Made In England
Keyarts at the Quay
By Linda Walker
Amongst the cranes, scaffolding and busy one way traffic system in Ipswich is St Mary at the Quay Church, the home of the artist-led group Keyarts.
The church has regularly played host to productions from the well know Suffolk theatre group Red Rose Chain and has, for the last four years, been the home of Keyarts.
The organisation's aim is to aid the development of artists who live in the local area and to provide a space for them to exhibit and explore new work.
"About three or four years ago Rebecca Weaver, who is the Arts Officer for Ipswich, on receiving lots of feedback from artists, thought an artist led space would be a great thing," said Annabel Mednick, Chair of Keyarts.
"People were already using this space in a very informal way, and with all the feedback she really felt that an artist run space was what people were looking for.
"So she involved lots of artists who came in, so Keyarts was born."
The group has around 80 members whose work varies from painting, print work, textiles, illustration and flamenco dances, with new ideas continually coming to the fore.
Creativity and the opportunity to work outside of an artist's comfort zone is encouraged by Keyarts' policy of not pre-approving new pieces.
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The modest £15 annual fee is unlikely to deter many new members, but is it the lack of critique that attracts artists?
"No, I don’t think they know it. They are so used to having their work judged, I think it's more about exploring and giving artists an opportunity to open themselves up and explore different sides of themselves.
"People want their work critiqued. It would be nice to have an opportunuity to look at people's work and chat about it, but there is no one here who will look at work and say, 'that's not good enough for us'. That does not happen here."
The group holds a number of exhibitions throughout the year which give members a chance to display new works and have an opportunity to readdress pieces from their back catalogue.
"We don't choose the work that comes in, members can bring in any works that they have so that they can feel free to explore outside of the usual kinds of work that they do," said Annabel.
"So if normally you were a painter and you sold your work through a gallery but what you wanted to do was an installation or a performance well where would you do it?
"Where as here you can say 'well I'm a member can I use that space?' and we'll go, 'yeah'."
Ipswich based artist Diki Mols has used the group's most recent show to create a mixed media piece called Jesus Died for Pedro.
Jesus died for Pedro by Diki Mols
"I've only been a member of Keyarts for around six months," said Diki.
"I was introduced through other members because I have connections with the local music scene.
"They are a really good bunch here, with plenty of diversity and Annabel is very open minded, so it's a real open book as far as I'm concerned."
Because the members of Keyarts aren't neccesarily artists first and foremost they have a range of other backgrounds, commitments and jobs which influence their work with often surprising results.
"There's this guy who is a photographer and a crane driver and he said that he came in here quite a lot and wondered if he could bring his work in," said Annabel.
"So there was this guy who is up on a crane and has enlisted another guy to get a different perspective and this is what I love about it, people are artists and something else and hopefully in the autumn he will have an exhibition of his own. Isn't it wonderful?"
View from the Cranes by Trevor Durham
The group is supported by the Churches Conservation Trust which allows them to use the church.
St Mary's will soon need to undergo some essential repair works, but for now provides an interesting setting which encourages the unusual, innovative and expressive.
"People use the space in all sorts of different ways," said Annabel.
"We had a video weekend, people have wrapped the whole place in fine gossamer threads and this summer someone is going to come and build a whole boat which reflects the wooden ceiling, so the organisation is brilliant for those sorts of things.
"Our future at St Mary's is quite uncertain.
"The space needs many things such as toilets which we just can't afford, so we may need a new space which dosen't necessarily have to be a huge church.
"Sometimes actually this space is quite hard. You can't have classes here, so perhaps if we had a smaller place like a shop we could have intimate exhibitions and a place where people can have coffee and chat."
The group will continue to use the church for as long as possible and encourage anyone interested to get in touch and find out more about their forthcoming events, or about becoming a member themselves.
last updated: 14/05/2008 at 11:26