Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Importance of Social Art Spaces

Students of the Time-based Media course at Edna Manley College participate in a studio visit at NLS
Over the past three weeks I have had the opportunity to engage in different ways with the new local space, NLS. The space has been active for about a year and is run by Deborah Caroll Anzinger and a small team of volunteers. With each visit a new opportunity presented itself to the various hats I wear as contemporary artist, art educator and arts writer among other things. On my first visit I had the chance to meet the newly arrived artist participating in the residency programme, Rodell Warner.  There was also the chance to present my work to visiting curators and catch-up with other artists.

Local artist, Leasho Johnson talks about branding, sexuality and identity in his current work
On the next visit there, just a week after, myself and other artists had the chance to have discussions about trends in art, the local art scene and look at each others work. The interesting part for me was that even though as local artists we were familiar with each others work, this more intimate, personal and social setting was a rarity. There was the realization that as artists we mostly ever saw each other's work when it was already smoothly projecting the aura of 'Art' after being mounted in national and international exhibitions. We never had public chances to see the developmental stages and phases or to listen to the background and ideas of the work. What occurred to me was that we mostly understood each others work as exhibition items or tools to win curatorial, institutional and public favour and notice. This second visit to NLS made me ask the question as to why local artists didn't meet to discuss and show their work to each other more often. If like our Tourism industry we only ever maintain links with the external purveyor of our 'goods' then an element of non-sustainability and risk of exploitation may creep in. 

Visiting artist, Rodell Warner, explains development and technical processes in his work to students
 That visit pushed me to make an appointment to have my current class of Time-based Media students from Edna Manley College make a studio visit with Warner. This past week the students took an approximately twenty minute walk over from Edna Manley College to NLS at Mountain View Avenue to listen to Warner's presentation. The proprietor, Anzinger began by introducing students to the micro-gallery/ studio and outdoor yard which form NLS. We heard about the yearly curatorial programme and open-call submissions from artists as well as the local and global initiatives being encouraged. The presentation once again fueled questions as to how the art scene and creative industry locally and regionally would be affected if more little hubs of small but active local spaces like NLS were to start-up. It is encouraging as Gallery 178 downtown has also recently had its first committee meeting so good things should be in store. There are undoubtedly many more local spaces and groups but the interconnectedness with each other and public awareness is thin and thus makes these spaces sometimes difficult to access. It can only create a healthier cultural environment if multiple independent spaces, encouraging social interaction and supporting creative practice were operating. The result might lead to the much needed diversity and counter-balance to often all-encompassing and sometimes exclusive state-initiatives for creative industries and The Arts.

Have you interacted with NLS or are involved with another independent initiative which facilitates local creative practices?



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