I’ve recently taken down an exhibition that in every way fulfilled my expectations for my Art Post system.
As described in previous posts I conceived Art Post as the solution to a dream of creating new exhibiting opportunities for artists by making use of different and interesting spaces. In this instance the space was the 13th century crypt of a disused church, St. John the Baptist, set within the last remaining section of the old city wall of Bristol. This low vaulted stone building was complete with memorial stones and tombs of people whose lives spanned the history of Bristol. Access was through a low arched doorway with a solid, studded oak door which was unlocked with a massive key. There was atmosphere in spades and it smelt appropriately musty. Artist Kate Leney came across the crypt as she was acquainting herself with the city having recently moved to Bristol. A couple of weeks earlier she had also seen the exhibition I organised in St Stephens church, as part of Bristol’s Big Green Week, using Art Posts. Kate put crypt and posts together recognising the exhibiting potential.
Now, this is precisely one of the scenarios I designed Art Post for and when Kate approached me about collaborating on an exhibition I leapt at it. She negotiated a reasonable deal with the Churches Conservation Trust, the organisation responsible for the upkeep of the crypt and the church above, for a two week run of the exhibition. The issues connected with exhibiting in the crypt were just as envisioned, not being able to attach art works to the walls, not having lighting or the facility for fixing lighting and having restricted access. The work of four artists was duly installed in a rapid one day set up. When we stood back and reviewed our handiwork the result was very pleasing. Our opinion was confirmed many times during the next two weeks by visitors to ‘Art in the crypt’.
The key statistic
I can qualify the statement that Art Post works both quantitively and qualitatively. Kate had a clicker and we had a comments book. Over the eleven days of the exhibition over 1900 people visited. From the written comments and from conversations with visitors we know that people came in for three reasons, curiosity about what was behind the funny little door in the wall, a desire to see the historic building and to see the art. Our visitors seem to have found both the situation and the art interesting and pleasurable.
It wasn’t just us artists who benefitted from this visitor statistic. The Churches Conservation Trust, not only is responsible for maintaining historic unused religious buildings, but has a remit to open them to the public. For this they rely on volunteers. Our occupation of the space meant it was open from 10am to 5pm each day for the run. The crypt is sited on a busy city centre street yet most of the long time inhabitants of Bristol who came in hadn’t even seen the door open before. The donation box received more coins than would be usual just because we were there. The very fact of the exhibition being set up would have increased awareness of the building too, through our promotion efforts in the two week run up to the opening. All-in-all everyone involved, artists and host, benefitted. This is art, and Art Posts, at work.