This year my goal is to rent, open and exhibit at a new pop up shop in a different town for approximately one week at the end of each month.
I’m going to be bringing ART and creativity back to the high streets, starting in Banbury next week.
Initially this idea was generated from my own personal lack of acceptance from Art Galleries that I had applied to exhibit at. I always thought that to become a proper artist I’ll have to be exhibited in a prestigious gallery of some sort. I have noticed that it feels increasingly difficult for an Artist of my status to be recognised by ANY established or even local Art Institution.
Although I have never been accepted by an Art gallery, not even a community one in my own hometown such as Basildon Art Gallery (I was rejected twice on the basis that my work doesn’t meet their requirements), as a self employed artist for three years now, I would consider myself to have only started to become a “successful” artist in the last year. That is, If you (the reader) are willing to comply with the definition of “successful” to mean making enough of a living to be able to survive from month to month, thus defeating the promise of becoming a raving delirious “starving artist”.
I am finally achieving what I once thought might be impossible but I’m always plotting what to do next. I’ve started to realise that perhaps I’m not going to make my true mark on the art world by repeatedly applying for exhibitions at various art galleries online via email, which also require various payments per application. For a little while I thought I had no idea how else to make my work echo around me until it ripples through the country. I eventually observed that I have one clear, strong advantage. That I travel, a lot, since living in a van I've become someone who's either not local to anywhere any more, or who is temporarily local to everywhere, depending on the perception I choose. Combine this with the fact that for the last three years I have successfully exhibited my work at Utopia Coffee Lounge in Southend high street every December; which demonstrates that I am more than capable of hosting my own exhibitions by myself. The only issue is, that I needed a venue for it. This is how I accomplished my concept of taking my Artwork on tour with me and using Pop Up Shops as my approach to reaching my goals.
What I’ve learned recently from attempting to rent out various Pop Up Shops for my 2016 tour, titled “The Famous Artist Birdy Rose” is that it is actually difficult to get a pop up shop for a short period of time unless you have a bit of money and can afford to go into the city but even then you could be quite often required to rent the shop for a month or more, which adds up the cost. This is understandable as there are sometimes protocols in place and legal procedures that sometimes do not allow any room for temporary options as it leaves Landlords out of their comfort zones, however, ultimately it is up to the Landlord themselves.
I think Landlords should seriously consider being more open to the idea of a new & improved short term pop up shop culture, so that more people can do something like what I’m doing. I'm not suggesting that everyone who wants to be an artist has to give up everything to go live in a van. I'm suggesting that there is a missed opportunity here. One outstanding reason for this is that it would give great opportunity for young people, especially school leavers, or college/university students to properly harness their entrepreneurial spirit; to be ballsy exhibitionists of their work and to make something of themselves, or even just give it a go for a trial period, to see what happens. In a society where I can see the emerging generation already perpetually suffering from a lack of ambitious career inspiration and confidence, I think this could prove to be an incredibly useful practise for young adults and artists who want to succeed and have yet to interpret how to be productive about it.
Another reason that I think renting out Pop Up Shops to aspiring entrepreneurs is that the it gives the high street it's character back. Currently every high street in every town is quickly being taken over by phone shops and pawn brokers. I know this because I have been on the road with my partner, musician Doozer McDooze for almost three years now and almost every town we have stopped in looks the same, with the exception of only a few. I will acknowledge that there are occasionally quaint little coffee lounges that seem to still exist in a few towns, a small batch of beautiful little boutiques and antique shops, sometimes I luck out and find a tiny little book shop!
Personally I couldn't think of anything more tedious than walking up and down the high street counting 16 phone repair shops that all look exactly the same and an equal number of closed down or boarded up shops. I think we should be injecting life back into our communities with the chance to expose and embolden whatever it is that is capturing imaginations and inspiring the public. I aim to start by personally actively encouraging and persuading Landlords to become more accepting towards the use of short term pop up shop spaces. Hopefully my exhibitions will give them something to think about in future.
I’ll keep updating my story as I go along this year so that my readers can follow my journey and see if it works. I don't have all the answers here, I just want to show off what I do without having to wait a decade for a gallery to take notice. Maybe I'm impatient but there's no guarantee in our lives that things will go the way we want them to. I'm not willing to just accept that we will be rejected and we might, if we're lucky, be accepted and embraced for who we are and what we do (unless you're a bad person, for example, a murderer, then there is a guarantee that you're not going to be accepted) but my point is, why wait for someone else to approve of your art, or your music, your dress making or your writing? If you like what you do and you're willing to work hard, and you have the passion, then do it.
The message here is that if you want to do something, have a little confidence and investigate the ways to make it happen.