the library looking at art books, so decided to take a course. I desperately wanted to work in the arts and volunteered at my local theatre, joining in publicity stunts and stuffing envelopes. When I moved to London, after a short stint interning in the publicity department of Bloomsbury publishing, I was lucky enough to be offered a job as a graduate trainee in the press office of the Art Fund. It was a great training ground and from there I moved on to the press office of Tate, then to the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank where I was press manager for about ten years. I went freelance in 2005.
What do you love about it?
The variety and the people and friendships I have made – colleagues, curators, journalists, artists…. And the satisfaction of seeing coverage I have set up appear in print or online or as a broadcast. I do find it very rewarding when artists and galleries receive great exposure thanks to my work.
What have been the highlights?
Too many career highlights to mention, but if I must choose… working with so many legendary artists and looking after press for some ground breaking exhibitions – Anish Kapoor’s first major institutional exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, Jenny Saville’s first public show at Modern Art Oxford; Rock Against Racism at Autograph APB to name a few. Also working on the iconic London Original Print Fair at the Royal Academy for the past eight years; and learning so much about modern Italian art and design through my work with the Estorick Collection in Islington. I also have to mention a very memorable Arts Catalyst performance event at the ICA by artist Philip Warnell at the start of my freelance career. His performance was to swallow some alphabetti spaghetti then an untethered capsule camera which broadcast a live film to the audience – it ended up on Channel 4 News. And I will never forget the joy that was ‘Dog Show’ last summer at Southwark Park Galleries!
I think the current time is going to be pretty hard on us all….but I am generally pretty ‘glass half full’ and intend to keep positive!
How has Covid-19 impacted on your profession?
Well, all of the exhibitions and events I was working on have been postponed or cancelled, so at the moment I’m working closely with my clients, as they get their exhibitions and collections online in ingenious ways – my job is to find the best way to communicate them. Galleries are in a good position to continue to engage with virtual visitors in this new world.
Do you have other means of earning money to live on?
Good question. I’m sure Rishi Sunak will be in touch with me soon to talk to me about this. #selfemployed
What do you plan to do to get through this current crisis?
Without wanting to sound too annoying, I am going to try my hardest to stay calm, count my blessings and be grateful that I can be in quarantine with my nearest and dearest. And I’ll be eating a lot of lentils and beans.
How different do you think your life will be once we get back to normal?
Obviously, I won’t ever take social contact or evenings out, or even trips to the shops, for granted again. I’ll probably wash my hands more than I used to. And I’ll probably give up lentils and beans.
Anything you’d like to add?
I am so shocked at the number of people still not taking coronavirus seriously and continuing to go out, meet up and treat this whole disaster like a holiday. Please, please, please can everyone #stayhome and #staysafe. Eternal thanks to the nurses, doctors and all of the other NHS staff who we are going to be relying on so much. Let’s all be sensible and look after each other!