Fine Art students launch digital art gallery to showcase works at Wrexham Glyndwr University
An art gallery with a difference has been launched by two former Fine Art students from Wrexham Glyndwr University after their forays into arts curation met a global pandemic.
Chloe Goodwin, a recent graduate who lives in Wrexham, and Ryan Saunders, who completed his degree earlier this year and is currently living in Birmingham, were asked to help curate artwork at the Dispensary, a small gallery on the university’s Regent Street arts school site.
Lecturer Paul Jones approached both Ryan and Chloe – who had spent the previous year as artist-in-residence at Regent Street – to ask them to help with the Dispensary after it put out an Open Call for artists to exhibit.
“He was aware of our keen interest in curation and offered us some first-hand experience when The Dispensary had just released its first open call,” explained Ryan.
“Just before restrictions were implemented earlier this year, we responded to artists from that call, accepting them for a chance to exhibit in the physical space.
“We had planned to have a schedule of physical exhibitions within our dispensary space, which would align with Dot Dot Dash, a student-led event which we also ran.
“This was a chance for us to experiment and push the boundaries of what we could do with our space. As it was only just getting off its feet, we really wanted to entice people by showing a variety of artists and curating the exhibits in a new and innovative way!
“We had just started to talk about the addition of professional lighting and expanding the space – then lockdown began.”
Faced with having to re-imagine their plans – and the very concept of how their gallery would function – Ryan and Chloe found themselves adapting their plans for the gallery both at speed – and remotely.
Chloe added: “We no longer had access to the space and the artists we had chosen to exhibit were stuck overseas. We are also located in different parts of the country so ways of communication had to change very quickly.
“It was very disheartening as we had only just begun to start up the project and were really excited for what we had lined up as we had international and national artists interested.
“However, we were still determined to bring The Dispensary online – not only that, but still give the artists the chance to showcase their work via our platforms. There was a general shift across the world in pace, we suddenly couldn’t connect in the same ways we had physically, we couldn’t communicate with the artists the same way.
“We had previously sat in front of the space with artists and really dove into their practice and what it was they were looking to exhibit and how we could provide the platform for this, it allowed for a relationship to build and a dialogue to open something which now isn’t possible or at least not in the same intimate way.”
However, the pair decided their art show must go on, and – taking their inspiration from Glyndwr’s online final degree show, ANTISHOW, and other re-imagined arts shows which used virtual delivery – they re-worked their plans to take them to social media.
Ryan said: “We began with a call out to the already scheduled artists, asking if they would like to be involved with an online interview regarding what they had planned to exhibit in preparation for our return to the physical space.
“This expanded into putting a callout to everyone and beginning our Lockdown Interview Series – currently being hosted across our platforms online.”
As their work on their new-style gallery grew, Ryan and Chloe found its popularity began to snowball – so much so that they are now extending their run at their new, virtual, Dispensary to tell the various stories artists have about adapting their practice during the pandemic.
Chloe added: “From students to established artists, we all have a shared experience of trying to carry on and present our works in a new way.
“By sharing our stories, we can learn new things and act as motivators to each other.
“We hope that these interviews can somehow relieve some stress from those that aren’t feeling as resilient and creative and through this series they can find new ways of working and remaining positive.
“It is also allowing us to form relationships with people across the world that we usually wouldn’t get the chance to connect with.”
The Dispensary can now be found online on Instagram @DispensaryGallery, on Twitter @49Dispensary, on Facebook at the Dispensary Gallery page, and on WordPress at dispensarygallery.wordpress.com
Paul Jones, Lecturer in Fine Art at Wrexham Glyndwr University, said: “At Glyndwr University, we work to produce artists who are flexible, creative and independent – and who find unique ways to get their work out into the wider world and connecting with the public.
“Those skills have been tested for many artists in the past six months, but seeing Ryan and Chloe adapt their curatorial brief so deftly, and in such an effective way, has been awe-inspiring.”
And Ryan added: “On a final note, no matter which side of the coin you look at, this process has been game-changing – for both ourselves as amateur curators, but also in the way digital and physical art is displayed across the world.”
More details about studying Fine Art at Wrexham Glyndwr University, can be found here.
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