In September 2016, AirSpace Gallery partnered with ACAVA in commissioning Stoke-on-Trent based artist, Nicola Winstanley
to carry out a 3 month artist's residency focusing on exploring the nature of creative ‘work’ in a changing city. Using ACAVA's brand new 43-studio enterprise in the town of Stoke's historic Spode site as her base, Nicola set out mapping the nascent cultural activity that has sprung up in the town in recent years.
STOKE-ON-TRENT ARTIST AT WORK is a presentation of Nicola's findings.
Exhibition: Wednesdays to Saturdays, 10th-24th February, 2017 - ACAVA Studios: Spode Works
Exhibition Preview: 10th February 6pm-9pm
Artists Talk : 22nd February 12:30-2pm.
Here, Nicola sets out her motivations, actions, reflections and evaluations.
After 3 months and 159 hours clocked as the first resident artist at ACAVA Studios: Spode Works, I am exhibiting the resulting work there on the 10th February.
Researching the value and impact of ACAVA Studios and of creative work in the city has been a duel experience; looking outwardly at the ripples being made by the studios on the site, the town, the city and beyond, and at the same time evaluating my own work on this residency- what it is that I'm doing that is of value?
Having spent the majority of the residency recording my time on twitter buy the hour I have been able to understand more about my methods, and this has been personally quite challenging. When we talk about 'work' it is tempting to think of it as synonymous with 'productivity', especially with the ghost of Spode Works looming where once skill, artistry and productivity needed to balance. In my own practice, and in this residency specifically, the majority of my time was spent in preparation, conversation, observation, administration, reading, testing and thinking. What was all this activity worth? and to who? And does the physical outcome (in this case an exhibition) justify it?
The Stoke Artist Census Day (#sotaaw) which happened on the 22nd November as part of the residency, there was a palpable feeling (as palpable as any online activity can be) that there is strength, or at least comfort, in knowing that others are working hard at making art or creating the conditions for art to be made.
In the ACAVA Studios this is also evident. Though I completed my residency in the depths of winter, where every studio door was shut to keep in the heat, there were still interactions and collaborations germinating between studios. Having said that, I feel that the idea of 43 busy, productive artists studios in the centre of the town, in the centre of the city, is at this point the most powerful thing about it. Creative endeavour, pioneering activity creates civic confidence- perhaps not in the general populous, who have understandably yet to fully shed a thick callus of cynicism, acquired from being rubbed up the wrong way too many times by the city over the last few decades, but in the City Council, in business and development, regeneration, progress, change-making. These are ripples right now with the potential to turn into a wave.
With this comes a certain level of anxiety, where those who have been generating these ripples want to make sure they are also the ones riding the wave when it appears. So proving the value of creative workers to everybody now is important, to make sure the experience of a rich cultural city is not bypassed in favour of cold economic stability at all costs. A cause widely recognised is easier to fight for.
So my exhibition at ACAVA Studios: Spode Works aims to present this, and more, as a subject for wider discussion, within the creative community and without, to agree with, refute or question in order that we can all become more aware, more confident and more active in the changes that are happening and are set to happen in the city.