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Visual and Performance Art for All

Q&A with Alice Lobb, Gallery Programmer at artsdepot. Artsdepot an exciting and vibrant arts venue in North London, committed to providing a diverse range of high quality visual and performance arts for everyone.

Making contemporary art accessible is one of artsdepot’s overriding goals; how do you see artsdepot overcoming the obstacle of funding cuts in order to continue to attain this goal?
The proposed funding cuts to artsdepot’s core funding from London Borough of Barnet were a huge shock to us, but we are gathering significant support from the sector and our users. We already have our ACE funding in place for 2011/12 and are currently writing our bid for 2012 – 2015. The team at artsdepot remains positive about our future and is continuing to work on the 2011/12 programme as planned as well as identifying new ways of working to ensure that we are sustainable beyond this. A free gallery programme remains at the heart of these plans.

How would you define the artsdepot experience? What should audiences expect?
Something different every time. The changing programme of exhibitions in the gallery makes available a range of approaches to contemporary art throughout the year. Combined with a lively programme of dance, comedy, music and theatre as well as courses and classes for all age ranges there are a vast array of experiences available. Artsdepot is not just about what happens in the building either, we have a busy outreach programme that introduces different artistic practices to the diverse community of Barnet.

What is it that makes the interdisciplinary format of artsdepot so important?
artsdepot exists because of the result of a consultation that showed that local people wanted improved local access to the arts. It is the only professional arts venue in Barnet and so it is important that it is as a multi-art form venue that strives to serve its diverse local community.

Your programmes show a diverse range of visual and performance arts; do you feel there is an overarching theme for the 2011 program?
artsdepot’s mission is to engage with a wide audience with an inspiring, high quality and inclusive programme. We’ll continue to do this in 2011 by working in partnership with different artists and organisations to show different approaches to contemporary arts practice in the gallery. The overarching theme for the 2011 programme is collaboration; we’ll be showing collaborative arts practices and exhibitions produced through different ways of collaborative working. In February we’re hosting an event for local artists with Emerge that will explore different ways of working in collaboration.

The current exhibition VISITOR focuses on the space between the invented and the real, the represented and the imagined; do you think these themes are symptomatic of a wider theme within art practice?
Ruth Gibson and Bruno Martelli (igloo), who have created VISITOR, see their practice as located in a tradition of exploring the figure and landscape. Inspired by an almost old fashioned human spirit of exploration of the natural world they render their findings using the tools of new technologies. The real and imagined aren’t separated in their installations but combined in a way that blurs the boundaries between them and aims to make the viewer re-think how we experience the world- be it real or virtual. In this way I think their practice is aligned with many contemporary artists who explore the different ways in which we experience the world around us.

Now in its sixth year, Creative Routes, celebrates young artistic talent in Barnet. How does this initiative fit in with the gallery’s programme as a whole?
Creative Routes is developed each year through a partnership between artsdepot, ten local primary schools and a team of professional artist educators who work together over the autumn term to create new artwork that is then shown in the gallery space over the Christmas period. The programme aims to create a unique arts experience for children in Barnet. The project begins with the children coming to the theatre at artsdepot, for many of them it is their first ever visit to a theatre. This visit usually inspires the theme for the artwork that they then work with an artist to create. They develop new skills and enjoy the experience of showing their artwork in a professional gallery. The project also enables artists and school staff to share and develop new skills.

What does your programme look like for 2011?
We launch the spring season with VISITOR- an exhibition of new work by artists Ruth Gibson and Bruno Martelli (igloo). Supported by the Henry Moore Foundation, Arts Council England and the Banff Research Centre this is the first visual arts commission for the gallery at artsdepot. It will be with us between 14 January and 27 February before touring to Lakeside Art Centre, Nottingham.

After that we have Blue Suede Shoes, an exhibition of new drawings by artistic collective Gumbo. Our audiences will be invited to play the same word games that the artists have used to create the work.

Lab Craft: Digital Adventures in Contemporary Craft, curated by Max Fraser in partnership with the Crafts Council, will look at the use of technology as an extension to the capabilities of the human hand. This will be shown at artsdepot from 6 May to 26 June.

We then have artsdepot open, our annual open submission exhibition. I’m working with some of artsdepot’s youth panel on an exhibition for the autumn. They will take the lead on the exhibition theme and artists – working with me to research, devise and organise an exhibition of contemporary art. We end the year with our annual Creative Routes exhibition.

See www.artsdepot.co.uk for full details throughout the year.

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