1 BLOG, 2 ARTISTS AND A WORLD OF IDEAS
In July 2012 Mark and I worked as a team to put together my first major solo exhibition ‘Chroma’ at BLANKSPACE, Manchester. After the show came down he left Blank Media Collective (BMC) as their director, head curator, technician, producer, etc… basically he was the backbone to the organisation, keeping it standing up. It was always going to be interesting to see what he was going to do after BMC.
It took two months for Mark to get itchy feet again and the desire to be at the helm of an arts organisation once more. As his soon-to-be-wife (8 months till I become a Devereux), I could see this itch burn until he just had to have a scratch. Over the summer and autumn of 2012 we talked together about the possibilities and what was needed within the arts sector. What was it crying out for?
The idea of Mark Devereux Projects finally came about, after months of deliberation and discussion. It was decided that by supporting three inaugural artists; Nicola Dale, David Ogle and Nicola Ellis (yes, of course their were debates as to whether I should be one of them!), alongside an associate member programme open to any early-career artist. Mark would provide a bespoke, critically engaged and nurturing support mechanism on a one-to-one basis in each of the artist’s studios or via Skype. Through this individual approach, he is able to find out more about each of the artist’s ambitions and requirements and provide directed knowledge and experience to enable the growth of their careers. Mark Devereux Projects was officially launched at CUBE in Manchester in July with an exhibition, book and website of Nicola Dale, David Ogle and Nicola Ellis’ work.
I set house rules from the beginning: Mark wasn’t to make himself ill from overworking this time, I insisted he ‘down-tools’ at 6pm daily except in the days of exhibition install (where I always donned a paint-suit and got stuck in anyway), I insisted he pay himself a wage for the work he was doing instead of being voluntary like when at BMC and I promised I would help him as much as I psychically and mentally could. I urged Mark to use his own name for the organisation so people/artists recognized it as him; quality, hardworking and supportive.
So, there’s the background of the organisation from my point of view, here’s what Mark had to say about it;
What are the origins of Mark Devereux Projects?
On a day-to-day basis we are hearing of new ways in which artists are turning to the DIY approach in response to rising tuition fees, lack of opportunities and changes in the cultural ecology. Mark Devereux Projects has been established in response to this evolving climate and operates within an integral point between artist and institution.
As the Founder and Director of Blank Media Collective and BLANKSPACE gallery in Manchester (2006-12) I was working and talking with hundreds of early-career artists. Throughout this period, I listened and learned about how I could best help artists to get to the next level. Each practitioner requires something different, sometimes it may be a critically engaged dialogue with their practice, some may need advice on how to work self-employed or operate a business-like structure and some artists may just need a pat on the back and someone to listen.
Tell me about the new space Projects: Manchester?
Projects: Manchester will be an environment for artists to spend time testing, developing and experimenting in a vast, open space. Within a central location in Manchester, the space offers artists the opportunity to invite curators, producers and industry professionals to respond critically during the important developmental stages of making. Through giving practitioners the freedom and time to develop works and by trying to remove as many restrictions as we can, we are excited to see the ways in which artists may use the space.
Can anyone exhibit?
Projects: Manchester will be available to artists within Mark Devereux Projects Associate Membership programme. Alongside the free use of the space, Associate artists will also benefit from bespoke one-to-one mentoring sessions, exhibition opportunities, group critiques & guidance sessions and online advisory materials. Our Associate Membership programme is open to any artist based within the UK.
Do emerging artists need support? Why?
It is integral to offer early-career artists the support structure to enable their talents to be realised. We see every relationship with an artist as a journey and aim to help them along this journey, to reach the next stage in their development. We feel there is a shortage of support for the artists that have graduated and have been making for a number of years and aim to be the support mechanism to help aid their progression on to the next level to realise their ambitions.
How does the space relate to your membership scheme?
Within Projects: Manchester, we will be holding special events and mentoring sessions for Mark Devereux Projects Associate Members. Each artist will also be given the opportunity to receive critical advice and mentoring during their time within the space. There will be a special free day event based around critical dialogue, discussion and advice on Sunday 17 November for our members but also any artist that may be interested in joining as an Associate Member.
What does it bring to Manchester’s artist scene?
We were invited by Castlefield Gallery to visit the former office space of the Co-Operative’s major Federation House building, which they have recently acquired as part of their New Art Spaces initiative. We soon realised the potential of managing one of the eight floors within this expansive building could offer the organisation and our artists. Rather than segregating the space into individual studio spaces (of which there are many throughout the city) or launching a gallery space, we wanted to offer something different.
Could the project be international?
Through our ethos to support and enable each of our artist’s objectives, we are directed by their own ambitions. Within our mentoring sessions together we devise a series of goals and targets to help enable this ambition to be realised. International exposure is of growing importance to many early-career artists wishing to develop their practices and achieve the next step of their career development. It is integral to make sure that each step is done for the right reason at the right time and by providing this ongoing support and guidance we are able to create strategies and plans for this development.
What does the future hold?
I am looking forward to the future opportunities and relationships that we will be able to build with artists and to become a part of their development. The three inaugural artists we are working with each have very exciting futures ahead, as we are currently planning some very ambitious projects together. The Associate Membership not only allows us to support a wider demographic of artists but it also gives us the opportunity to learn more about individuals that may in the future join this roster of artists.
Projects: Manchester launches with ‘Beyond Merely Assembling’; the organisation’s first group exhibition of Associates Members works on 8 November.
A special free event to any early-career artist will take place on 17 November based around critical dialogue, discussion and advice.
By Liz West