BasementArtsProject is finally a full-time concern. Recently I managed to find myself some funding that allowed me to give up my full-time job and turn my attention to two things that matter most to me. In no particular order of hierarchy; Art and Community.
Having graduated from BA Art & Design at Leeds Metropolitan College (now Leeds Beckett), I have worked for the Henry Moore Institute for nearly nineteen years. It was an enjoyable experience in which I discovered a whole load of art, old and new, that I had never heard of before, as well as learning a lot of stuff about Moore that I had not previously known either. But, there comes a time where the need to move forward personally takes over.
As a person from a working class background who has remained in a working class income bracket all of my life, despite a degree, there is nothing more terrifying than giving up a guaranteed monthly wage to chase what could be a mirage; that shimmering oasis at the horizon that seems tantalisingly close but remains obstinately out of reach.
But, that is what I have done. Wisely or unwisely I have taken that plunge with one year’s worth of funding to keep me going. In this time I have to create a system that will not only support me, but allow me to find ways of providing money for artists and projects within the area going forward. As the book title says ‘Feel the fear, do it anyway’
“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” The Proud Highway. Hunter S. Thompson
And what is the reason for this deviation from the norm. This exploration of uncertain and previously uncharted terrain leading to a destination unknown!
The answer is two-fold. One is Art and Artists, the other is Community. All Capitalised because all are equally important.
Without Art we deny ourselves the possibility of a meaningful future in which we can enjoy things that have no purpose other than to be appreciated or used as a springboard for thought or aspiration. Without it, the future holds nothing but confrontation.
Without Community at the heart of the decisions we take as artists, we run the risk of ruining the future we envision before we have even started. Community, Society, Species, Environment, World are in a precarious place right now, and to not acknowledge the influence that these things have on each other would be to jump the gun. It would be to try and leap the chasm that is all of societies’ issues and problems without thought for those without autonomy. Art needs to create autonomy in the present if it is to survive and be a driving force in the future.
BasementArtsProject, for as much as it is about presenting all manner of art, from all manner of backgrounds to deliver meaningful ideas and work, it is also about working class access to the arts.
I was recently looking back over visitor figures for all of our exhibitions since April 2011 and discovered that these added up to nearly five thousand people at Basement alone, not counting exhibitions in other cities and countries. In twelve years our tiny little mid-terrace house, lived in by my family and I, has seen such a large number of people, roughly forty percent of whom are from the local, South Leeds, area. Yet the other sixty percent of our five thousand has not only been people from Leeds, or even other UK cities but has also included people from the USA, France, Albania, Romania, Sweden, Italy and other parts of the world.
Last year, we brought to fruition our long standing project ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ by Keith Ackerman. In the process we have created a small oasis of calm in this busy corner of South Leeds with what have dubbed ‘The Corner’ Pocket Sculpture Park. This space belongs to the community so please feel free to use it. Without the negotiating skills of Cllr Paul Wray we could not have achieved this. He is now assisting us with the next project for this corner; a mural that will adorn the gable end of two houses that overlook Tunstall Road, about 50 yards down the road from Jacob’s Ladder.
We have also had assistance from Cllr Ed Carlisle who helped organise a planting session on ‘The Corner’ in March. We now have half a dozen fruit bushes growing on the land. We are going to create a bit of meadow around that part of the land to encourage biodiversity.
We are currently working on the relevant permissions to achieve our mural with artist Chloe Harris, whose print work remains on display during the following hours
Wednesday 17th May | 12 – 8pm
Thursday 18th May | 10:00 – 2:00
Sunday 21st May | By Appointment
This will be followed in June by Manchester based artist Jeffrey Knopf
Looking ahead to the future: On Thursday 28th September we will also be staging a gig on ‘The Corner’ by Australian musician Claire Angel Bonner, a specialist in nineteenth century Classical guitar music currently living in Italy. As part of her tour of Switzerland, UK, Faroe Islands and Australia she will be stopping off in Leeds to perform a FREE concert by Jacob’s Ladder at 1:30pm and then a ticketed (£10) concert later in the evening at BasementArtsProject.
I am conducting a little survey at the moment to try and find out a little bit about peoples views on Art. It takes about 2mins to fill in and can be found at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdfdfD9HONQw48tsjmK2-jYzBsIUI8jMXpySX_AjKtZrqxHjA/viewform
If you have two minutes to spare I would appreciate your views
I hope that we will see you at a BasementArtsProject event at some point in the near future. Until then enjoy the public sculpture garden, it is yours to use whenever you want, go chill out in the sun, read a book, let the kids play . . .