Key Findings from report
1. Collective working model
- Gallery Gachet is a studio and gallery space in Vancouver for artists with mental health issues or who have experienced marginalisation.
- Gallery Gachet employ a collective working model for the running of the artist-run exhibition and studio.The organisation is far more than a place to make and exhibit art. The collective model provides artists with an opportunity to participate within an active working environment – one that is shaped to support a variety of differing minds. Being part of the Gallery Gachet Collective offers artists a rare chance to actively contribute towards the running of an organisation. In turn the collective model has supported Collective members to develop invaluable skills – teamwork, management, trust and experience running a leading contemporary art project space.
- In order to operate smoothly, the Collective have developed a thorough working system with a set of principal ‘rules’ that new members must study before eventually being able to join and participate in monthly meetings, assume extra responsibilities and have access to the space to make work. There is even a clear system in place called ‘Relationship Repair’ that helps members address personal problems that may arise within the group. I found this honest approach to acknowledging that disagreements are inevitable within a work place extremely refreshing.
2. Community-led Museums
The Skid Row History Museum and Archive:
- The Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) have created a museum in Downtown LA that is an accessible cultural space for the public to access significant historical and current documents about the Skid Row neighbourhood.
- The museum is not tied to large institutions and funders, providing an alternative space for residents in the city to freely share, debate and critique significant ideas and issues.
- The museum acts as a community hub, hosting a diverse range of events in the space, including community meetings, film screenings and experimental exhibitions.
- The museum enables a wider network of residents living outside of Skid Row to engage socially and culturally with the Skid Row neighbourhood.
- The museum challenges preconceived ideas about what an art educational space could be by encouraging collaboration, and experimentation and in turn creating and open-minded atmosphere that one feels truly comfortable to spend time exploring and sharing in.
- While I was carrying out this research, Gallery Gachet discovered that they had over half of their core-funding cut from the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which caused great distress to the organisation and it’s participants. This severe funding cut revealed the importance of diversifying funding from a variety of sources.
- The Los Angeles Poverty Department have structured their funding from the start by applying for a combination of smaller grants from a variety of different sources. This has meant that the organisation has been able to retain its freedom to make politically focussed, radical work that often critiques government policies. However this also means that the organisation has remained relatively small.
Profit making schemes:
- Creativity Explored have managed to reach a comfortable position financially therefore their focus recently has been on diversifying it’s funding by piloting new profit making schemes that are focused on building revenue for the future. One scheme is the Creativity Explored Licensing Programme that has already secured long-term partnerships with commercial retailers. However the programme has yet to fulfil it’s original aim of generating significant revenue for the organisation and in fact the greatest impact of the initiative so far has been the exposure it has given to it’s studio artists.
Forging relationships with corporations:
- One organisation that has been looking for support from corporations is San Francisco based Hospitality House. Although they have had some success, Hospitality House have found that corporations often want to initiate their own ways to help rather than donate money to existing programmes.
Fundraising for art programmes in homelessness sector:
- Hospitality House have found that when fundraising for their hugely successful Community Arts Program (CAP), funders often see art as a “luxury” for the homeless and can be reluctant to provide funding for this specific programme. Therefore, the CAP has greatly benefited from being part of a larger non-profit organisation.
Profit-making schemes for participants:
- At Creative Growth, a studio for artists with developmental disabilities the programme offers artists in their programme an opportunity to receive hourly pay to create “limited edition rugs” for their onsite shop. This has been hugely successful as a means of offering artists a stable income rather than relying sales from individual artwork, which can often be unpredictable. The programme also helps the organisation market their organisation in alternative spaces such as homeware shops.
- At Creativity Explored and Creative Growth there was a strong emphasis on working with artists with developmental disabilities to develop their practice and challenge them to produce work to a contemporary art standard, which has also coincided with a rise in interest for Outsider Art within the contemporary art market. This focused teaching method has helped artists gain recognition nationally and internationally for their outstanding work and thus helped Creativity Explored and Creative Growth market the organisation to supporters.
4. Integrated And Supportive Spaces:
- Creative Growth recently implemented a sound proof room within their studio for participants with developmental disabilities to use during studio sessions. The room offered great benefits to the running of the daily studio, which could be used in any way they wished; as a quiet space to work, a space to be alone in peace or a space to make some noise. The room has also been used as a way to introduce artists to working with sound.
- I was particularly interested to learn about the recent focus from the staff at Creativity Explored to create more opportunities for artists with and without disabilities to work alongside each other. The success of the Creativity Explored Artist in Residence program, that invites practicing outside artists to work alongside and collaborate with the Creativity Explored studio artists, has been their first step in working out how they can bring a variety of artists into the studios.
- Hospitality House’s Community Arts Program (CAP) employs a unique open door studio policy that welcomes any artist in the city to access their workshop space, regardless of their employment, housing or educational status. By encouraging diversity and collaboration between artists within a creative working environment, Hospitality House has proven that an open studio policy can be hugely beneficial to its participants, forming a dynamic community that brings artists from a variety of backgrounds together.
Public Access to Studios:
- Creativity Explored have employed a unique open door studio visiting policy for the public, whereby the public are able to freely drop in and visit their studios while the artists are working. This move is primarily intended to raise awareness among the public of the studio-working environment for people with developmental disabilities. The organisation believe that it is fundamental to educate the wider public about the disabled community and by opening the doors they see it as a crucial tool for breaking down any further marginalisation.
- However this policy could be seen as risky, for example at Creative Growth they had to stop their open door policy because people were walking into the studio without identifying themselves.
Gateway to Other Services:
- Hospitality House was one of the first organisations in San Francisco to start working with people facing dual diagnosis, whereby the person affected suffers from a combination of mental health issues and substance abuse.
- Hospitality House’s Community Arts Program is seen by the organisation as a gateway for introducing people from off the street, who might not have otherwise got involved with the organisation. Some have then gone on to form significant and long lasting relationships with Hospitality House’s wider network.
- This low threshold policy has revealed that the studio can be a hugely effective way of introducing people to other support services, either within Hospitality House or connections elsewhere.
Platforms for artists to exhibit, sell and perform:
- Gallery Gachet’s gallery space is the organisation’s central focus. The space has provided a platform in the city to programme a diverse range of contemporary exhibitions and events that aim to tackle challenges faced by the Downtown East Side neighbourhood and wider mental health and disability communities. Gallery Gachet sees itself as a unique space for under-represented voices and ensures that the programme remains a place for artists to experimentation and collaborate within a safe and supportive environment.
- The annual Festival For All Skid Row Artists run by the Los Angeles Poverty Department and Lamp Arts provides artists living in Skid Row with a platform to share, experiment and collaborate in a neighbourhood who’s voice is often marginalised. The festival has created an opportunity for artists living outside of Skid Row to meet artists in the neighbourhood.
- Creativity Explored have a hugely successful onsite gallery space located in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission neighbourhood. The footfall means that residents and tourists drop by regularly and the gallery is even on tourist lists in the city. The exhibition programmes work from artists working in the Creativity Explored studios and has built a highly regarded reputation over the years as a leading contemporary art space.
- Hospitality House have an onsite gallery space in the windows of their centrally located studio in San Francisco. The window front gallery space has a rotating exhibition of work made by artists accessing the programme who are homeless and 100% of the profit goes straight to the artists. This policy means that many artists involved in the programme now see art as a means of making an income.
Recommendations for sectors in UK
Arts in the homelessness sector:
- Open-door art programmes should be seen as a way for larger homeless organisations to reach people off the street and introduce them to wider services available.
- Art programmes for artists who are homeless should also reach out to artists who are not homeless. Opening up the studios and exhibitions to the wider art community builds new relationships, introducing people who may not have had the chance to meet through their common interest in art.
- Studio programmes should ideally have a daily drop in space that can become an art community hub for all working in the city. Studios should be a place to make art – other services can be offered from staff in the studio.
- The studio should be quiet place to come and create art – staff should be aware of maintaining a comfortable working environment and establish a clear set of studio rules to ensure the smooth running of the free space.
- Cultural spaces allow the public to engage with homelessness in new ways. Community-led museums addressing homelessness should ensure that they are free to critique current issues – this might mean that the project will have to remain relatively small.
- Exhibitions and events that showcase the work of artists who are homeless should also invite artists who are not homeless to exhibit alongside.
- Collective-working models are possible for an organisation to employ and have huge benefits for the group however establishing a collectively operated space can be slow and a clear set of guidelines must be established from the start.
Studios programmes for artists with developmental disabilities:
- Art programmes should take steps to offer more opportunities for artists with and without developmental disabilities to work on their own practice alongside each other. This shared working space means that artists can learn from each other’s experiences and practices and move towards more integrated work and social opportunities for artists with and without developmental disabilities.
- Supported studios could consider implementing tailored spaces to suit the needs of participants, for example a soundproof room.
- Focus on challenging artists through focused teaching to develop their practice to a contemporary art standard is beneficial to both the organisation and the artists. The organisation benefits from an ability to market the organisation through exceptional artwork and the artists and their families can benefit from seeing their artwork in a different way.
- Licensing programmes are a huge commitment for an organisation to embark on and initial revenue can be slow. However if the organisation and most importantly it’s artists are ready, a licensing programme has great potential long term once it has established the right partnerships and can also be a great help for the organisations to market itself in new fields, for example interior design.
- Permanent gallery spaces and shops dedicated to showcasing the work of artists from the programme’s studios create a regular hub for residents and tourists to drop in and learn about the organisation. The gallery also offers artists a chance to sell their work more regularly.
- Studios interested in offering further opportunities for artists in their programme to work could consider schemes such as rug making, which could partner with national homeware shops to create a more stable income for artists.