Associates Programme

The Associates Programme is a free development programme that offers a critical, informal and non-competitive environment in which early-career and emerging artists can develop their practice and expand their networks. The programme is run according to principles of collaboration, experimentation and openness, and welcomes those who engage with these notions in different ways.

2019 Associates & public; workshop by Cynthia Lawrence-John & Rhys Ellis.
Credit: Dik Ng

Programme overview

The Associates Programme runs for one year and is principally self-directed, creating platforms to experiment and meet long-lasting collaborators and peers.

We provide the Associates with:

  • A shared workspace with 24/7 access
  • Weekly tuition and mentorship from internationally renowned practitioners, theorists and curators
  • Opportunities to develop educational workshops and events with and for the wider school
  • The tools and means to conceive and deliver a public programme of workshops and events around your practice and shared interests
  • Developmental opportunities to meet and work with invited guest artists, curators and other creative professionals through the Visiting Artist Module 
  • Opportunities to showcase work through an end of year exhibition, ensuring visibility of Associate projects, research and work to local and national audiences, OSE stakeholders and wider visual arts sector (curators, commissioners, funders, gallerists, producers etc.)
  • Critical, pastoral and practical support 

The Associates are expected to live/move to the local area* and commit to two days of scheduled activity per week (typically Mondays and Tuesdays) at Open School East to receive tuition, meet their mentors, plan public activities and collaborate on projects.

Tuition is delivered through a combination of workshops, seminars, group crits, excursions and reading groups, many of which are open to the public. We expect Associates to make use of their studios during the rest of the week, working around their own work schedules & commitments.

*particular needs in this respect are reviewed on a case by case basis

2020 Associates and performer Felix Abloh on the set of ‘La Poupe’, their collaborative film with Anthea Hamilton. Credit: Nadira Amrani

Term structure

The Associates Programme is structured around three terms with various modules and outcomes. For the 2023-2024 iteration of the programme, the cohort will focus on the following activities:


  • Introductory Week: A week to settle in, meet the other Associates & the OSE team, explore Margate and the school itself.
  • Social Practice Module: The Social Practice Module is a series of talks & workshops, devised by Polly Brannan (OSE Artistic Director), that explores and unpacks what it means to be working collaboratively with communities, and helps to form a deeper understanding of social practice and engagement. 

    The module invites guests that include commissioners, researchers, practitioners/artists, curators who are leading in their field. Past invitees have included; Viviana Checchia, Amal Khalaf, Anna Cutler, Sepake Angiama & Polly Brannan.
  • ‘Circulating Energies’ with Artist Hugh Nicholson: This is a partnership of cross border collaboration and exchange between France and UK, as part of the Triennial of Art & Industry, based in Dunkirk (10.06.2023 — 14.01.2024) in partnership with Frac Grand Large, ESA and Open School East. 

    A number of Associates will have the opportunity to develop a programme of public events in early January 2024 as part of the Triennial in Dunkirk (France) in collaboration with ESA Art School and their students & artist Hugh Nicholson. This opportunity has been developed with Hugh as part of his ongoing residency research which looks at green energy options as an alternative to current energy production methodologies. Hugh will also be developing a series of mentoring and artist talks at OSE.
  • Print Project with Park Press: This module explores publishing in artistic practice, looking at ways of sustainably distributing and/or communicating projects through print. For its 2023/24 iteration, Park Press will lead a short course that looks to develop Associate print & publishing skills using their Risograph studio


  • Lead Artist Project: This term is a collective learning project developed in collaboration with the invited OSE Lead Artist for 2023-24: the vacuum cleaner.

    Associates will work with Artist and Activist the vacuum cleaner, working on a slow process in the context of a NHS community mental health space in Thanet as part of this year’s lead artist curriculum at Open School East.

    This is an opportunity to work with an artist that blends research, process and exhibitions to reimagine mental health support and the environments this support happens in. the vacuum cleaner has experience of working with vulnerable adults and young people, and developing collaborative ways of working within community settings/mental health care settings. 

    Guided by a steering and accountable group, this process will support the Associates to use this space to learn and develop a shared way of making new work with a focus on community, disability, mental health and space.

    Through workshops, training, support and guidance you will have the opportunity to develop in context the making and learning about disability justice through making work and a series of workshops.
  • Associate led Public Programme: A series of free, open public events, shaped by the Associates and includes; participatory events/workshops, talks, reading groups, short courses, performances etc which are devised and led entirely by the current cohort of OSE Associates; this programme nurtures artistic planning and delivery skills in a public setting. The sessions Associates have programmed have ranged from writing workshops, experimental film and radio production, performance and photography and short courses in electronics, ceramics, music production. You can view our archive of events here.

    This programme is in partnership with Turner Contemporary


  • OSE Associate Exhibition 23/24: Associates work towards an end of year exhibition and collaborate with an invited guest curator to take them through the process; alongside advice from their mentors and guidance from the OSE Director and team.

    The Associate Exhibition is an opportunity for the current cohort of Associate Artists to share their work to arts professionals (nationally), prospective collaborators, funders and peers and the wider public. This is curated with the invited Guest Curator invited by OSE Artistic Director who has expertise in exhibition making. Past curators include; Sepake Angiama (Iniva), Angelica Sule (Site Gallery), Cedric Fauq (Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux) & Maggie Matić (Studio Voltaire).

Throughout the year Associates meet their mentors for one to one tutorials to discuss their work, research and ideas, both in general and in preparation for public events and the final show.

2018 Associates as part of a forest workshop with Matthew Darbyshire.

The Associates

Associates at Open School East are emerging practitioners with or without a BA, MA or formal arts qualification, who are seeking a critical, informal and non-competitive environment in which to develop their practice.

We are particularly committed to supporting applicants from under-represented backgrounds and without formal training.

While at OSE, the Associates share their practices through open events at different points throughout the year, and develop new work to be presented at a final group exhibition. 

Former Associates continue to work collaboratively and programme events and projects at OSE, engaging in dialogue with the current Associate cohort and by being part of a growing alumni community.

Performance by 2019 Associates Elouise Farley and Rhona Foster.
Credit: Rob Harris

The Mentors

OSE Mentors provide one-to-one support in the development of the Associates’ practice and projects, and lead theoretical and practical group sessions. The mentors visit once or twice a term. 

OSE Mentors for 2023-24 are: Benedict Drew, Shenece Oretha, Sally O’Reilly & Simeon Barclay.

Previous mentors include: Anthea Hamilton, åbäke, Matthew Darbyshire, Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar (The Otolith Group), Marguerite Humeau, Paul Maheke, Cecilia Wee, Janna Graham, Melika Ngombe Kolongo (Nkisi), Sophie Mallet, Sarah McCrory, John Douglas Millar, Tom Morton, Olivia Plender, Marijke Steedman, Trish Scott, Ed Webb-Ingall & Clair Le Couteur.

Mentor Benedict Drew, Spelunking Weekend, 2017.

Space and facilities

Open School East operates from a building at 39 Hawley Square in Margate Central. The building is currently only accessible by stairs and we are working towards making the space fully accessible in the coming 18 months. In the meantime, we are committed to providing alternative solutions to enable full participation.

The building includes dedicated spaces for each of OSE’s programmes as well as shared studio spaces for the sole use of Associates, which are accessible 24/7.

OSE has four further studios rented out to OSE Alumni, local visual artists and practitioners working in the community/education sector. Basic tools and AV equipment are available for Associates to use and kitchen and toilet access is shared with other learners and studio holders. 

Selection, application and requirements

The course is free to enable access to arts education that may not have been previously possible due to cultural barriers and/or socioeconomic factors. 

Each year we form a group of approximately 10 Associates from a diverse range of practices and backgrounds. We are interested in creating a pluridisciplinary environment where everyone supports and learns from each other. As such welcome artists, makers, producers, researchers and writers who seek to interact with people from other disciplines. 

At Open School East, we are committed to improving the diversity of our organisation as a whole and building inclusive cultures every day. Therefore we encourage and welcome applicants from all backgrounds and sections of the community, both with and without formal training. 

Prospective Associates are selected on the following criteria:

  • quality of ideas and forms;
  • a recognised need to access free and informal education;
  • a genuine interest in being part of a group of people with different practices and experiences;
  • a curiosity to expand one’s knowledge base and engage with a range of topics and ideas;
  • a willingness to work collaboratively as well as individually, be self-directed and interact with members of the public at different moments. 

Please note we take applications from individuals only.