Space 22 was an artist-run contemporary art space aimed at promoting the professional development of emerging and established artists. Located at 22 Main Road, Space 22 opened with the ‘Launch’ exhibition in Feb 2010 & concluded at the end of June 2011.
The space was run by a small group of volunteers (all practicing artists) on a non-profit basis and was dedicated to supporting local artists by providing a quality exhibition venue. Their twice yearly fundraising shows were vital to the Gallery’s existence, as they received no other financial support or funding.
Committee members were Claire Blake, Debbie Hill, Rosalind Lawson, John O’Loughlin, Kim Anderson, Phil Berry and formerly Geoff Wallis.
Space 22’s inaugural exhibition was a fund-raising show called ‘Launch It’ which had contributions from over 80 local artists, each of whom paid $20 to enter up to 2 artworks. It was a challenge to get over 120 artworks on the wall, their first ‘hang’, but it was a diverse and exciting start to a full year of exhibitions for 2010.
For the rest of the year the space was sub-let to artists, at cost, with a three weekly turnaround time between exhibitions. The exhibition space comprised 2 rooms, and artists could hire the whole space, or one of the two rooms. The committee assisted with hanging and dismantling shows, organising publicity with media releases, an extensive mailing list and staffing the official opening party for each exhibition. For the duration of their show, artists needed to arrange the ‘sitting’ of the Gallery. As Space 22 was only open Thursday – Sunday 12 – 5pm, this was manageable.
The Gallery had directional lighting and a professional hanging system and it was very exciting to see how the space worked to accommodate each of the shows. Space 22 had a range of mediums on show, from ceramics and jewelry, to paintings, collage and fashion. It seemed to work really well and the exhibitions looked very professional.
Space 22 utilised the publicity that the social networking site ‘Facebook’ offered, as well as running their own Blog. Using these internet tools enabled Space 22 to publicise to their interested audience immediately and for free. It was easy for other users to access in their own time and at will. These sites were used to promote upcoming and current exhibitions, share articles published in The Courier, images from opening events, and to invite contributions to fundraising events. Upon the opening of ‘The Weather’ exhibition, and an ABC Local Radio interview with several of the contributing artists, their blog had over 120 hits in one week. Space 22’s facebook page had over 220 ‘friends’ to whom they communicated their current events.
Email was also a modern miracle for a contemporary Artist Run Initiative on a shoestring (sometimes spider web) budget. In days before internet, exhibition invitations and all other promotional material had to be ‘hard copy’ – printed on paper – often at great expense. Email and internet proved to be vital resource saving tools for Space 22 enabling email invites to be sent out to a mailing list of around 400 people for free and in a matter of moments. The email account also allowed Space 22 to save and share, which any Committee member could access, edit and save from home.
I thought I’d talk about why I think Local Artist run spaces are vital to our culture. Art is not just a part of culture in a passive sense. Art is stimulating.
Whilst individually artists produce their work as a means of personal creative expression, in doing so they help tell the stories of our culture. Their points of view are expressed artistically and the viewing audience/consumers of art then interpret, relate to (or dismiss), and discuss the works. Skill in technique and use of mediums in displayed art are assessed and discussed, and, of course, the subject of the work is discussed. Artists tell our social, cultural and political stories and Art actively contributes to the reinforcement of culture. This is vital on a local level, as to know our stories is to know who we are. So, one role of Art is storytelling, and in the context of an increasingly homogenized globally networked world where the exchange & sharing of cultural ideas is easier all the time, local art and local identity are ever more important.
With these ideas in mind I have reflected on some exhibitions Space 22 hosted. Ros Lawson’s ‘4 Rivers’ exhibition, held at Space 22 in February 2010, using her paper making, casting, and marbling skills as well as painting and drawing, examined drought, water quality, and environmental damage, as well as our water use and its sustainability. These are topics that are essential to regional Victorians as well as the wider Australian community. Phil Berry’s exhibition of Oil paintings ‘Weathered Memories’ observed the demise of the local corner shop which has all but been swallowed up by the multi-national 24 hour supermarkets. He also had small paintings of remembered products, packaging and tools of the local shop. I could identify every single building he presented in his work, and did so with much nostalgic sentiment.
‘The Weather’ was a group show which involved several local artists using various mediums including drawing, painting, ceramics and projection installations. As a regional town we are conscious of the struggles of the land, especially in times of drought. Ballarat is famous for its seasonal variation – living with the cold and grey is part of every Ballaratian’s identity, whether you jump to its defense when your town criticized by our climatically blessed neighbors, or agree that it sucks to live here in winter, you are drawn into dialogue about weather. This exhibition reflected on the subject of drought and seasonality, and through the topic of weather the artists told more of our local story.
Space22 was dedicated to supporting emerging and established artists working across a diverse range of media and approaches – from traditional media through to more recent forms of multi-media and installation including curated thematic shows. In short, Space22 aimed to be a venue where ideas about art and culture in general could be exchanged and presented. It is through striving to achieve this aim that Space 22 has exposed to me the fact that Ballarat Arts Community, whilst small, is strong and is always working to be stronger.