IWCEP - Cultural Education Partnership Ident - Teal, Pink and Fern
Fulfilling the creative potential of young people on the Isle of Wight

Lexi Zelda Stevens – Artist/Producer/Production Manager / Executive Coach

Employer: Self Employed
Primary School: Woodall Primary
Secondary School: Sandown High
Where do you live and work now? I live in London, have a workspace in Woolwich and work nationally. I am on the island every month and working there increasingly often.  

Was there an experience you had at school that made you want to go into the area of work you are in now?

I found the structure of school difficult, I struggled to stay interested and got very stressed overachieving to compensate – no one knew I was ADHD at that point. When I burned out Mum used to say I had a migraine and take me to art galleries in London. I did performances with ballet and summer schools which I totally loved. My mum did the bulk of the child care and worked p/t and then did her own art work a few mornings a week. She and my dad both grew up in council houses so I knew it was possible for me to be an artist too – she was my inspiration. 

What are the main roles and responsibilities of your job?

Running a business as an artist & arts professional means being an expert in my field – constantly building my experience & skills, getting enough repeat custom to survive and winning new work. I rely heavily on my networks and ability to meet & stay in touch with people- something that I practised as a kid living on a holiday island with lots of holiday makers. 

As a Production Manager I am responsible for working with artists (from theatre to visual art) to make new work and install that outdoors, often on a festival site. I set up and run the visual arts commissioning programme at Green Man festival in Wales. It is hands on and requires working with big crews of technicians. I guide artists through what is a complex new experience and run the area during live days. Behind the scenes I fundraise, build relationships and curate. 

As an Executive Coach I help artists to work out what is getting in the way of their progress and then support them to make a plan and stick to it to move forwards. I work with lots of artists who are ADHD like me, and/or Autistic or other forms of neurodivergent. I am a mental health First Aider. I work with graduates from UAL, Brave Island and private clients.

 As an artist I am responsible for making and marketing my work. I do a lot of fundraising and proposal writing as well as making the work – sculpture and dance. 

Could you briefly share a bit about your career journey? (What did you study? How did you end up where you are today?)

I did an Art Foundation course in Falmouth – another seaside place- and then my Fine Art degree there too.  I was still interested in performing arts though and after some time running a bar- restaurant and doing admin for a circus company while training, I moved to London and studied Dance part time at Birkbeck. 

At the same time I started working as an event manager at festivals – I learned most of the skills that now earn my money there in a portacabin in a field ‘on the job’-it was a wild ride! 

I couldn’t afford an MA so I got jobs and worked in the industry- I always preferred real hands-on experience. I worked for an independent dance artist booking her tours and fundraising- she was Dyslexic and spoke three languages so much of it was putting her thoughts into words with her, then for a dance advocacy body campaigning for funding & support for dancers within political circles, then for an arts funder as their marketing & comms lead – Jerwood.  All the while I took my holiday to work in events May- October, just like my summer work on the Island. 

Just before the pandemic I went fully Freelance, adding my coaching business to my portfolio and never looked back. I have more time to focus on my art practice now and get to work with loads of artists that I find interesting.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Being my own boss. Producing – being in the middle of a fast moving complex practical situation and communicating and making decisions through it, surrounded by brilliant people who I love working with.  

Executive coaching – sharing the joy of my clients when they unlock their potential, working from my garden shed, talking with loads of different artists.  

Artist – Seeing audiences connecting with the finished work, learning new things to make new & different work, deep dives into people and psychology and hands on work with materials and movement. 

What is the hardest thing about your job?

Producing – living on site in a van in the rain & wind if we have a wet season, leaving everyone at the end of the show – I miss them! As an Artist – isolation, endless rejections of proposals, lack of resources and structural inequality of the sector,

What skills or attributes do you believe have been crucial to your success in your career?

Persistence. Overestimation of my capabilities and stamina to catch up with myself. The ability to connect and communicate with a wide range of people, sometimes very different to myself. Can do attitude. 

Writing – although I find this so hard and realise now I need extra support, I never let that stop me though. Faith. 

If you could give advice to someone aspiring to have a job like you, what would it be?

Production Manager – hone your communication skills, this job requires getting people on board and working together. Hone your problem solving skills too – you will use these daily. Get physically fit – this is an on your feet job. Build your networks- I have only applied for one job in 15 years in this line of work, the rest have come through people I know. 

Executive Coach- learn about trauma & mental health, especially if you want to work with artists. Coaches can do a lot of harm without trauma informed methodologies. Learn to listen 99% of the time. 

Artist- think really carefully about the reality of being an artist, there are lots of parts of the creative industries that require creativity and some are better paid and easier than others.  Do you like being on your own or with people? Are you internally or externally motivated? Will  a life with financial restrictions fulfil you? 

What do you think was a benefit about growing up on the Isle of Wight?

Growing up with the idea that you had to either stay and make something of yourself – start a business etc or leave and find your fortune. There are lots of small & micro businesses on the island and working for yourself is a respected option. 

What was the most difficult thing about growing up on the Isle of Wight?

Transport – my dad worked on the mainland during the week and mum didn’t drive. I still hate buses now. 

And there were only a few people in school that I connected with and no means to meet new people- small communities. That said we are all still friends 30 years later. 

What do you want to do next?

This year I am writing a dance-film, running a series of workshops about active listening for ADHD people, and curating a video art festival about AI. 

Art: insta: @AlexisZeldaStevens 

Producing & Executive Coaching: @helpingartistsmake work

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