Valerie

Leading cultural and creative arts consultant, Valerie Chang attained her BA (Hons) Art & Design at Bradford School of Art in 1981.

Valerie came to Bradford College in 1979 to enrol on the new Art & Design Diploma. She recalled, "This was the first year of this multi-disciplinary course and encompassed so many things; printmaking, textiles, batik, life drawing. We had really good teachers: Bruce Black, Diane Bates, Martin Dutton and Patrick Eyre, who taught art history. I particularly remember listening to his lecture on the Bauhaus movement in what is now the Grove Library. I remember a going on trips to Scotland for research and experimental work, and to London for gallery visits. At that time grants were generous and there were lots of resources. Fellow students included Ruth Fox and the sculptor, John Bremner, who became a technician at Slade.

I lived in Macmillan Halls. It was during the time of the Yorkshire Ripper so we didn't go out alone but mixed with all the other students in halls and I am still friends with some of them. I was the only Chinese female student in College but I always made friends with people of all nationalities. During the second year I rented house with different students. After the Diploma stage I did another year's conversion to obtain the degree. I went back to halls for the final year as I found it easier to focus on my studies there. I used to go the Students Union Disco at the Queens Hall and I remember winning a t shirt in a dance contest. In my year the guys were really into drinking but the year below were a different breed – much more ambitious and focussed. Ruth and I hung around with them. They were much more active, with less drinking and more dancing!

Halls had a very international focus and Bradford felt safe as a student town. It was buzzing, lively and very multicultural and I met local people too. Bradford's manageable size and the mix of people made it a mini global experience. It was not expensive either and I loved curries. Before I left in 1981, Diane Bates, the textile tutor encouraged me to go to London to do my MA. I will always remember her saying, 'Valerie, whatever you do in life, you have only got one chance. Go for it.'" Although Valerie didn't get the place she wanted, she applied this advice throughout her career and fulfilled her ambition of studying a Master's degree in 1991 when her employer sponsored her place on the MA Museum & Gallery Management programme.

Valerie continued, "After my first degree I had to earn a living so I applied to do teacher training and completed the PGCE in Brighton, which I found very expensive after Bradford. I then taught in school for two years before I decided that maybe my vocation was to help artists and I should work in a gallery." Following an Arts & Administration Certificate in London, Valerie I became Arts Officer, working for Lambeth Council, then Southwark before spending 7 years at Peckham. During this period Valerie worked with lots of artists developing exhibitions, visual arts events and community projects.

Valerie was particularly involved in innovative projects with Chinese artists, both traditional and contemporary. In 1987 Valerie established the first cross London Chinese Arts organised and programmed a festival of Chinese Arts. She went on to develop numerous exhibitions, events, public art and installations promoting Chinese art and culture at in London, many as a commissioned freelance consultant. Her specialist expertise and drive led to Valerie being chosen as one of four people in the country to win a prestigious Cultural Leadership Programme award. She spent four months in 2009 working on marketing and development for a contemporary arts centre in Chongqing, building international links and inter-cultural exchange.  Although Valerie was from a Chinese family and spoke some Mandarin she had grown up in Birmingham and this was the first time she had lived in China. She felt an immediate psychological connection and found it a very challenging but rewarding experience.Valerie Chang
 
Valerie received a British Council award to return to China in early 2011 to work on a project about the global impact of arts and the environment. She will be linking to artists of Chinese heritage and hopes to launch a global exhibition - will bring to London and then tour it. As a freelance consultant Valerie has swapped security for the variety of working with and for numerous companies and organisation offering cultural management and training as well as delivering arts projects. She says, "My experiences have made me re-evaluate being a woman, being a woman of ethnic origin and being a woman in the arts sector. Anything is possible but you have to be open to it. The challenge confronts you - having the self-belief that something will work out and that if the course takes you in a different direction, there will still be a connection. Ultimately I want to make a difference."