....Research Topics and Speculation about Art and Public Space by Scottish Citizen and artist Matt Baker

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

FirstFoot @ TheStove

A pretty momentous weekend - one way and another...that saw the first public outing of the new arts-collective The Stove in Dumfries. I have been involved in other blogs about the event itself - so if you want to cut to chase and see the event itself - click here

This post is a chance to reflect on the one years journey that brought me to last weekend. 

On January 21st 2011 fellow artist Lizzie Farey and myself hosted an evening attended by more than 60 members of the creative community in SouthWest Scotland. We enjoyed presentations by 4 artists and went on to discuss issues of the day - notably a) the withdrawal of support by our local authority for artists and makers and b) the boorach made by the 'powers that be' over a plan to make a cultural centre from an empty shop.

Following this evening a group of 10 people met again from this group became the nucleus of two new movements for the arts in the SouthWest....The Commonty - a open-access network for sharing information and ideas that operates through a free Blog.

The Commonty has in excess of 200 members who each receive weekly email - on average 2.5 new posts are added each day and approx 5000 unique pageviews per month

Secondly The Stove was born; this is a collective of artists working in disciplines from poetry to glassmaking, from sculpture to filmmaking and from music to metalwork. This group has morphed in size and shape and currently operates with a core curatorial group and a wider creative membership. The Stove has two arena's of operation at present - a) to support the creative community to take a leading role in the debate about the contemporary identity of Dumfries and b) to establish a headquarters for this project in premises 96-102 High Street Dumfries DG1 2BJ.

You can read the ongoing story of The Stove's coming to life - here

The Stove - 96-102 High Street, Dumfries

The Stove Curatorial Group 2012 - (from left) Colin Tennant, Matt Baker, Mark MacLachlan, Linda Mallett and Will Levi Marshall
Following the insightful advice of our friend Karen Ward-Boyd - we decided not to wait for the 'finer points' of the building agreements to be resolved but rather to embark on a programme for three public events around the building. This to begin to establish the agenda and track record of the group in readiness for our new home when it was fully ours to occupy. We are very grateful for the financial support of Creative Scotland and Holywood Trust and the support of individuals too numerous to mention in helping us to reach the point of putting on our first event:


(There is a real time story of the event on The Stove website ). First Foot was presented as part of the inaugural Big Burns Supper contemporary arts festival. The Curatorial group put out a call to artists to respond to the theme of First Foot (Scots tradition of crossing the threshold at the start of the new year) as this was our first crossing of the threshold into the public domain in Dumfries.

A week before the event cryptic chalked graffiti appeared around the town centre - this caused 'something of a controversy'

This was followed by the distribution of e-flyers and postcards:

First Foot ran over two nights in the central square in Dumfries - we estimate that more than 1200 witnessed the project over the weekend:

Photographs by Colin Tennant

'Windows on Burns Night' was an international mail-art project curated by Dave Borthwick and Hugh Bryden - poets work was displayed in windows around the town and projected onto The Stove as part of First Foot
Curtains - by Jo Hodges
The Stove's own Bill O'Hara introduces the evening
Cam Pagan's 'Frazer McCubbing'

Florencie Garcia Chafuen 'Salmon Dance'
Mark Zygadlo, Oceanallover and Mischief La Bas ' Lost Supper'
The work was beautiful and very well received - but, for me, the greatest pleasure of the project was the way that a group of creative people came together and worked in a common cause without money or egos getting in the way. I believe that we surprised ourselves with what we were able to achieve and the energy between and around us is now crackling with new ideas and possibilities....we have begun!

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