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CATALYST is City Arts’ New Programme That Exhibits and Supports Black Artists and Artists of Colour

16 February 21 words: Laura-Jade Vaughan
photos: Richard Chung

In response to their Black Lives Matter commitments, City Arts present CATALYST – a programme exhibiting and supporting black artists and artists of colour, designed by curator in residence, Saziso Phiri.

You might know Nottingham-based curator, Saziso, through The Anti Gallery (TAG) – a pop-up gallery inspired by alternative art and urban culture. By exhibiting art outside of the white cube, Saziso is interested in curating new and unexpected viewing experiences, exploring how art in informal and unconventional settings resonate with wider audiences. Often working with new and emerging artists, she is passionate about presenting artists whose work might sit outside of contemporary art institutions, be that street artists, or artists without the typical art school education.

The CATALYST programme was born from a series of discussions with a steering group of black creatives and people of colour, exploring their experiences of working in the arts in Nottingham – both opportunities, but also barriers – and the role City Arts could play in this conversation.

“I treat this programme as a kind of catalyst for change,” Saziso explains. “At the beginning I was anxious to get as much done as we can get – to get City Arts’ name out there and engage with all these communities. It was hard to realise that real change, and long-lasting change, doesn't just happen overnight. There's a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of learning and unlearning.”

The programme includes two artist residencies specifically addressing anti-black racism: Honey Williams, a Jamaican-British singer-songwriter, visual artist and designer; and Richard Chung, a film photographer who has recently been documenting anti-black racism protests. Curated with the pandemic in mind, the artists will be exhibiting in the large street-facing window of City Arts, and the exhibition series will be available online. The accompanying events programme includes artist talks, creative workshops, open studios and a six-part podcast series: Community Conversations.*

*Some of the activities are postponed due to lockdown, so be sure to check out City Arts website for more information.

Tune into City Arts Podcast:

Community Conversations

Hosted by LeftLion’s own art co-editor, Rachel Willcocks, with weekly guests, Community Conversations looks at the lives of black and mixed-race black members of Nottingham’s creative community. Through a truly diverse constellation of creative people – musicians, poets, historians, fashion designers, models – each guest tells stories about community in different ways.

Find out more about the guests...

Jeremy Prince
DJ, music enthusiast, and one of the main organisers for Nottingham Caribbean Carnival, Jeremy Prince speaks about his influences and inspirations. He also discusses making 2020 Nottingham Caribbean Carnival digital in response to the pandemic, and the coming together of the Caribbean community in times of adversity.

Michaela Spencer
Michaela ‘The Plentiful Poet’ Spencer, is a poet, spoken word artist and founder of peer support organisation, Truth Mental Health. She speaks about her journey as an artist and how art can be used as a tool for healing, as well as the impact of George Floyd’s murder on the black community from a mental health perspective. 

Ramario Chevoy
Model, stylist, choreographer and creative director, Ramario Chevoy discusses his influences and inspirations, and how issues like toxic masculinity and Windrush feature within his work.

Norma Gregory
Norma Gregory is a historian, broadcaster, heritage consultant and art curator. Her work addresses historical misrepresentations, and rewrites a more diverse history that makes sense for everyone.

Nathaniel Wilson
For the past decade, Mimm has combined the worlds of fashion, music and art. Nathaniel Wilson, founder of Mimm and Nottingham Street Food Club, talks about championing Black British culture, the importance of building each other up and working collaboratively, plus the challenges of being mixed-race.

The Nottingham-based soul sisters, Georgia Copeland and Nadia Latoya Higgins, of MELONYX describe themselves as a harmonic force, embodying contrast and complement, ebb and flow and balance. They reflect on a turbulent 2020, and talk about neo-soul, shadeism in the music industry, the pressure to create vs the power of rest and yoga.

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