Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Some thoughts about art spaces in Leicester

I've just been listening to a discussion on BBC radio Leicester about art spaces in the city. Having returned to Leicester after six years living in Bristol, it is very apparent how little there is with regards to contemporary visual arts in the town centre. This is a shame because DeMontfort University has such a thriving and exciting art and design department, it would great to see the city invest in having spaces where students and recent graduates (and other local artists) could cheaply show their work. At the moment tourism in Leicester seems to consist mainly of a car park with some skeletons underneath it, so developing the local art scene is a fairly cost effective and visually rewarding way of generating interest in visiting the city.

In Bristol there is a huge diversity and range of art spaces and activities in the town centre. From more established institutions like the RWA, the city museum and Spike Island, to expanding arts spaces like Motorcade Flashparade, Stokes Croft, Nelson St and North Street street art projects, and successful pop-up shops such as the Parlour Showrooms to name one of many. Most of these were set up by enthusiastic local people and groups, and all it takes from the council is funding opportunities and patience and faith in the project. And although the powers at be have a bad habit of wanting to turn everything into flats or coffee shops the arts scene in the city really flourished just in the time i spent there, and even though big draws like Stokes Croft are probably in decline now (in my opinion), i think other areas of the city and other projects are still growing, and public support is always good.

Take one week at the beginning of June, it was memorable to me because it was my MA degree show on the Friday, but there were exhibition openings every night from Tuesday to Saturday. There must have been 150 people at the Parlour Showrooms for its opening that week, and several thousand for the opening night of the degree show at Bower Ashton.

Last week i visited a really good exhibition by members of Leicester Print workshop at the LCB depot in the town centre. I'd never been there before- i don't think- but i really enjoyed being able to see some contemporary prints on the wall, and i love the Picasso and German Expressionism rooms at New Walk, but there does seem such an absence of arts on show in the town, and it would be a very accessible thing for the city to consider building up.