As the AirSpace project is already one year old I feel like we should start with a little background information on the group and what they have achieved so far.
It all started with two graduates from the BA Fine Art course at Staffordshire University, David Bethell and Andrew Branscombe, who decided that something had to be done to improve the contemporary art scene in Stoke on Trent. As local lads they saw students coming to Stoke to study and leaving due to the lack of opportunities in the area. So they decided that they were going to make the opportunities themselves.
Through their time at University David and Andrew had organised the Conjunction exhibitions with fellow student Matt Roberts. The Conjunction open submission exhibitions took place in 03, 04, 05 and ending with a huge nationwide Conjunction 06 showing in London, Birmingham and Stoke on Trent and including 46 local, national and international artists.
Not put off by the sleepless nights on gallery floors David and Andrew are now using the experience gained through the Conjunction shows to embark on the bigger project of The Artist Led AirSpace Gallery and Studios.
The mission: to be the centre for the Visual Arts in Stoke-on-Trent and the region, providing gallery, studio, educational and meeting spaces
After months of searching and networking they finally, in February 2006, secured a temporary gallery space in a disused pottery factory five minutes from Stoke on Trent's city centre. The building itself dates from the mid nineteenth century and was a family run company until production ceased in 2000, under the original name of J H Weatherby and Sons. It has now been taken over by Forth Estates property developers who have kindly let David, Andrew and the AirSpace team use the building for over a year. The building has a great sense of history, which is apparent upon entry, as you are greeted by one of its few remaining Bottle Ovens.
Weeks of scrubbing six years worth of pigeon poo and voila! A nice clean gallery, studio spaces and a working toilet!
After the Galleries opening party in July 06 with Martin Creed's band and various performing artists, it has grown into a busy artist led space, with 7 resident artists as well as David and Andrew and some more members of the crew.
Here is who we currently have on board:
Phil Rawle-Designer and Branding Manager
Sara Austin-Marketing Manager
Chris Simcox-Studio Manager and Studio Artist
Tez Roberts-Studio Manager and Studio Artist
Rory Strang-Website Designer and Maintainer
Katie May Shipley-Research Organiser
Emily Kydd-Writer and Studio Artist
Matt Roberts-AirVideo Curator
Yu Chen Wang-AirVideo Curator
Vikki Brown-Assistant Marketing Officer and Studio Artist
Richard Brammer- Writer and Studio Artist
Bernard Charnley-Technician and Studio Artist
Brian Holdcroft-Technician and Studio Artist
Aimee Blease-Bourne-Workshop Leader
The Gallery has hosted many events including:
OnAir events; where they present new and emerging musicians from the local area.
AirVideo events; showing video work of local, national and international artists.
Conjunctivitis: a night from the group raw'ral, a resident DJ company playing a soulful mix of alternative hip hop, jazzy drum and bass and funky house.
And we held a NAN meeting in March
As well as their extensive exhibition calendar:
Tide In/Tide Out; featuring seven selected artists from the Staffordshire University degree show.
Factory Records; a short show by the MA students at Staffordshire University.
Coordinates; A showcase selection from the ICAW Harlech Biennale 2005.
Indefinable City; bringing together artists from local and international communities and dealing with issues of how art and culture affect the individual's perception of a place.
In November 2006 the Gallery was awarded its first major funding from the ACE, they also have support from Stoke on Trent County Council, The Big Boost, Forth Estates, Titanic brewery and Air Conditioning Solutions. They also have a strong relationship with Staffordshire University.
With the positive feedback and the goal of seeking a permanent space within the city David and Andrew are still striving to be the leading artist led Contemporary Gallery and Studios in Stoke on Trent, with their next show coming up in May 07. Featuring two new works by AndersonMacGee running from 25th May -16th June.