Verity Brown is a Director at ROKBOX (https://rok-box.com/), an award winning crate specifically designed to reduce the environmental impact, risk and cost of shipping high value art.
What have you been up to during lockdown?
The last few years have been a non-stop whirlwind for ROKBOX and so this ‘pause’ has been a chance for us to regain a little perspective, ensuring our strategy is serving our clients’ needs. Part of that has meant we have been busy designing and engineering so we shall have more products available towards the end of this year. I’ve also been listening to much of the industry dialogue via the numerous webinars that are available, so as to stay informed regarding all the issues under debate at present. I’ve also been doing some online courses as we’re a small team so the more I can turn my hand to the better. Aside from work, I’ve been enjoying plenty of exercise and I’ve also become a complete bookworm again. My Calm app has also been a bit of a saving grace at times!
Is there anything in particular you have learned from the last few months?
I think the sense of community in the art world has never been so strong. People generally really care about one another and some of the contact I’ve had with people via phone or email during this chapter has really highlighted that fact to me. In more practical terms I’ve had to get used to a more ad hoc way of working. Collaboration is an important element of how the ROKBOX team works and that’s not impossible when working remotely but it’s certainly not as straightforward, particularly when we all have domestic responsibilities to attend to also. Office camaraderie isn’t half as enjoyable online or in snatched telephone conversations as it is in person!
How do you think the art industry will change, going forward?
During Corona Virus we’ve all had to change our behaviour for health reasons. I’m hoping that experience encourages behavioural changes which affect environmental issues too. I also think the art industry will need do some serious self-examination regarding race issues. It’s definitely time for a wider concept of social responsibility to be explored and then put into action.
I doubt our newly established reliance upon technology will completely disappear when we exit lockdown. Instead I imagine the benefits of technology and science are blended with more traditional aspects of the industry and this could lead to some incredibly positive developments.
I imagine organisations will be more selective in terms of their participation of events. This in turn lends itself to more specialism, regional focuses and potential collaborations, all of which could mark an exciting new chapter.
Do you have any advice that you would give to people entering the industry?
In one of my first jobs, I was told by a senior colleague to always be nice to the people on front desk and always recognise the hard work done by technicians as so much gets taken for granted. That’s still very relevant! I think that expressing a genuine interest in other people’s experiences has enabled me to build rapport with people in all kinds of roles across the industry. Also acknowledging that everyone has valuable experiences or insights I can learn from has led to some amazing introductions and friendships.
Are there any art organisations that you have been particularly impressed by in the way that they have evolved and responded to the current situation?
So many! A lot of the webinars have provided a truly collaborative space for people from different organisations to share concerns or present ideas. A few that spring to mind are Articheck’s, Julie’s Bicycle, ARCS, Dietl and specifically a Crown webinar which focused upon commercial registrars/gallery managers. The human / social benefit of these during lockdown, in addition to the learning itself, is huge.
Right at the beginning of lockdown I was contacted by someone at Toledo Museum who wanted to learn more about ROKBOX. That individual was juggling family life / working from home whilst also dealing with temporarily closing the museum and changing exhibition schedules etc. To say they had their hands full is a massive understatement and what’s so brilliant is that we’ve been contacted by LOTS of other people in comparable circumstances since lockdown began. So, what also stands out for me, is not just the organisations but specific individuals within them, people who go the extra mile, who think imaginatively, who invite peers to join in their discussions and who view current challenges as an opportunity which could lead to enduring positive outcomes.