Sometimes, I really wonder just how much is going on that I don’t know about. I feel like one of the human characters in a 21st century Borrowers adaptation. Why?
The Pride of Place Project is a collaborative exhibition between the Caravan Gallery and the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, and has been open for anyone to walk in Sunderland since the 3rd of April. For three weeks, it has been sat opposite independent record store Pop Recs, and I had no idea it was there. For three weeks, it has been accumulating work from its bare beginnings when they moved in, and now all the walls are covered in photography, stories and artwork – any artist can send in work and get it on display for anyone who walks in. And in just over a week, it’ll be gone again, as the group head to Bradford to begin the whole process for another few months in a new location.
But this Tuesday (April 22nd), they held an open event which a few artistic types in my networks invited me to. Throughout the three hours of mingling, free wine and snacks, were presentations by several artists, photographers and poets:
Theresa Easton from the Sunderland Book Project – “The point of the Sunderland book project is so people have the freedom to pick up a handmade book and read all about Sunderland, without feeling like you can’t in a stuffy environment”, like a museum for instance. Theresa and her collection of handmade books by various artists travel around Sunderland so as many different people can experience the books as possible. If you’re interested in creating a book, Theresa believes it’s a project anyone can get involved in; “People who contribute books aren’t necessarily book-makers, or even artists.” I’d better not put one in then.
Alex Godchild, possibly the youngest member of the entire room, who warmed the crowd with hilarious limericks between poems. I’d quote one but, you know, intellectual property and all that. – “I don’t know why I started writing poetry, but I did.”
Jill Gibson, talking about her contribution to a recent Australian art and feminism event, Taking Up Space – “I then had the challenge of transporting this 60 metre long tube to Australia… In the end I had this piece which was overtaking the building, and had a life of its own.”
Bob Lawson, who got rather invigorated and opinionated, and was very interesting to watch. – “My painting is not about letting the intellectual get in the way,” he says, shrugging away his artistic MA. And then he uses the word visceral. “You can listen to music or opera and it affects you – it’s visceral. Sometimes it can be the same, just with a bit of paint.”
Helen Schell, who showcased her recent project that involved lighting and livening up Victorian statues across the country – “I think Sunderland needs a big art project that everyone can get their hands on and enjoy”.
Sunderland-based photographer Mark Luck, who is “interested in the juxtaposition between the natural & the man-made, the industrial and the wild.”
And a group of arts students from the 80 Metres Above Sea Level project at the University of Sunderland, an awesome project with a couple dozensof students presenting their work in various locations across the city. Including one that received a few seconds of good laughter from the room – “If anyone wants to see my work, it’s in the toilets in the Bridges!” *
* Sunderland’s Shopping Centre
It’s because of nights like this at the Caravan Gallery that these artists can get their workout. Not only can artists showcase their work, but they’re for enabling artists and creative types to network, get together, discuss projects, and potentially even collaborate.
Once you begin going to events like this, you get used to the faces. That’s the power of networking at local events in action. And if you’ve got a keen interest in pursuing the arts, showing your face and meeting people at gatherings like this are so essential. Projects like this exist. Often, quite surprisingly. I was lucky enough to be invited, to know the right people. Once you’re in, you’re more securely in. If you think there’s nothing in your city, chances are you’re probably mistaken. If you’re interested in art, photography, creative writing; do some research, see what’s on in your nearest city/town/tiny little village hall… And let us know if you find anything that inspires you!
If you do happen to live in/near/around Sunderland, you’ve still got just over a week to check it out, as Caravan leave on May 1st. Their next two stops are Bradford and Cardiff.
You can (literally) hear more from the Caravan Gallery’s organiser on next week’s 99%Podcast (Mon 2pm on Spark FM, Thu 6:30pm on Hive Radio. I’ll be interviewing them in a few hours, and squeezing out some juicy advice for artistic types who want to get themselves noticed in the arts world!
Until next time…
Stay productive, and stay awesome!