Jessica El Mal
— 21.09.19 —
We had the pleasure of chatting with Jessica El Mal as our first ever feature - something we wanted to push on our platform. Jessica, aka. ElMal Art is part of MIF Creative Lab and on our very own directory. Read on for an insight about our creative industry, problematic experiences and the value of an inclusive arts future.
Introduce yourself! Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jessica El Mal, but my projects go under the name ElMal Art. True to the gig economy generation, I do lots of things - write, produce, project manage, but my main passion is working on public and community art projects.
What's your general opinion of the creative arts, in terms of diversity & inclusion?
I think the arts have always been very classist, and while I think there's lots changing in the sector to do with equality monitoring and such, I think it’s arts education where the biggest inequalities lie, and, unfortunately are only going to get bigger under the current austerity measures. In many schools like mine, your arts education consisted of coloring in and copying. If you weren't good at drawing apples, a career in the arts wasn't for you - and that couldn't be more wrong. Unfortunately, though this is the narrative that many kids are receiving. Without the industry actively taking a role in re-writing this, we going to continue to see the same type of people reaching the top of the sector.
What notable experiences have you had being a part of the creative community?
After university, I applied for a Creative Incubator program, which I got on and was an amazing programme of workshops and talks before pitching for an internship. During the course, I found out that as part of their equality and diversity monitoring, they had given interviews to all BAME women who applied, though past this stage there was no active form of positive discrimination. Whether by chance or design, the group was such a supportive mix who still to this day - over a year later - connect and offer each other opportunities. More than any of the practical skills we learned, what we all really took away from the programme was connecting with like-minded, though really diverse, people. I can't even count the number of freelance jobs I've gotten and given through that group in even just this past year!
Because I work with community groups, and maybe also because of my North Mancunian accent, I've definitely noticed some reoccurring treatment from some institutions. From not wanting to commit to things like space, to telling my group speaking different languages to be quiet when many English speakers are talking. It’s been very interesting to see the difference in how my community groups are treated. I've had to learn to navigate this for the rights of the people in the groups I work with but also for my own well-being.
Will we as an industry, improve?
The industry is definitely changing, but as I mentioned earlier; without supporting the talent and ambition of young people, it will be futile, as future generations coming into the industry will be lacking in any diversity. We need to create our own network - support each other, put each other forward for things, share each other's work, hire each other - that’s a start.
You will be able to see the culmination of one of Jessica's projects “This Garden of Ours” at Manchester Museum as part of Journey's Festival International on the 10th October 6pm. There will be an exhibition, a panel discussion and live music after a six-month art project looking at nature and migration.
Please check out what Jessica does, and follow to keep up-to-date!