From the beginning, one of the most important things about Brixton Art Prize has been our celebration of the local art community and encouraging creatives to pursue artistic pursuits of any kind. We are proud to say that one of the aims of the prize is to help Brixton arts communities in any way they desire, whether that be financial support, advertising, teaching, providing supplies, or just encouragement and celebration. This week at Brixton Art Prize, we are incredibly excited to announce our first community group which we will be supporting – Art4Space Community in Lambeth. As part of our announcement, we chatted to Jewels Norburn, one of the founders of the group, about the beginnings of Art4Space, the aims of the group, and its progression over the years.
So, Art4Space. Where did the name come from?
Art4Space … because, at the time, we were putting art into public spaces and thought it was, you know straightforward. (We ask her – did the name come first or the project?) We’d done one project actually with a partner, and it brought the 3 founders together. So, we’d done a community project and thought, hm, let’s set up a business doing this – so we all came with different skills, so I think – yes, after that project finished, we thought, actually we will set up our own business, and let’s find a name.
How’s it going, fast forward?
23 years! It’s going great, actually. I’m really proud of Art4Space, yeah… it’s all about the people, togetherness, connecting with the art you know. And yes, of course, it’s taken its journey and each year it grows and flourishes. Theres been challenging times maybe financially but – I don’t know, I think if you’re determined enough and passionate enough you’ll find a way. I’m not isolated – I work with good partners and my co-founders and my team, with support from Lambeth and partnerships with other artists – creatives will always come up with a solution. That’s why I love it. I’ve never seen it as a scary business to be in, or vulnerable, because there’ll always be a way to keep the arts alive.
Your work is amazing – do you get people asking for work outside of Lambeth, for example asking for a mosaic somewhere else? Do you welcome people from the outside?
Do you know what, that’s’ a really interesting question. I’m a bit old school with community arts – that’s what I did at my degree level. I was always taught that community arts uses really local people. Therefore, when I set up Art4Space Community Arts Lambeth I really wanted to stick to that. Now, you know business is business and is someone from Southwark asks if we can do this in our estate for example… in fact, we have gone all over the world now so I’m being slightly hypocritical. But I’d always say I want 80% of our work to be in Lambeth – it just feels right.
I try to recruit people locally because no-one knows your work borough better than us, you know – we know all the insides out and who we should be linking with the most. 20% of the work, yes, does go out of Lambeth – we’ve been lucky enough to do a few world commissions as well. Sharing the love. But 80% Lambeth and I’ll stick to my word. I don’t want to be – you know, what’s this about growing and getting bigger and sharing and franchising – you know, I’m not interested in that.
[We discuss Brixton Art Prize briefly and move on to the subject of how we can support Art4Space in our goal to help the local artistic community.]
How could we help Art4Space?
I think probably the biggest one for us is bringing awareness to Art4Space. Because we’ve been going for 22 – my Maths is rubbish, is it 22 or 23 years? – and yes, we’ve got a lovely venue, but I’m always amazed by the local people who don’t know we’re here. And yes, we’re quite good with our publicity, social media and marketing, and yet I just feel everyone should know about this place because there’s something for everybody here, whether you’re using our workshops, our training programmes, our peer support, our art therapy programmes – you know, if you’re into arts, come and see us. And for me, I know there’s a lot of people – look, I’m not saying I have a magic wand here, but there’s a lot of people I see struggling, and I see the magic every day of connecting people through the arts and how good it is for people’s well-being. So, therefore, what I’d love to do is bring that awareness!
Are some of the courses free?
All of them are. We’ve been thinking, because funding is quite tricky, and you know all of my strategic people who give me advice say that [I’m] too reliant on funding and it’s all too funding heavy. So, I have been trying to work on our trading arm – things like the shop where our volunteers make things and we make profit from the shop, so it’s unrestricted money really. I was thinking of developing some paid courses too – so you might train in entrepreneurial skills, and it’s 300 for a 10 week course, something like that. Yes, we are reaching out to low income a lot of the time, but there’s no reason as to why we can’t be reaching out to people who might want to pay for a course too. We might have a problem with that because Art4Space are known for reaching a certain demographic of people. We’re not know for the – ‘come along, but you’ll have to pay’. I haven’t got an answer on that but its just an area I’m exploring.
And you must know a lot of the local community – you must be part of the family?
Yeah true – we are. You know, we’ve had regulars come here for 15-20 years! Yeah. I love it. We’ve got some regulars, then we’ve got some people who really get so much out of Art4Space, they might stick around for a year or two, and then you don’t hear from them again. At first, I took it a bit personally but it’s an honour – they’ve moved onto other things. So, it’s actually about being very transient in having your doors open at all times, and yeah. People come and go.
[Jewels tells us about Art4Space’s session on a Tuesday.]
We run Creative Surgery on Tuesdays – a volunteering session. It’s run by Kim, one of our volunteers, and anyone can come to it – you put your hand to whatever is out on the tables at the time.So it could be, for example, rolling slabs of clay for a kids project coming up, it could be working on a live community commission that we’ve got, it could be doing some work on a public art piece – you know, its really varied. And why people love, is because one, they’re really helping us, but they’re also earning entrepreneurial small business skills themselves because you know, were small here and they’re seeing all the elements of running a business.
The session at Art4Space runs from 12-5pm every Tuesday – if you’re in the area, make sure to check it out, to benefit from the joy of art and to see what wonderful work Art4Space does. Find out more here.