Making Art Count

Questioning creative types of varying fields and expertise as to the significance of art in our lives, serves to unpick what has happened and what our futures might be with or without accessible art practices and spaces.

The rate of greedy development across London has killed off many art spaces, fringe clubs, boltholes for local organisations and sites for cultural community activities, so that suburbs are changing way past what could have been deemed ‘comfortable regeneration’. What happens to the artists and makers? What becomes of a scene, when cultural providers disappear (how) do they reappear elsewhere? Finding available, affordable space requires a lot of research and often one has to adopt ways of making and sourcing space outside of conventional methods. For example, HOOS has been involved in activating public art interventions in open, public or ‘disused’ spaces. This also includes co-organising movable, home-based art salons as a result of difficulties in finding affordable spaces for group shows and artist talks. This isn’t anything new, amongst artists, but perhaps it is becoming much more common practice.

Along with artists, small businesses and market traders have been forced to fold and are leaving urban spaces. A vast demographic of niche experts is disappearing and we will not get this back during the next retro-revivalist fad era. The impact of artist evictions from affordable studios in Stockwell, Brixton, Bermondsey and Peckham, as well as the simple fact of being priced out of an area, has resulted in community contacts and pathways to culture being lost. In a recent HOOS interview, John Worthington (Director, Academy of Urbanism) stated, “The death of the artist is one where the Local Authority informs and stipulates the space that creative people have to move into. The successful spaces will be the ones that are artist-driven.”

HOOS is interested in learning from artists and creative people, about what they have done to make significant changes to the way they create and how they live their lives in light of creative space restrictions. Would you be comfortable with being interviewed about your tactics to survive as an artist and/or to provide culture? If you are an artist or some kind of creative, how often do you explain to others, the importance of your work? Maybe you should start to do this. In some small way, it might make a positive difference as to how artists are perceived. What we already know on the issue of judging artists is that this is tied in with whether people see art as a profession: how ‘professional’ or how much money an artist can bring in. When Lucy was interviewed she made the comment “I looked up the word ‘career’ in the dictionary and it states something like, ‘a commitment to something over a sustained time’. That’s my art practice…. I see it as something central to my life that I need to do, and I find it devaluing to say it’s a hobby.”

The majority of artists don’t fit into a corporate business model and nor should they have to try to. Quantifying the ‘return’ on artistic practice is problematic because measuring outcomes requires a leap of faith for buy-in to long-term, future benefits and few developers have the patience and desire to invest this way. But Londoners’ ardent consumption of culture is proven over and again and when we’re not experiencing it through the city’s entertainment, we choose – or hope to – live in areas where cultural riches have become a highly tradable USP, as has been demonstrated in Brixton (and in Shoreditch, Hackney, Bermondsey…). A local Brixton creative, Julie, urged, “Brixton is now such a vibrant, creative area, so support those vibrant, creative people.” On this note, how much is being given back to creative communities by the people who choose to move to these areas, drawn by the idea of what culture can do for a house price?

To date, HOOS interviewees have comprised artists, fashion designers, educators, urbanists, makers and musicians. Through HOOS we have discussed the importance of the presence of art throughout ones education, starting at early childhood; the value of art in peoples’ lives; the dilemma of sourcing space to be creative; long-term versus short-term studio acquisition and alternative spaces; the importance of planning urban areas with art as an integral component; art for mental well-being; art as a vehicle for activism; and more. HOOS will continue to search for solutions for finding space and raising an awareness of the value of artists, while calling into question why access to culture is not a given.

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