This month I’m very proud to announce Croydon born friend and fellow artist Elizabeth James opened her own contemporary art gallery in the heart of South Norwood SE25. The opening comes after winning a competition by Croydon Council as part of the plan to regenerate the borough.
The new gallery launched on Wednesday 7th December 2016 7-9pm, bringing an eclectic mix of art, design, gifts, homeware and workshops. The opening night included a raffle to help raise funds for all those affected by the recent tram crash in Croydon.
All money raised will be donated to Croydon Council ‘s official Crowdfunding page. Alongside Elizabeth’s own work, the gallery will host exhibitions showcasing the best of Croydon’s young talent. The gallery will also be inviting local primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges to participate in educational visits and workshops. There will also be Live Art on Saturday with guest artists creating art in the gallery window so the community can see their talent and work in process.
Elizabeth James is a contemporary UK Lifestyle Brand established in 2013. with products created using only British manufacturers in the UK.
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.
This week I had the pleasure to meet artist Jon Daniel at the launch of his latest exhibition entitled ’Black Space.’ The show is small collection of iconographic poster artworks celebrating black screen heroines and heroes from the world of Sci-Fi.
Science Fiction is a very interesting genre, particularly when a majority of big budget movie blockbusters throughout the years have depicted a rather morbid and apocalyptic future, where people of the African diaspora are near extinction or only represented by one supporting character. I guess the same can be said of many genres including historical epics such as Cleopatra or the recent Gods of Egypt. It was refreshing see a show celebrating iconic figures such as Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura and Morpheus from the Matrix Trilogy. My only disappointment was the limited number of works displayed.
I have noticed and welcome the growing popularity of Afrofuturism and Jon Daniel, the man behind the Afro Supa Hero collection, contributes to this comprehensively. Classically trained as a graphic designer, Jon has worked largely as an art director for a number of London’s leading advertising agencies. He has also co-founded two creative companies -Headland, a creative partnership and ebb&flow®, a boutique branding company creating work for a range of corporate, cultural and public sector clients. The artist has created a reputation in the cultural arena. This is includes curating “Post-Colonial: Stamps from the African Diaspora” and “JA50” exhibitions with global stamp emporium, Stanley Gibbons. His exhibition ‘Afro Supa Hero’, based on his personal collection of black action figures and comic books exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in 2014.
Black Space runs from today to October 31st at Upstairs At the Ritzy, Brixton, London SW2. Check it out if you’re in the vicinity. For more info on the artist visit https://twitter.com/jondaniel66
Last week I visited London’s Tiwani Contemporary to see its latest exhibition entitled ‘Come Forth as Gold‘ featuring artist Virginia Chihota.
The artist was born in 1983 in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe and currently lives and works in Podgorica, Montenegro. She graduated in Fine Arts from the National Art Gallery Studios in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2006. Chihota represented Zimbabwe at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 and was awarded the Prix Canson in the same year. Recent exhibitions include: Goodman Gallery, Cape Town (2015); Saatchi Gallery (2015); Kunsthalle Faust, Hannover (2014); Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (2014); and the Lyon Biennale (2011).
The exhibition title makes reference to a passage in the Old Testament Book of Job. Job, considering his plight, compares himself to gold that is tried in a crucible, coming forth purer following the application of fire, which serves to separate every particle of impurity or alloy and leave only the pure metal. The notion of rebirth following self-reflection is central to the exhibition.
In recent years, Chihota has submitted her life, particularly her recent experience of marriage and motherhood, to thoughtful observation, producing a body of work of striking formal complexity, full of religious symbolism and allusions to the female body. The theme of renewal and rebirth is carried out through Chihota’s iconography, which conveys the fragility of the human figure, often trapped within womb-like membranes
As a recurring motif in Chihota’s work, the womb, alongside eggs and patterns of seeding and growing, shows a continued exploration of the themes of motherhood and change. On the body as an inspiration central to her work, Chihota observes:
‘The body, though it is strong, remains limited: it is only the spirit within it that makes it a “life”. I am always looking to depict that form within the spirit.’
Whilst I would describe the collection of work as both interesting and provocative, it would have been nice to have seen additional pieces to further entertain my curiosity with her work.
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.
Davina Hamilton writes about Notting Hill Carnival’s 50th year celebration, assuring the public that “Yes, this is Notting Hill Carnival’s 50th year,” as Debora Alleyne De Gazon, creative director of the London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust, clears up the confusion about the year the event began. Here are excerpts; please read full article in […]