We are: Dafydd, an experimental photographer, and Zosia, a cultural studies graduate, and we run a non-profit art project in Wales. We were born on approximately the same latitude in 1984 and we met in 2009 in Naples.
After moving between Poland, Wales and Italy for almost 4 years, we suddenly found ourselves back in Wales with little to do and a bit stuck… both literally – damn trains – and metaphorically. Then, one sunny day while walking down the 50 meters of high street Zosia found it, the answer – the recently closed, but still in very good condition barber shop.
What initially began as a self-funded pop-up exhibition, has now flourished into the*kickplate*project, a non-profit series of exhibitions, so called because of the kick plates that still sit in place at the foot of our gallery walls, a reminder of the shop’s past.
The project's aim is to bring international fine-art photography to my home town of Abertillery. Abertillery – a small post-industrial town in the south Wales valleys, a town once of 40,000 inhabitants, a large coal mine, cinemas, dance halls and art nouveau shopping centres. Now of 11,000 people, high levels of unemployment, health problems and very little hopes of social mobility.
For us, the*kickplate*project is a way to fight small-town boredom, to question who the target audience of art is and to broaden that audience, to bring art directly into the lives and communities of those people who in the past have been told that art is not for them.
We strongly believe in the importance of everyday contact with art, and believe that it enriches peoples' lives, shapes their sensibilities and helps them enjoy different aspects of existence.
Having grown up here, I can tell you that the last thing people in a post-industrial town want is to be reminded of that industrial past, or of how hard their lives are now, how “poor” they are.
With this in mind we decided to produce an exhibition of works by international artists, and as photographers ourselves, we decided it would be best to produce a photography exhibition – so we did, and we called it “Visitors”.
The concept of “Visitors” was to bring something completely new to the town, images that wouldn’t get shown here. We gathered artists from Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Austria, France, Wales and Lebanon and chose almost 30 photographs to exhibit, and thanks to the artists that all agreed to let us use their images for free, 10 days later we opened our first exhibition, a variety of styles and techniques different from anything that would normally be seen in Abertillery. Most of the artists we showed were also “amateur” or came to photography from a slightly less beaten path – to show that the difference between amateur and professional is not one of quality, but of opportunity.
The reaction from local people surpassed our greatest expectations; everybody that came to see it over the 3 weeks loved it, if not all of it, then at least some of it. We had nearly 250 people come to see us, averaging almost 13 a day, which I can tell you in a small town is something to be proud of. They left us their support, feedback, tales of cameras lost and images taken, we even received one hug.
With that sort of reaction what could we do but produce another exhibition? So we did, “behind her ‘I’s” is currently showing and will be up until the 24th of August. For our second exhibit we decided to present images of women taken by female photographers. The idea is to counter the normal photographs of women you see in the media and sometimes in the arts: the passive, the muse, the aesthetic object. Once again we are showing close to 30 images, featuring photographs from Georgia, Lebanon, Germany and Kaliningrad; all of whom question the ideas of female identity and put their models at the centre of their concept, not as an added aesthetic.
So far we are still running at an average of 13 visitors a day, all of whom find it at least interesting and about time the town had something like this.
The new project
So now, the*kickplate*project has evolved from a one-off pop-up exhibition, we want to continue, we want to run the gallery for a few more months at least. We already have enough exhibition ideas to take us until Christmas, but unfortunately we can no longer fund the gallery all on our own and that’s why we need you.
The next exhibition we’d like to produce is a collection of collaborative works by artists, many of whom have never met and who live on opposite sides of the world.
As part of our concept we’d like to find as many alternative ways to fund our gallery as possible, and because we are a collaborative project, we hope that you’d like to collaborate with us. For now, we need enough funds to keep the space for one month, one exhibition. All the money we raise will go towards supporting the costs of this next exhibition. That is the prints, the rent and a small amount on utilities.
We have found that the project has brought a smile to the faces of local people, who may not have much to smile about in tough economic times. Donate as much as you can, even £1 will make a difference - if everyone who sees this does that, I think we will already be there. If you can’t donate, don’t worry, but please tell someone about this project, we need the help of the community to keep our community project alive.
Risks and challenges
Delays are always possible, bringing so many artists together and organising prints can lead to problems. For our first exhibition we only got the prints the day before, but we still managed to mount and hang all 30 and then open on time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (25 days)