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Drawn Together

1 October 09 words: Frances Ashton

Since the sixties Nottingham has been very much the capital of the region in terms of contemporary art. LeftLion's Arts Editor takes you through the current scene...

Since the sixties Nottingham has been very much the capital of the region in terms of contemporary art. The Midland Group and the recently disbanded Oldknows studio group have left a legacy for the artists of today to step into. Stand Assembly studio group and Moot gallery were set up by a group of graduates from Nottingham Trent and have been twin driving forces in the city ever since, recently moving to shiny new premises at 1 Thoresby Street. The directors of Moot, as well as being artists themselves, curate a programme of exhibitions which attract young artists of national and international standing to Nottingham, helping the city to raise it’s artistic lure.

Similarly, the more recently formed Tether studio group, who host the exhibition space The Wasp Room, has this year hung the work of both local and international artists on its walls. The more established independent art groups have also helped to support and encourage the formation of new groups. Taking over Moot and Stand Assembly’s old space in Sneinton is Backlit Studios, a consortium of 2008 graduates dedicated to experimental work.

The relatively recent addition of Cruiser, formed by members of the Oldknows studio group and including artists from Holland, Germany, Canada and the USA and White Rabbit Studio, an upcoming group of predominately ex-Nottingham Trent art students, add even more weight to the local arts scene.

Venture into Canning Circus and you will discover Shop, an exhibition, workspace and retail outlet for a dozen or so creatives working in various mediums including video production, graphic design, graffiti, clothes design, joinery and more. Nottingham is a city rich in festivals and other artistic events. Radiator is a festival of new media art and commissioned artworks, which is hosted by the Broadway Cinema and Media Centre, an independent creative unit with its own digital art programme. Off-site and site-specific artwork has regularly been found along the banks of the River Trent for the past four years thanks to Hinterland, led by independent curator Jennie Syson.

Today, Nottingham artists network and promote themselves through free art listings guide Artnot and find themselves critically evaluated in the virtual pages of Nottingham Visual Arts, a new web-based magazine.

Our independent art scene is due for another boom set to coincide with the opening of Nottingham Contemporary, and then again with the British Art Show launching here in 2010. When Nottingham hosted the BAS back in 2006 many Nottingham artists and art groups were boosted through their involvement in Sideshow, a concurrent festival focusing on emerging independent local artists.

This success is sure to be revisited through the forthcoming British Art Show Fringe. Nottingham is an important city for the contemporary art scene. With two major universities, one of them specialising in fine art, graduates are increasingly choosing to stay here. As these graduate artists become more established and more mature they bring with them networks of other artists from across the UK and abroad who in turn contribute to the ever more lively and inspiring scene we find in the city today.

Portrait of the city as an artistic powerhouse
The local cultural landscape is set to be dominated by artists of all shades over the next decade, with established collectives being joined by new ones year after year. Here’s just the merest of tastes of what’s happening here, in no particular order….

Already named by The Times as one of the UK’s hottest new galleries, Moot is run by four Trent arts graduates who are leading the charge in the NG - but their reach goes far beyond the city, working with artists all over the country and abroad.
1 Thoresby Street, NG1 1AJ

Surface Gallery
Celebrating their 10th birthday this very month, Surface Gallery is a volunteer-run set-up geared towards pushing new and experimental talent. They’re always interested in hearing from people willing to help run the Gallery – check the site to get on the waiting list.
16 Southwell Road, NG1 1DL

A veritable melange of exhibition space, creative office space and – yes – a retail outlet of sorts, Shop contains some of the finest art creatives in town, who have already landed gigs for Nike, Wallpaper*, and the Guardian.
2 Ilkeston Road, NG7 3JD

The Art Organisation
Just across the road from the train station, TAO are an extremely ethical nationwide concern, bent on bringing the arts to the community by occupying derelict buildings and turning them into art spaces. The Notts branch has three buildings that hold workshops, galleries, and gigs.
21 Station St, NG2 3AJ

A complex of studios and spaces, Backlit – formed by another group of Trent students just a year ago – is experimental as you like. A self-styled ‘laboratory for the unformed idea’, they specialise in the cross-pollination of artistic practices.
The Factory, Dakeyne Street, NG3 2AR

Based in the Wasp Room – so-called due to its infestation of dead ‘uns when they moved into it – Tether are another wave of graduates on the fringes of St Anns in an intimate yet accessible gallery.
The Wasp Room, 17a Huntingdon St, NG1 3JH

White Rabbit Studios
A multi-faceted collective of five artists based in a lovely house in Carrington, White Rabbit are ready to spread their wings and link up with other artists to share ideas and exchange feedback.
Sherbrooke Road, Carrington, NG5 2BE

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