Chop, Chop, Chop – more arts cuts

andrew-cooper-dis-location-at-newport-museum-art-gallery-2011

This has been a disturbing week for the visual arts in Wales and the wider museums sector: We heard that National Museums  Wales will be shedding around 35 jobs and that after six years Mermaid & Monster will stop their work of promoting artists at art fairs.

The M&M website has already vanished but you can read the statement here  or send messages of support here. However there was something else that almost slipped under my radar. In his email to tell me about the end of M&M, Gordon Dalton told me what the future holds for M&M, “There’ll be a couple of M&M shows this year, but we had been working on our largest show to date at Newport Museum – which has now been cancelled due to closure – this has left a big gap in our work.”

Did you spot that bombshell? If the rumour mill is to be believed (and I have several very reliable sources for this information), the temporary exhibitions programme (TEP) seems to be succumbing to the swingeing cuts that local authorities are making to save money. Try as I might (and this blog follows many hours of scouring through council minutes on the Newport Council website) I can find no publicly available resolution to axe this really important programme, previously featured in my other blog posts (Andrew Cooper here and Simon Fenoulhet here), but The South Wales Argus picked it up before Christmas in this story.

Simon Fenoulhet 1

Since the Arts Council of Wales Investment Review, 2010, whose outcome was announced just before the depth and severity of the economic crisis had really been computed, local authorities have come under increasing pressure to trim what they might term “non essential” services, i.e. those that they have no statutory obligation to deliver and the arts were always going to be an easy target. The recent furore around the 100% arts funding cuts in Newcastle  might make the cutting of the programme at NMAG look modest in comparison, but then in Newport there’s little else to cut, no other public galleries in a city sandwiched between Cardiff and Bristol that should/could be attracting audiences from both catchments to help revive its failing fortunes in the wake of the withdrawal of some of the major High St chains and the downsizing (though thankfully not now the closure) of the Passport Office in Newport. As the new city centre development gets back on track after a long hiatus, the museum and art gallery will be right next to a big part of the development.

But contemporary gallery programmes are not just about leisure/pleasure. Along with creating destinations for cultural tourists (who spend lots of money as a result of their visits – see here if you like statistics), they are also a way of engaging communities with ideas and with the notion of continuing their education and thinking beyond the classroom, and this is how entrepreneurship can be encouraged, along with the first steps into further education opportunities. So losing jobs at the National Museum or at Newport Museum & Art Gallery seems to be counter-productive as Wales struggles to roll with the financial punches.And, of course, gallery visitors, interested in contemporary art, are also interested in contemporary theatre, so what impact would the closure of the NM&AG temporary exhibitions programme have on audiences for The Riverfront, which also has a series of gallery spaces (albeit more community focussed than NM&AG’s)?

Later today Rosemary Butler AM, Assembly Member for Newport West since 1999 and Presiding Officer of the National Assembly will be opening 56:56 an exhibition that celebrates 56 years of 56 Group Wales. It opens at 11.30am and all are welcome to get along to show support. As far as I can gather, this will be the penultimate show in the Temporary Exhibitions Programme, which has been running for over 40 years. I sincerely hope that she will lend her support to the programme in any public consultation that must surely follow a decision to close the TEP.

Fresh Paint 2

If lost, we will also be saying goodbye to an important new strand of work to create a showcase for recent graduates – Fresh Paint in 2012, brought together emerging artists from art schools across South Wales. Visual Arts Officer, Shaun Featherstone, planned  to expand the reach across Wales and over the border. This is particularly sad as NM&AG was really beginning to connect with the Fine Art Course at University of Wales, Newport.

But of course, the Fine Art course is coming to an end and I’ll be giving what I can only imagine will be last talk to Fine Art Students at UWN as part of Creative Futures 2013. What can I tell them? That the opportunities for them to continue their practice in Newport and contribute to it’s creative and economic future have now shrunk further? When I look at the buzz created by artists in Cardiff and Swansea, supported by the hubs of the council funded galleries I can see that there is so much that Newport could be achieving, so much new additional funding that can be drawn into the city, stimulating activity for the benefit of the wider community.

The Radical Xmas Card show 2

I hope the rumours are wrong – please use the comments posts to let me know if you can confirm or deny them or to add your voice. Local Authority budgets for the next year will be set soon so if action is needed it will have to be quick. I’ll be following up on this as the picture becomes clearer.

Update #1 there’s now an online petition to save the exhibition programme at NMAG you can sign it here

Update #2 NMAG has approximately 28,000 visitors per year, or 90 per day. If they each spend a modest £2.50 (and most cultural tourism multipliers are many times higher) that’s £70,000 that goes into the local community, not to mention rail and bus fares.

Before the Arts Council of Wales’ Investment Review, NMAG had an ACW revenue grant of £42,374. The programme costs Newport £40,000 to run, including salaries, on-costs and the programme budget, the latter is supplemented by a current Arts Council of Wales Lottery grant of £13,314. This would have delivered fourteen exhibitions, but the programme will be curtailed if the cuts are approved. The TEP also enables exhibiting artists to apply for funding to create new works for their exhibition at NMAG (and many of the exhibitions are of new work not seen anywhere else), supporting the wider arts economy in Wales and helping to retain talent.

If you want to register your concern about the proposed cut to the Temporary Exhibitions Programme at NMAG you can write to the Leader of Newport Council, Councillor Bob Bright (contact details here) and if you live in Newport you can contact the Councillor for your ward here and/or take part in the public consultation about budget cuts here, but be quick, all responses must be in by Feb 13 in advance of the council meeting on Feb 26. NB there is no reference in the consultation documents to the closure of NMAG’s TEP nor of other culture cuts so it’s difficult to see how the public are supposed to make an informed decision.

 

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Open Doors, Closing Doors – Cardiff Open Studios

David FitzJohn TactileBOSCH Citizen

This weekend (27 & 28 October 2012), as part of Cardiff Contemporary, around 100 artists will fling open their doors and welcome people in to see what they get up in their creative work spaces for Cardiff Open Studios.

This is the first time that there’s been this concerted effort by so many artists and is an indicator of the collaborative spirit that pervades the first outing of the two month visual & applied arts & design festival that is Cardiff Contemporary (01 October – 30 November).

There’ll be a bittersweet tang in the air because this weekend marks the end of tactileBOSCH‘s existence in the old Victorian laundry that this throbbingly vibrant group of artists has occupied for 12 years.

I first wrote about tactileBOSCH here when I was still just dipping a toe in the blogosphere’s murky waters. Buried in that blog is an interview with co-founder of tB, Kim Fielding so here it is again so you don’t have to rummage around looking for it. Though, as a still very green trainee journalist I hadn’t factored in my interview subject scoffing chocolate biscuits (provided by me as a bribe to get my interview), nor the very necessary hum of a fan heater – tB could be arctic in the winter.

The importance of places like tB can’t be overstated: incubators for new talent; studio spaces for economically challenged artists (most of the artists I know); platforms for work that doesn’t fit into other gallery spaces; a meeting of minds; a buzz. So much. I’ve already written about why affordable artists’ studios are important here so I won’t bang on, but the loss of tB from the Cardiff art scene will be keenly felt and it will be mourned by all the artists from across the UK and the globe who have had a chance to make and show work there.

So tonight (27 Oct), from 6pm there’ll be the party of a lifetime and, as always, everyone is welcome.

Blowback tactileBOSCH 2012

But before that party, there are plenty of other studios for you to visit and there’s bound to be tea, cake, chat, great work, friendly artists just waiting to say hello. The Cardiff Open Studios website has lots of helpful advice for planning your trip, including this map to guide you around the city.

Here are the venues and artists – take a deep breath, it’s comprehensive:

André Stitt’s Studio Artist: André Stitt Anthony Shapland’s Studio Artist: Anthony Shapland Butetown Artists Studios Artists: Philip Nicol, David Gould, Richard Cox, Mary Husted, Maggie James, Carwyn Evans, Carol Hiles, Annie Giles Hobbs, Dilys Jackson, Jan Beeney, Will Roberts Cardiff Print Workshop Artists: Anne Williams, Lauren Burgess, Catherine Ade, Becci Holmes, Jane Taylor, Dave Pettersen, Claire Carter, Georgina Brownlow, Sue Paton, Sue Edwards, Mana Pon, Sally Williams, Jane Marchesi, Eirian Lloyd, Bill Chambers, Lilith Gough, Jackie Shackson, Jan Arwyn Jones, Steve Griffiths Fireworks Clay Studios Artists: Becky Adams, Dan Allen, John Blackwell, Lowri Davies, Natalia Dias, Virginia Graham, Diane Horne, Lisa Krigel, Frankie Locke, Nicola Moorhouse, Sara Moorhouse, Zoe Preece, Matthew Thompson, Caroline Taylor, Paul Wearingm Gemma Wilde, Joseph Hopkinson, Jin Eui Kim, Louise Hall, Carol Freehan, Ann Jones.Fox Studio Artists: Phil Lambert, Catherine Lewis, Sam Aldridge, Elbow Room, Cathryn Lowri Griffiths, Jude Noon, Sara Annwyl Geraint Evans’ Studio Artist: Geraint Evans Inkspot Studios Artist: Candice Black Jacqueline Alkema’s Studio Artists: Jacqueline Alkema Kings Road Studios Artists: Jan Williams, Jo Berry, Gordon Dalton, Lee Campbell, James Charlton, Alun Rosser, Andy Fung, Amber Mottram, Rabab Ghazoul, Brian Watkins, Sam Pickthall, Chris Moore, Margaret Sian Williams, Chloe Barry, Barrie J Davies. Molly Curley’s Studio Artist: Molly Curly Morgan Arcade Studios Daniel Hamilton, Nicole Miles, Heloise Godfrey, Lynton Black, Liam O’ Connor,Christopher Holloway, Julien Decaudin, Godmachine, Emma Levey, Lucy Daniels, Cath Jones, Cath Wetherhead, Nic Jones, Robert Lo Bue (Applingua), Sarah HIll (Applingua), Yoke Creative Morgen Hall’s Studio Artist:Morgen Hall Oriel Canfas Gallery Artists: Alun Hemming, Anthony Evans, Chris Griffin, Pete Sainty, Adrian Metcalfe Printhaus Artists: Printhaus Print Workshops, Shaun James, Alys Wall, Jan Bennett, Sophie Barras, Sue Roberts, Liz Picton, Jenny Cashmore, Goat Major Projects, Nathalie Hooper, Cinzia Mutigli Print Market Project Artists: Pete Williams and Print workshops facilities. Studio b Artists: Anna Rafferty, Emily Lander, Kelly Best, Lauren Foulkes, Louise Shenstone, Molly Firth, Rhiannon Boswell, Elena Andruhiv tactileBOSCH Gallery and Workshops Artists Kim Fielding and a host of others presenting at final show after 6pm 27th October. Third Floor Gallery Studios Artist: Ian Smith Warwick Hall Studios Artists: Matt Cook, Freya Dooley, Matthew Evans, Gabrielle Frazer, Rebecca Wyn Kelly, Beth Lewis, Ellie Young

There are links to all of the artists and studios on the Cardiff Open Studios site. All of this has been pulled together by Richard Higlett in an astonishingly short space of time.

It’s going to be a great weekend. Hope to see you there.

Backwards and Onward

Happy 2012 blog fans and welcome, as the last pine needles embed themselves in the carpet, to a rather random review of the visual arts year in Wales.

And it was a good one, with lots of highlights:

There have been some mighty fine shows on offer this year and I’ve been lucky to see a lot of them. In no particular order of favouriteness here are some of the ones that tooted my horn:

Project Object at Oriel Myrddin in Carmarthen had everything going for it. I love it when artists are let loose on collections, or people are invited to talk about or curate objects that mean something special to them. This show came in four equally good parts and gave me the chance to come as close as I’m likely to get to the Aurora Borealis and slip a poodle into a public gallery. The Glynn Vivian unleashed David Cushway and some delighted individuals on their precious collection of ceramics. The resulting film,  Last Supper at The Glynn Vivian, shows how passionate folk become when asked to talk about the objects they love.

One would never have guessed that the Glynn Vivian team had been holding their collective breaths, waiting to get the green light for the new development project – the programme was as lively as ever. I’ve already written up my highlight here. The off site programme continues – follow it here.

Neil Mcnally was let loose on Newport Museum & Art gallery to curate a show – The Institute of Mental Health is Burning. Mcnally selected objects from NMAG’s fine collection, mixing it up with a host of artists. Those who went will have Goldie Lookin’ Chain’s Newport State of Mind (You’re Not From Newport) etched into their memory banks forever more. NMAG also brought us Dis-location by Andrew Cooper, an artist who never fails to engage my attention. Pete Telfer, God of Culture Colony, filmed Cooper talking about his work.

In mid Wales, Oriel Davies gave us two artists associated with the 2007 Wales at the Venice Biennale offering: Bedwyr Williams and Paul Granjon. Williams’ show, Nimrod, launched with one of his trademark darkly funny performances and the humour threaded through the exhibition, which coincided with the National Eisteddfod up the road in Wrexham – Williams took the Gold medal and went on to win the People’s Choice and Ifor Davies Award in an unprecedented hat trick.

Bedwyr Williams, Nimrod Oriel Davies

Granjon took over the gallery to create a workshop for unlikely gizmos with very willing volunteers for Oriel Factory. With a suite of his quirky drawings and a loop of films featuring some of his performances, inventions and songs to spur them on, the workshop elves came up with some highly inventive creations – none of which are likely to feature in the Innovations catalogue any day soon.

Across the Cambrian mountains, Aberystwyth Arts Centre has become an important venue for artists’ moving image with The Box seasons, but I’ve also enjoyed Visitor (still  on, if you’re quick) and Wild Thing.

Back in Cardiff Richard Higlett had his first solo show in Wales at g39’s temporary new home in The dairy, Pontcanna with Welcome to Your World. Higlett never fails to surprise and this show was no exception: a talking cat, the GPS (gallery of portable sound) car and a band (Bear- Man) playing from a hole in the gallery floor. Experimentica came back for its 11th outing at Chapter (where else could you find a man covered in mucus bouncing on a trampoline?) Chapter Gallery continued to surprise and delight with Pile and  The With Collective my personal faves.

Over in Penarth, Ffotogallery’s programme was as strong as ever, showcasing new and established talent and with complementary and engaging talks and the ever-popular Artists’ Book Fayre I’m so glad that this is my local. They’ll be bringing an international photography festival to Cardiff in 2013.

Artist-run spaces offered some really exciting shows and events this year: tactileBOSCH in Cardiff, continued to present rare opportunities to see performance, along with installations and painting shows that spilled out all over Cardiff for MOIST; Elysium ran another Bus Stop Cinema and disrupted the streets of Swansea; g39 hit Leipzig’s Spinnerei for the big Art Weekend; The Rhôd created a new series of site-responsive works in an old Mill in the hills of Carmarthenshire and created their own pavilion at the Venice Biennale (Rhodio). Swansea’s Supersaurus played host to shows by Gordon Dalton and Tom Goddard, while Supersuarus member Owen Griffiths dug up a football pitch to grow vegetables for Vetch Veg (sometimes you just couldn’t make this stuff up!)

Online artists’ film platform, Outcasting is heading for world domination. Not content with presenting international content, Outcasting’s evil genius, Michael Cousin, has joined forces with, er, me and St David’s Hall’s exhibitions officer, Ruth Cayford to form Fourth Wall. Pedwaredd Wall CIC, which will be filling Cardiff with artists’ moving image this autumn, thanks to festival funding from the Arts Council of Wales. Watch this space for more info and a call for artists to submit.

Goodbye and Hello

2011 was tinged with some sadness as Swansea lost two inspirational women: Swansea Metroplitan University lecturer Susan Griffiths and Mission Gallery Director Jane Phillips. Both died too young and leave a big hole in the visual arts community.

We also said goodbye to arts education as we know it with some major restructuring of fine art courses and a few closures. I’ve already written about this here so I won’t bang on but I’ll be watching as things unfold over the next few years.

James Boardman, Light Corridor, CSAD degree show 2011

And last, but not least, of the farewells goes to all of my former colleagues at the Arts Council of Wales, who find themselves staring at an uncertain future following the recent major restructuring (more on this as it unfolds).

Meanwhile some new faces appeared on the scene and began to make their mark:

Amanda Roderick took over as director at The Mission Gallery under very sad circumstance, but her work to date would, I’m sure, make Jane Phillips proud. Ben Borthwick got into his stride as Chief Executive of Artes Mundi, which is scheduled for this Autumn in Cardiff. Up in Llandudno we said goodbye and good luck to Martin Barlow, who left Mostyn after steering its development into one of the finest exhibitions spaces in Wales. He is  replaced as director by Alfredo Cramerotti, who took over as the first major retrospective of Blaenau Ffestiniog-based sculptor, David Nash – Red,Black,Other – launched to much excitement.

And finally, we said hello to #0 of tant magazine. They’re currently inviting submissions for #1 so please follow the link.

    David Fitzjohn, TactileBOSCH Citizen 2011     Jonathan Anderson, Dark Star - Mission Gallery

It’s been such a busy year and I’m sure I’ll have forgotten to mention a lot of the wonderful things that I have seen. Please feel free to add your own favourites in the comments section.

In the meantime I hope you have a very productive and creative 2012.