Interview: Lara Vrkic of The Ladies Network
Working with a range of artists, musicians, designers, business women and writers, The Ladies Network highlights the contribution of women in creative fields, and they are set to launch an online art-buying platform. We had a chat with curator and founder Lara Vrkic to find out more:
Hi Lara. To start off, could you just tell us a little about what The Ladies Network is and why you created it?
The Ladies Network is an agency for female creatives. As an agency we create and seek out opportunities for women to be recognised in their creative field. I started the ladies after I realised that a large number of my female friends created art but for whatever reason didn’t consider themselves artists and therefore didn’t show anyone their work. I wanted to create an inclusive and comfortable space for these types of creatives to showcase their work alongside that of established artists. Also there were an alarming amount of all-male shows at the time so I wanted to create a bit of competition and hopefully highlight that that needed to change in order to make women feel more confident about exhibiting their work.
How did you set about actually getting it started? Was it easy to get people onboard?
The first show was mostly my friends and friends of friends. It was a really attractive proposition I think – be in this show and all you need to do is put in 20 bucks to cover the space and I’ll take care of the rest! After the turnout and I think the vibe of the first exhibition it wasn’t hard to continue to get artists on board. I received a huge amount of submissions after the first show so that was encouraging.
Can you tell us about yourself and your history in art? What did you study? Had you been a curator before?
I have almost (fingers crossed) finished a degree in Communications majoring in digital media so art has never been something I’ve studied academically. That said I’ve always had a really strong interest in it and spend most of my spare time at galleries. You can probably tell in the exhibition format that I haven’t curated before it’s something that I’m really just figuring out as I go.
Things have gone to strength to strength for The Ladies in a relatively short space of time. The exhibitions, for instance, are always really well attended. How many ladies do you have within your network of creatives and does their work spread across a wide spectrum of genres?
We use a different selection of artists for each exhibition so it’s meant that we have been able to reach a really wide audience quite quickly. The artists that we use are all incredibly varied when it comes to medium. In each show we try to capture how diverse art created by women really is and hopefully break down what some may consider “girl art”. The artists are a mixture of established and emerging which is what we are really proud of. It’s nice for both stages of artists to share the one space and it means that we get a nice mix of industry people and family and friends. It provides a really nice vibe.
And now The Ladies Network is launching a website from which people can buy artwork. Can you tell us more about this?
It’s been so exciting hearing feedback from people who have bought work from a Ladies show and are now inspired to start collecting more art. Collecting art is something that a lot of people don’t think is possible based on having a limited budget or being a student etc. Unfortunately until our week long aMBUSH show last year we hadn’t had an opportunity to sell work past the opening night which is often quite hectic and not really conducive conditions to buying art. The online store came about as a way to solve this problem. We are hoping it’s a place people go to look for presents for friends or to add to their personal collections. We are also hoping it will allow buyers to still feel the same level of connection to the artists as we try to provide in our exhibitions though interviews and profiles. There really isn’t a curated space online to buy female art so we think it will be quite popular.
Are we right in thinking there will be an exhibition to celebrate the website’s launch? Are there any details you can reveal about this event?
Yes! Shh! Haha. There will be a launch for the online store in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately it can’t be one of our blow out parties but hopefully one of those can follow at some stage in the next few months. We are hoping to be able to open it to the public for a weekend but we are still figuring it out. Stay tuned!
How do you decide who gets to exhibit their work at your exhibitions and is it a difficult decision-making process? Presumably there are more artists keen to exhibit than you have room for?
Yeah it’s really difficult to organise the artists for each show. We receive such a huge amount of really quality submissions and its always a tricky task to balance things like keeping the work looking professional, having artists with different backgrounds and ages represented, having differing mediums, artists at different stages of their careers, etc. Often it’s the first submissions we receive and then a lot that I personally approach as a fan girl, haha. For each of the exhibitions we have set a limit on the number of artists and then have continued to add to it until right up to the exhibitions because it’s so hard to turn people that are so enthusiastic away. It’s all about showcasing as many women as possible and really proving that there are SO many women doing creative things worthy of representation so the more the merrier usually!
How can creatives join the network?
Send us an email! We receive a ton of submissions so we say it usually takes a few weeks to get back to us but keep hounding us we will reply!
What else can we look forward to seeing from The Ladies in 2016?
So much to look forward to. We are working on a huge first birthday in June as well as a few collaborations with brands. We are looking at mixing up the exhibition form later in the year and a trip interstate. Lots of exciting stuff and lots of things that we can’t talk about just yet so keep connected with our socials!
And long-term, what do you hope that The Ladies Network will achieve?
Our vision for The Ladies is constantly evolving. I never thought what we were doing now would be possible this time last year, the same way I’m sure what we will be doing in a year or two I could never imagine now. Ideally we will be able to set up networks interstate or overseas and continue to execute interesting events that inspire both women and men to recognise women in the arts. I would love to be able to work with more brands in commissioning female artists for projects and be able to have a physical space for people to visit and check out resident artists. We get most of our inspiration for what’s to come from artists, clients and people that come to our exhibitions, so integrating all those people in creating something that is of value to the community is paramount.
Interview by Bobby Townsend. Lara picture by Manuela Leigh and exhibition picture by Tim Da-Rin