Hoping you’re well and having an enjoyable week so far. Moving away from the arts for a minute, I would like to draw your attention to the continued efforts of the JAGS Foundation based in London. Over the last couple of years I’ve befriended its CEO Tracy Ford, who is a strong, persistant and determined individual I’ve come to admire and respect.
It has been 10 years since Tracey’s son, James Andre Smartt Ford, was fatally shot in Streatham ice skating rink. Since then JAGS was born, an acronym of his name, to campaign in reducing youth on youth violence on the streets of London. Since its start, JAGS has reached thousands with its message, from conferences to schools to universities to workshops. The organisation has campaigned in a number of youth violence specialisms, such as restorative justice, joint enterprise, female offending and supporting families of lost lives. JAGS has won multiple awards for its efforts and continues to support, educate and empower those affected by youth violence. The JAGS Foundation has its Gala Dinner at London’s City Hall on Friday 17th November and invites you to attend. If you are in London in November please join us for a night of inspiration where friends and supporters will come together to help mark the 10th Anniversary of what has become a catalyst organisation of change for young people in London.
For colleagues and blog followers in the UK, the Architects for Social Housing (ASH) collective take up residence in London’s ICA Upper Galleries. ASH are exhibiting their designs and work, including a map of London’s existing estate regenerations, at public open days on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 August, and they host informal discussions about different aspects of the housing crisis every evening of the week. As an ongoing presence, the group embodies the application of cultural practice within social activism. Established in 2015, ASH is a working collective of architects, urban designers, engineers, surveyors, planners, filmmakers, photographers, web designers, artists, writers and housing campaigners operating with developing ideas under set principles.
With the dramatic increase in economic disparity across the UK, there is a heightened need to find sustainable solutions to the housing ‘crisis’. ASH’s work responds to a lack of support for social housing and the communities they home. First among the principles they work to is the conviction that increasing the housing capacity on existing council estates, rather than redeveloping them as luxury apartments, is a more sustainable solution to London’s housing needs than the demolition of social housing, enabling the continued existence of the communities they house.
The residency runs from August 15th to 20th. For further info please visit the ICA website.
She Has a Name, the 2016 Canadian drama by the Kooman brothers, was released in the UK this month and will be shown at selected cinemas across the country during the coming weeks. The film’s primary focus is the harrowing story of two young girls who become victims of trafficking in Thailand. The film highlights the level of human trafficking, the height of corruption and the power businessmen yield from such a despicable activity. Please click on the link to read my review of the film for Occhi Magazine.
Soul of a Nation shines a bright light on the vital contribution of black artists to a dramatic period in American art and history.
The show opens in 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights movement and its dreams of integration. In its wake emerged more militant calls for Black Power: a rallying cry for African American pride, autonomy and solidarity, drawing inspiration from newly independent African nations.
Artists responded to these times by provoking, confronting, and confounding expectations. Their momentum makes for an electrifying visual journey. Vibrant paintings, powerful murals, collage, photography, revolutionary clothing designs and sculptures made with Black hair, melted records, and tights – the variety of artworks reflects the many viewpoints of artists and collectives at work during these explosive times.
Some engage with legendary figures from the period, with paintings in homage to political leaders Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Angela Davis, musician John Coltrane and sporting hero Jack Johnson. Muhammad Ali is here in Andy Warhol’s famous painting. An original Sugar Shack painting by Ernie Barnes – known as a Marvin Gaye album cover – leaves the US for the first time.
Spanning the emergence of Black feminism, debates over the possibility of a unique Black aesthetic in photography, and including activist posters as well as purely abstract works, the exhibition asks how the concept of Black Art was promoted, contested and sometimes flatly rejected by artists across the United States.
With most of the 150 artworks on display in the UK for the first time, the exhibition introduces more than 50 exceptional American artists, including influential figures Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Lorraine O’Grady and Betye Saar, among numerous others. This landmark exhibition is a rare opportunity to see era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.
SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER
Soul of A Nation- Art in the Age of Black Power runs at the Tate Modern from 1st July to 22nd October. For further information please visit the Tate’s website
In recent months I’ve been working in the finance and lending sector. In the present financial climate, many small businesses and social enterprises are struggling to get off the ground due to a lack of support from high street banks. This is a particular concern for the arts sector, arguably made worse by the UK’s imminent departure from the EU. Fortunately there are alternative lending channels in the form of responsible finance providers (community development finance associations) that service and support the needs of such initiatives. The Key Fund in Sheffield UK is one of these providers. On a visit to one of its events, I was fortunate to meet Nicola Greenan, External Relations Director of East Street Arts. East Street Arts is one of a growing number of beneficiaries of Key Fund financing. Nicola and her colleagues kindly agreed to answer a few questions regarding East Street Arts and its objectives.
How did East Street Arts start?
In 1993, East Street Arts emerged in Leeds with the aim to take reference and inspiration from the rich history of, and current developments within, the artist-led movement. Karen Watson and Jon Wakeman founded the organization on the ideology of the alternative, contesting the place for art and the role of the artist resulted in the initiation of studios, facilities, professional support and public activities.
The first public exhibition took place in 1994 in two temporary empty shop units underneath the railway arches in Leeds city centre.
In 2000 East Street Arts moved to Patrick Studios, the site of St.Patrick’s Social Club – a former boxing club on St.Mary’s Lane in Mabgate. With a capital grant it renovated the building with Leeds architects Baumann Lyons to create 34 custom designed artists studios and facilities.
The business has grown over the last 23 years; working across four permanent venues, eighty temporary and partner spaces across the UK, making use of civic spaces and the public realm, East Street Arts develops new work and positions art within our everyday lives and contexts.
What are the aims and objectives of East Street Arts and how do you aim to achieve them?
Our mission is to focus on the development of artists through our events programme, membership activities, professional development and studio/facility provision.
We aim to support artists to create work and experiences that bring lasting change to our everyday lives; we do this by supporting artists’ creative needs, wellbeing and prosperity and by providing an environment that nurtures creative exploration and collaboration for audiences.
How and who can be a member of this collective?
Anyone can become a member of East Street Arts. The ethos of our membership is about support and exchange. We need member involvement to help us ensure we are meeting member’s needs. We currently have over 300 members, many of which are also studio holders.
Our membership is national and subscription based, the fees represent 1% of our overall income and they and other raised funds directly support:
UK and Europe based residency opportunities
Access to facilities, equipment and space
One to one tailored professional development sessions
Promotional and profile platforms
A range of professional development sessions
An annual research trip to meet peers in key European city
A dedicated members monthly newsletter
How important are your studios in supporting artists and communities?
Studios expose the rich diversity of artists practice, broker new relationships, collaborations and events and play a pivotal role in a city’s cultural and creative identity.
We offer artists affordable, diverse and managed studios based within active and inspiring environments. Over the last twenty years studios have remained a constant and essential part in the work we do in support of artists.
Studio holders are an important part of our community and we work hard to ensure we have the right kind of space. We welcome artists working across art forms and at different stages of their careers.
We currently have over 200 artists and groups working across our range of venues in the UK. In Leeds we host studios at Patrick Studios, Barkston Studios and Union 105, and in Gateshead Old Town Hall. In addition we have a variety of studios within our Temporary Space scheme.
Can you explain the Art Hostel Leeds initiative and how it works?
Art Hostel is the first social enterprise Art Hostel in the UK, leading the way with a brand new concept: a social mission focused on strengthening the local economy by creating new jobs and encouraging income into the area via ethical tourism. Also supporting neighbourhood regeneration on the oldest street in Leeds, Kirkgate, an area earmarked by the city council for repair and reinstatement.
Art Hostel will pioneer a new model for artists to interact with their wider community – aiming to change the way people stay, encouraging visitors to contribute to the city of Leeds while they are here, providing a physical infrastructure to make, create, debate, sleep and explore. The basement project space will host a dynamic, rolling programme of artists events, installations, performances and creative happenings; also, this space can be hired, linking back out into the cultural underbelly of the city.
In terms of differentiating the offer, Art Hostel fulfills local demand – it is currently Leeds’ only year-round, budget-style-stay, offering bespoke accommodation from as little as £22.50 per person, per night in a shared dorm room, or in a choice of private bedroom’s, costing £55 per night, sleeping two.
Also Art Hostel is accessible to anyone – you don’t have to be involved in the creative sector to stay there, making art accessible to those who wish to be involved, but also to those who may not have otherwise chosen to participate, de-mystifying visual arts and discovering new audiences.
You received support from Key Fund, a community development financial lender. There is a lot of debate about the importance of funding for social enterprises at present. How important a part did they play in the success your initiative?
As this was a new business model for us as a charity and we needed to move swiftly to ensure we were ahead of the game, regular funding avenues would have been to lengthy a process. The timing of the project was so vital that gaining finance as quick as we could with a social investor that understood how the organisation operated was key to making the project happen. Without Key Funds support the project would not have happened.
You may recall me writing about Mark Ware and the Cathedra 900 project. The private viewing of the national touring art science exhibition entitled, ‘Reflecting Nature’ is on Thursday 8th September at Exeter Cathedral, England.
Reflecting Nature is an art science collaboration between multimedia artist Mark Ware MFA and psychologist Dr Nichola Street of Staffordshire University and comprises of an exhibition of digital art prints in the Chapter House that will be on display from 1st September until 30th September 2016 with a series of public engagement activities during that time designed to investigate audience responses to the art.