Saturday, 27 June 2009

Manchester Art Crawl

While the Manchester International Festival brings famous names to the city's big venues, a group of artists will be reclaiming the city's forgotten spaces, turning the centre of town into a showcase for new artists.

Like the Venice Biennale, which returned to Venice this year, diverse venues city-wide will be crammed with art of every kind.

Manchester Art Crawl is part of the fringe festival Not Part Of, which runs alongside Manchester International Festival. It will turn unused shops units, deserted office blocks and a couple of bars and pubs into temporary gallery spaces for around 50 up and coming artists, mostly students.

So far, nine venues have been finalised, with more to be confirmed. Visitors will be given a map to find their way around all the venues, which stretch from Deansgate to the Northern Quarter.
The highlight of the crawl will be the opening night, on July 9, which will see artists collaborating with bands, and creative writing students from the University of Salford.

The Art Crawl is the brainchild of five art students at Manchester School of Art, who were inspired by the first Not Part of Festival two years ago and gave themselves just eight weeks to undertake the project.

Organiser Kelly Parish said: "We found that at the last Manchester International Festival there was no Manchester stuff. There was nothing for Manchester people to get involved with.

"We wanted to be part of the Not Part Of festival as you don't have to be particularly established or have a huge budget.

She explained the idea behind the art crawl: "We were bored of the traditional exhibition format and wanted to put on a more interactive event. Everyone and anyone is welcome to come and take part and show what ever they do. There's no selection process or interviews.

"We will be taking over the city centre for one night, turning it into a giant gallery."

Interest quickly spread through word of mouth, and the group have been fundraising with a two week long clothes sale in the Manchester Metropolitan University students' union and a clubnight at Trof.

As second year students, the organisers don't get an end of year show. Kelly said: "It's a shame everything stops at the end of term. There isn't enough excitement about the work we're producing at university. It's often left in someone's loft over the summer or stuck in a skip.

"It's not that easy for people like us to get a show or any exposure, especially not in the centre of town. It takes a long time before people will take you seriously."

Fellow organiser Sophie Coombs added: "It's a chance to make more of a name for yourself."

Kelly explained: "Although we're curating the show, we are on the same level as all the artists. We know most of the people we are working with."

Kelly and fellow organiser Sarah Gaffney have previously had a show at Islington Mill, and Sophie has exhibited her work in the Triangle shopping centre.

Sophie, who says she is especially interested in curating, explained: "We are making our own galleries. It's the perfect time with the recession - we get to use empty units in the Triangle shopping centre.

"When we used the Triangle before it attracted different people, like people who were shopping. There was less of a hierarchy."

"We're getting outside the idea of art galleries as always having white walls and being pristine places where you have to be quiet - those rules don't apply now. Some of the buildings have unusual fittings which we can use to our advantage."

She continued: "We're making art galleries more carefree and fun. We are following our own rules and don't have to answer to anyone. We can be as playful as we want."

Kelly agreed: "You don't have to wait for someone to invite you to hold a show. You find your own show."

One of Sophie's jobs was to phone around estate agents finding spaces for the crawl, many of which were offered for free. Sophie said: "Lots of the estate agents were bored - they don't have much to do at the moment!"

The group were also inspired by a school trip to New York, where they visited the Armory Art Fair and hundreds of fringe events in places like Soho and Williamsburg, where all the private views were on one night and the galleries were open late. Kelly said: "All the galleries were collaborating."

Manchester differs as there are less galleries clustered in one place - but it has abandoned buildings with unlocked potential.

Kelly said: "So many of the venues were bolted, gated and not used. I'm interested in pyschogeography too - the idea of exploring the city and reinventing it, changing the way you use your city and seeing it as a fun space.

"We found one venue and we couldn't believe it wasn't already a gallery!"

Kelly said: "We ask that people try and find their own venue. People can take the initiative - it's like staging your own show within the show, although we are always open to people who need advice or help."

The majority of venues will host group shows. Kelly said: "The different spaces reflect the different artists in different ways. We match artists up with those with similar interests"

Sophie elaborated: "It was a natural thing - introducing people to each other and bringing out the similarities in their work. It's a chance to swap ideas and get involved in each other's shows."

Kelly said: "It's surprisingly easy. You would be surprised by what you can do."

"We were intimidated about approaching people and we kept thinking 'is anyone going to come?' but it's evolved into an enormous thing that's like a festival within the festival.".

They concluded: "You have to be brave and get your foot in the door. We haven't got a reputation so we haven't got anything to lose!"

The Manchester Art Crawl is free and runs from July 9 - July 16. Opening times dependent on venues (check the facebook group for more information).

The preview takes place at the Triangle Shopping Centre, Exchange Square on Thursday July 9 from 5.30-8.30pm

Artists exhibiting include:

Sarah Gaffney
Sophie Coombs
Jo Ormiston
Sophie Titherington
Kelly Parish
Jamie Clough
Steve Beadle
Rachel Ashcroft
Harry Shotton
Gavin Sodo
Rachel Carroll
Elle brotherhood
Helen Collett
Lois Macdonald
Sarah Francis
Maria Kelly
Aneta Jarzebska
Andrew Brown
Daniel Pickles
Helena Barrett
Elinor Taylor
Adam Gimour
Kirsty Durbin
Stacey Groome
David Bray
Fiona Southwellt
Jo Lane
Aziza Mills
Rosanne Robertson
Sophie Lee
Caitlin Howard
Holyanda Phillips
Aimee Allen
Amy Poole
Daniel Taylor
Hannah Dargavel-leafe
Louie Lister
David Gaffney
Sophie Faulkner, Timothy Hughes, Joe Wheatley, Celila McGoldrick (Mizuki's Ashes)

Not Part Of runs from July 2 - 18

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