How West Art Collective are Shaping the Future of Manchester's Art Scene
This student-led collective are intent on taking the art landscape of Manchester into their own hands.
West Art Collective are a group of Manchester-based creatives who run regular, zero-cost exhibitions that support artists in the important and early stages of their career. The community that they have created has provided momentum in the Manchester art scene, which is integral in nurturing the careers of emerging artists. A community has been created where there are currently few opportunities for young people to affordably showcase their work to a public audience, providing an essential platform to network and even sell their artwork.
We spoke to Lucy Briscoe Rimmer and Tom Kinloch about what they do at West, the importance of art in social change and the future of Manchester's art scene.
What is West Art Collective?
Tom: West Art Collective is a team of contemporary artists with interests in different genres of art. Our aim is to produce memorable art events that people can thoroughly enjoy. All the members at West agree that white walled gallery exhibitions are inspiring in their own right but lack the audience that they deserve. Our events are a true celebration of all arts; we invite artists, collectives, musicians, performers and other creatives to showcase whatever it is they’ve got to offer the art scene. Rather than walking around an art exhibition and going home, we offer a full jamboree that our customers can’t compare to any night they’ve had before. West is an ever-growing platform that wants to benefit all artists, the more we do, the more hands we shake, and groups we collaborate with. Ultimately we want to be an example that the art industry does offer opportunities for young artists if you work hard enough towards your goal.
How did West Art Collective form?
Lucy: I founded West Art Collective on the 27th of June 2019. Shortly before then I had exhibited a painting at Antwerp Mansion and when I went to collect it Andy and Evie, who own the Mansion, asked me if id be interested in helping them continue with future art ventures. After the first meeting, we had the idea to create an art and music event, consisting of an art exhibition, performances and live music. After discussing the idea with Tom, I proposed the idea of forming an art collective to Shayley Crabtree, Mimi Waddington and Jake Sachs. The ploy was the collective would work as a team to run this event and if successful, the possibility of it becoming a regular thing. That is how West was formed. We were all friends from back home before moving to Manchester for Uni. I invited Josh to join after we collaborated on our event PURE in December 2019.
You have recently created an online exhibition in support of Black Lives Matter, what role do you think art plays in communicating important issues?
Lucy: Art is essential for our education. We were not taught about the inequities of black people at the hands of the art world or that major establishments have benefited from artefacts stolen from their native culture. Many of the same establishments are refusing to acknowledge the systematic inequalities and are doing the bare minimum to support the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. Recently, I gave a talk at the peaceful protest in my hometown on exactly this. Therefore, we created our non-profit online exhibition; we wanted a space for our audience and the public to be able to view interpretations of the Black Lives Matter movement from artists across the world. This collection is permanent, and the open call is on-going.
What can creative individuals and communities do to help? Tom: Creatives can use the information on our online exhibitions to educate themselves on current matters whilst being stimulated by artwork. We also provided ‘West’s simple guide to the Black Lives Matter movement’. This is filled with useful information on the movement written by one of our members Mimi Waddington. This includes; petitions that can be signed in the UK, what books to read, what TV shows to watch, how to challenge people and what questions you need to ask yourself. All this information can be found in more detail on our website.
What has the response been to producing an online exhibition?
Tom: At the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, myself and Lucy decided to set up a programme to benefit artists throughout lockdown. Without being able to put on physical shows, we felt as though there was a gap in the art scene. We acknowledged that artists were producing work more than ever so we decided to give these artists a place to exhibit their pieces on our website and social media. The online exhibition was called ‘Isolation Inspirations’. This was incredibly well received, giving us a larger audience around the world and giving the artists an opportunity to build their own audience. Shortly after, the Black Lives Matter movement arose and had the same effect as the Coronavirus lockdown. The movement has been charged with so much emotion so naturally, artists responded to this the way they do best. Myself and Lucy created our ‘Black Lives Matter’ online exhibition to educate those that still struggle to adhere to human rights. The exhibition has already reached so many artists, not only does it give people a platform so their voices can be heard but it allows artists to know that collectives like West stand by them. Overall the online exhibitions have been a huge success. They’ve also allowed us to work towards something whilst being locked at home. We hope to continue producing these alongside our events to help promote West and artists in the industry.
How do you see the Manchester art scene evolving for young artists?
Lucy: It is hard to be taken seriously as a young creative, more so a student. From my experience, there is not that many opportunities for students outside of University. We have been told in past experiences we need a University tutor to supervise us when applying to rent a space for an exhibition, I guess the venue must have good reason to ask this. There are many other venues in Manchester such as pubs, bars and studios that will rent their space to students, but with this comes the difficulties, such as not being able to drill into walls to hang artwork.
It is also costly to submit and exhibit artwork in external exhibitions. I understand the need to charge artists to exhibit and to take a commission on sold artwork, but I was desperate to make a change as the majority of the time I could not afford to apply for exhibitions. I presume there are many other artists in the same boat as me. I discussed this with Andy and Evie, we decided if we are going to put on more than just an art exhibition, why not charge a small door fee and create an art event.
Therefore, we co-founded the Zero-Cost Exhibition Programme. The programme is tailored to exhibit artists at every stage of their careers side by side for no costs. These costs include, no fee for: submission, installation, exhibiting etc. There is also a 0% commission on art or merchandise sold through the programme. The work is brought to us, we do the rest and it is then collected at the end.
We are urging artists, performers, collectives, musicians and DJ’s to contact us for future collaborations.
See below a selection of artworks from West's recent online exhibition in support of Black Lives Matter.
Artist links and more can be found on their website at www.westartcollective.com