An artist needs a place to play. Last week whilst at the opening of Lou Hazelwood’s new exhibition Intersections – inside Queens House on Paragon Street until 1st Sept – the topic of infrastructure for creative progression, or rather the lack of it was raised within the group.
A few years ago when I regularly wrote about the local music scene I suggested the same was lacking there – no pathways or incubate schemes to take an artist from education, to working and supporting themselves, in their studied field in the real world. There have been a number of showcase industry events, with discussions, Q & A’s professional panels, masterclasses etc. Similarly there have been these kind of showcase events for visual and fine arts. (HIP Gallery inside Princes Quay delivers a programme of events and opportunities running throughout the year, but they are limited due to lack of funding and strong sustainable support)
None of these annual or one-off events directly respond to the lack of infrastructure. What shape or form this needs to take I don’t know, I do think it has to be a joined up approach that brings together the educators and companies not just to match skills, but to support an artist to explore, to experiment, to grow outside of the course requirements, and after the awards have been given out. Some graduates get the opportunity to work as fractional lecturers and find a way in to the real world but with long-serving lecturers being shed, faster than a trailer of hay in a force ten gale, this is a rare circumstance.
‘Every artist needs a place to play,’ said Lou Hazelwood Fine Art graduate of the University of Humberside and then Sheffield Hallam in 2012.
Queens House where we are viewing Lou’s work, is a space for artists to exhibit in the city run by Creative ENRG whose tagline is ‘Celebrating and supporting creative businesses in Hull and East Riding’
The problem is this: the space is only open to the public two days a week and is currently shared with another business. You can’t really suggest this space as a working studio… also it lacks wifi – an essential I’d have thought – and then there are so many layers of red tape regarding access, it can currently – unless changes are made – only ever function as an exhibition space.
In the Duckie Shop artists had a place to play, lots of different people playing and working together towards creating the Icons for Pride in Hull. It was easily accessible, open four days a week, the atmosphere created inside was inclusive, supportive welcoming and fun. The work created was testament to the warmth and talent of those who for that brief month found a place to play.
Something the Legacy team for Hull 2017 could look at is creating a space – call it a safe space if you like – for artists to play. A multi-use space with minimal red-tape, artist-led where different groups could explore their practice, share knowledge and ideas with other artists, without the constant worry about funding or paying for the upkeep. It doesn’t have to be a new purpose built building either, that vacant shop unit was perfect and the monthly rent was a drop in the ocean for the multimillion pound companies operating in this city. A space such as the one described, would represent a lasting commitment to local artists, by HULL UK CITY OF CULTURE 2017 LTD.
The chasm between graduation and paid employment is huge and widening with each passing year. At this time I’ve seen no figures that identify the numbers of how many arts graduates locally, go on to find employment in the creative sector in the region. Perhaps that’s something else the 2017 Legacy Team could answer. (Many simply skedaddle out of here and head down south Where the streets are platinum-paved, party invites pile up on the parquet floors… If someone does know these figures do please pass them on.
My alma mater Hull School of Art and Design, has just been named a Freedom of Expression Centre by artist Bob and Roberta Smith. It sounds like a grand idea… ‘About time,’ said the alumni sipping wine and eating canapés, at the invitation-only launch event. I crashed the party, along with two recent arts graduates Amy Scribble and William Vinegrad.
The announcement was celebrated with an exhibition of works by artist Bob and Roberta Smith, which is open to the public and includes a live performance by the Apathy Band at the Adelphi Club during Freedom Festival 2017. Apart from hosting what is a very fine exhibition that stretches from the foyer upstairs and downstairs into the Fine Art studios plus a series of student programmes, performances and talks, all of which feed into Look Up and the 2017 Freedom theme, what does it mean for artists, graduates, students and the city as a whole?
There was a ceremonial spoken-word performance where the founder of the 2013 Arts Party read from text on a dozen painted metal plates, each delivering a resounding crash at it was dropped on the hard floor.
(For those used to performing their words, this added something to the usual drop sheet technique)
The exhibition of ‘slogan art’ serves as a rallying cry, a call to arms Art as Activism advocating Art and arts education as a human right. Any act of CREATIVITY in a country that doesn’t VALUE Grassroots and Arts Education, should be viewed as an act of PROTEST.
There is a strong sense of social justice running throughout the exhibition which includes ‘A Letter to Michael Gove’, and a more recent work demanding we remember the lives lost in Grenfell Tower. The exhibition is dominated by a 15 metre text on board running the length of the studio, that contains an interview with Black Lives Matter activist Blair Imani and her account of what really happens, when security services turn their guns on peaceful protestors in the U.S.
With all this revolutionary fervour in the air, talk of freedom and justice and doing what is right, rather than that which looks good accompanied by the usual bout of backslapping, can we please see something concrete. Can we see something that lasts, that changes the way that people view artists and art in this city, something that encourages artists to change the way they think about themselves: something that says to every artist in this city you are vital: you are valued.
Can we please have a place to play.