At the end of Show Us Your Art 2012, we stood for a moment, a pause in the final clearing up of bits from the carpet of the We Are Open space in the Cleveland Centre.
Half an hour ago, it had been an art gallery, now its walls carried only the echoed sounds of sculptor Kev Twidale trying to fit the last of his tools into his car (thanks for the help Kev – same again this year, please).
The event had happened, lots of art had been shown, performers had performed, people had come and we had done it all on a zero budget.
But it had been a lot of work, a fair amount of heartache and more ‘phone calls to sort out unexpected crises at strange hours of the night than any of us could possibly have forseen.
The curator, Emily Petyt looked around, her drill hanging loosely in her hand, “Well I won’t be doing THAT again in a hurry.”
Ifs and Ands
In the weeks that followed, we all took a break from each other, as we tried to catch up with our day jobs, but the messages kept coming in, “Thanks, really enjoyed it. Will you be doing it again?”
There was no getting away from that question.
The next time we sat down together, we naturally began to post-mortem the event. “If we ever did it again, we’d have to make it longer”, “If we ever did it again, we’d definitely need a budget”.
Before we knew it “If we ever did it again” had turned into “If we do it again”, then to “Next time”.
Within a couple of months of Show Us Your Art 2012, I was sat with Emily in café mima, discussing Show Us Your Art 2013 with Judith Croft, Middlesbrough Council’s head of events.
Emily was willing to curate again this year, Middlesbrough Council was going to swing us free use of the Town Hall Crypt for a week, and when mima’s Visual Arts Network accepted our bid for a small budget, there was no getting away from the fact that Show Us Your Art 2013 was up and running.
And this time we can afford to pay for some stuff.
The truth be told, I know absolutely nothing about art; I run a media company and, as such, do the website, PR and marketing.
The project relies entirely on its curator, Emily Petyt to sort out the art. My contribution tends to be along the lines of, “What? Three paintings, three nails. Boom, boom, boom, done. Right?”
There’s a look I’m used to getting from artists when I say things like that or, “Can we not just balance it on a table?” It’s like I’ve just drop-kicked a kitten.
It was only when I saw the exhibitions for Show us Your Art 2012, where someone who knows their stuff had really put some thought into the order, location and hanging of each artwork that I started to get what this was all about.
Of course, I still reckon paintings would look ok hanging from the rafters in the Town Hall Crypt, but Emily rolled here eyes to the ceiling again, so I’m guessing not.
I was taken off guard by a simple question, while we were talking to the management at Debenhams about using one of their windows for a week and filling it with art (this is still a maybe, there are some tricky insurance clauses to get around first. I’ll keep you posted).
The management were very keen to help if they could and the question was really simple, but for a second it threw me. “So why are you so passionate about this art festival?”
I had to think. In all honesty, having grown up on Teesside and worked most of my career as a journalist here, I have covered so many stories of big hopes and disappointments that, in recent years I’ve noticed a small, but definite pessimistic streak starting to creep into our local psyche. “If it’s happening here, it’ll probably be rubbish.”
When we did Show Us Your Art 2012, we came across the exact opposite. We met people with drive, optimism and loads of energy.
As a Teessider, especially now that times are particularly tough, when you come across that, you can’t just walk away from it. It’s too important and too powerful. So we’re doing it again. Go to ShowUsYourArt.com and send us your work before the end of May.
I know nothing about art, but I know some people who do.