What strange times we are living through. I wonder what the history books will say of them? How wonderful if the stories describe how societies across the world learnt many lessons and made changes to bring about a fairer, more just, equal and sustainable world. I imagine many people will laugh or sigh at such an idealistic hope. But if now isn’t the time for imagining how we can do better, when is? I’ve always been committed to the vision of a better world and similar ideals have always underpinned the work of Coventry Artspace. But more is needed from us all. I want to stop hoping for a better world and start doing more to demand one. So, as a human, and as the Director of an arts organisation within the inspirational city of Coventry, I am trying to listen and to learn and to change what I do, and what Artspace does, to make a greater contribution towards that better world. With our Trustees and Advisory Group, I will be looking at how Artspace can do more to amplify the voices of all artists from marginalised groups; support the incubation and growth of arts projects and organisations, particularly where these are led by artists from under represented groups; and we will be looking at our own structures, systems, processes and identity to consider how we can be sure that all of our ways and actions are contributing to a fairer, kinder world and to telling truthful stories.
I’m delighted that today we are launching our #ArtspaceWindows initiative as part of the West Midlands Midsummer Festival. Our inaugural exhibition will be I Release My Colours, featuring inspirational work from Artspace Artist Listing artist Ije. The decision to ask Ije to launch this initiative came about after our First Thursday Artist Meeting earlier this month, at which the artists present shared their thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and its relationship to the arts and their experiences as artists. Following the meeting Ije shared with us her work looking at the ideas of German philosopher Theodor Adorno, who explored the role of the arts after the horrors of the second world war. We’re publishing Ije’s essay as another blog here alongside her paintings and poetry which will remain in the windows of Arcadia and The Row until 11 July. Perhaps you will, like me, find in Ije’s work a sense of how things have been, are now, and could be. I hope you too will find it uplifting, energising and motivating at a time when such things are so badly needed.
Some of you will be aware that over the past few weeks I have run a crowdfunder for Arty-Folks to support their work with vulnerable people in the city who do not have access to online support. I made a pledge to shave my hair off if I could raise £1500! Although I did not reach that lofty target I was delighted to raise £630 and truly touched by the many messages of support. The funds raised will be donated to a follow-up fundraiser run by Arty-Folks that will make use of the City Councils ‘Pay it Forward’ support, meaning that my donation and any others received up to £1000 will be match funded by the council. And so this weekend my 15 year old daughter will be introducing my head to the buzz cut! Yes, there will be a video – details to follow. I first had the idea of raising funds in this way at the beginning of the lockdown, with a cunning plan to hide for 4 weeks while it grew back a little! Obviously that timeline has slipped a bit. However, nervous as I am, I find I am not sorry. The journey of the past 3 months has been a strange and unique one for us all and perhaps, if this dramatic new look provides something of a shock to me each morning when I look in the mirror, I can at least think of it as a strong visual symbol of my commitment to change.
I want to finish this message by taking a moment to say thank you. A huge thank you to the Artspace Trustees, Advisory Group, studio holders, freelancers, partner organisations and local artists for their continuing support to Artspace and often to me personally. Thank you to Coventry City Council who generously fund us with a core grant and without whom we wouldn’t be here. Thank you finally to Coventry City of Culture Trust and to Arts Council England who are both supporting some of our current activity and enabling us to pass on support to artists in the city, especially those experiencing hardship. These may be very challenging times, but the tangible sense of solidarity between individuals and organisations within Coventry’s cultural sector has been a precious gift that I hope will characterise our journey forwards.
Director, Artspace Coventry