fbpx Business Enterprise Award Winner | Banks Mill Studios
Alana Gray

Business Enterprise Award Winner

Mon, 22/01/2024 - 13:18

In September 2023, Banks Mill staff visited the University of Derby’s MA Arts degree show to award one student with a Business Enterprise Award comprising of a 3-month studio residency and exhibition opportunity at Banks Mill Studios. Mixed-media artist and photographer Alana Gray was chosen, she has now taken up residence in studio 4.1. We asked Alana a few questions about her practice and how she plans to use her studio at Banks Mill on the run up to her Foyer Gallery exhibition in the Spring.  

Graduating from the University of Derby, Alana has a BA(Hons) Photography and an MA Arts (Fine Art & Photography). Alana has been studying and practicing photography since she was a teenager; however, upon completing her BA in photography, during her Masters, she began developing an art practice that also incorporated other media alongside photography. With support from her family, tutors, course mates, and staff at the University of Derby, she has now started developing her practice into a small business where she plans to share her artwork, whilst ensuring a sustainable relationship with her art practice. 

Throughout her studies at the University of Derby, she often accessed the Careers Hub, which helped to identify her skills and find opportunities. The MA Arts course also provided her with the chance to exhibit artwork in gallery spaces, both in Derby and Birmingham. Although her professional background is in photography – Alana has worked both in volunteer and paid roles, covering events, fairs, content creation for small businesses, and product photography. Alana believes these all led her to winning the Banks Mill Enterprise Award.  

Following on from her work at the MA Arts degree show (‘A Deconstructed Synthesis of ‘A Wonderful Existence’ 2023), Alana is currently looking to continue visualising music and sounds, this time focusing more on making visual concept artwork for potential animated or otherwise moving visual pieces. 

Currently working with a blend of lens-based practices, as well as painting, mark-making, and collage, Alana often describes her practice as an ‘abstracted process’, something that dances on a line between happenstance and intentionality. She finds expression, impermanence, material, and states of flux and forms fascinating, and it’s often a consideration when making her work. 

As a new start-up, Alana is currently looking to share her art prints, and gain feedback on what customers like and what other items or services they may need. However, all going well, she’s interested in expanding, and hopes not only to produce additional home items, and commissions, but also to provide places of business and public spaces with her work. 




SPOTLIGHT ON – Alana Gray  


1. Had you heard of Banks Mill before you won the Business Enterprise Award? 

Yes, while studying at University of Derby for my BA and MA I had heard about the studios at Banks Mill, and what they offer. I’ve also been fortunate to have already met tenants of Banks Mill, as well as previously being an associate member. 


2. What are you most looking forward to about having a studio space? 

Having access to a studio space will allow me to focus on developing creative ideas and works, which will feed into developing my small creative business. I’m able to utilise the space both for making new work, and for my product photoshoots; and having networking opportunities means I can gain the experience I need to put myself and my business out there.  

I’m looking forward to having a dedicated space to develop and test ideas for making work. I’ve never worked in a studio long term, so I’m excited to find out how my art practice and I will come to exist in this kind of space. 


3. Do you think working at Banks Mill will change your creative practice in anyway? 

I can’t say for sure that my practice will or won’t change - as a mixed-media artist, I often see it as being in a state of flux, depending on what my interests or concerns are, or what I’m making at the time. That being said, I believe working in Banks Mill will make an impression on how I make work, and I'm excited to see how those manifests. 


4. How has being given a free studio space supported your practice since graduating from your MA? 

It’s provided me with an opportunity to trial my practice in a space dedicated to making long term, full of others also dedicated to making - which is something I haven’t had the resources for or access to in the past. It also means I can focus on developing my ideas following my degree show work, as well as my small business. 


5. What kind of work are you hoping to make during your residency and on the build up to your Foyer Gallery exhibition? 

Following on from my work shown at my degree show (’A Deconstructed Synthesis of ‘A Wonderful Existence’), I’m currently looking to continue visualising music and sounds, this time focusing more on making visual concept artworks for potential animated or otherwise moving visualiser pieces. 


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