What is Arts Council England actually about? On this page you can see shots from various Cultivate shows from the last seven or eight years, mostly shots of people at our shows rather tha njust the art. Cultivate is an artist-led space run myself Sean Worrall, and fellow artist Emma Harvey. We’ve put on over 150 exhibitions, events, group shows and more since we started it, we started it because on the whole we didn’t like the way we were treated as artists living and working in London, and we are artists, we’re artists first, reluctant in terms of running shows, but if we don’t do it well then who will? We’ve always been hands on, pro-active, door wide open whatever the weather, we’ve taken over condemned warehouses, we did it in the heart of the Vyner Street establishment for a few years, we do it in all kinds of spaces, we’ve shown the work of thousands of fellow artists (yes, thousands, I reckon well over two thousand artists have taken part in our shows now). The shows we curate have always been about engagement, about being very open to the public, about enabling fellow artists to get out there, my own art, all the art drops and everything else has always been about engagement.
We don’t qualify for Arts Council England’s current government backed Covid19 funding because Arts Council England say we as a gallery or myself as an artist have not had public funding before. Seems my crime is self-sufficiency and keeping it going for everyone without putting my hand out. The closed-door gallery up the road, the one with no signs so no one actually knows they are there, they’re always getting funding – apparently we “aren’t the right types”, that’s what a guy from the Arts Council said once when he dropped in to one of our packed Vyner Street openings a couple of years back – so we’ve just get on with walking it rather than talking in while the gallery up the road carries on hiding behind closed doors writing wordy press releases about shows no one goes to that have the Arts Council logo on the bottom.
Last month we had another programme of shows in an East London space that we had hired for a month, that had to end early, half way through the second of three scheduled shows, we had to close for obvious reasons, it was right tat we did but the owner of the space still wanted to be paid for the full month – he did in the end agree to knock a small amount off the hire fee, not much, but that’s how it goes with renting space in London to put on shows these days, we’re always on the backfoot, and the mecy of those who own the spaces, the often outragious hire prices – our shows last month were busy, they were ENGAGING, they were exciting, people came, people talked, they felt eventful, positive, te artists involved were positive, the opening night of the first show, Noting is Square was special. I like to think our shows are always engaging, that the public feel welcome, comfortable rather the intimidated way I’m told people are made to feel at other galleries (I know what they mean, having to knock on a door and then have the people inside watch you as you walk in is intimidating empty art gallery can be a very unfriendly unwelcoming exprience even for us experienced big-mouthed artists with chips of our shoulders)
So we can’t put on anymore physical shows for the foreseeable future, we are doing them online, but hey, hardly the same. Andso having to (rightly) close in mid March half way through a group of shows, rightly closing rather than running to the end of the month left us with a hole in the financing, it left us without an outlet for our own work, it cut off our main source of income as self-emplyted artists and curators. Arts Council England have always looked down their noses at people like us, at things like Cultivate, at engagement and open doors, we’ve done all we have done with out public funding, we’re rather proud of the fact that we’ve never stuck our hands out, that we’ve almost defiantly done it ourselves, we’ve always been about artists coming together and making it happen ourselves. But right now right now when there are still bills to pay on those March shows and the circumstances are way beyond controland no fault of our own, when we do need a bit of help, the Arts Council say we don’t qualify for support because we never have been funded before! They always have been a rather elitist closed shop when it comes to funding those of us who actual deal with public engagement, those who actually walk it – still, the gallery around the corner, the one no one knows about even though they’ve been there and been funded for years, the one with no sign, the one who’s door is always closed, the ones who jsut talk it, they no doubt will get funded. I questioned the Arts Council about the situation via Instagram a couple of days ago, I just got the standard answer about how they could only support those they had already supported, kind of expected that really, seems rediculous that our track record and the evidence of what we actually do counts for nothing, but then it never really has with the Arts Council
Arts Council England have never been that interested in those who really do engage, those who actually walk it rather than just talk it, they’ve always been about looking after their own, “jobs for the boys (and girls)”, they’ve always felt aloof, unapproachable, elitist. Every time I’ve taken a look or made some kind of approach I’ve felt very unwelcome, always a feeling of alienation – “but you have your door open and invite the the dirty grubby general public in, we can’t have that” – apparently all those shows we’ve put on and those artists empowered and all that engagement with the actual public, that counts for nothing, there’s no help or funding to help for us from the government via Arts Council during these very difficult times because we’re never asked for funding before. Right now it kind of feels like we won’t survive the current situation, like a lot of future artists wo’t get a chance to take those first steps via our shows, that we won’t survive. I bet the damn gallery up the road that no one knows about or goes to, the one they’re always funding, the one with the wordy press releases, I bet they get some help. What is Arts Council England actually about? Certainly not about this likes of Cultivate or pro-active engaging artists like us… (sw)