Experiencing the Echo Exhibition opening night really showed me how businesses of any specialty can support and progress the artistic world, and I think that it is a fantastic blueprint for the future of commercial fine art. Here is my experience of the fantastic Echo Exhibition that opened last night…
About the exhibition
The exhibition is homed in, and supported by, Prettys – a solicitor firm in Ipswich ran by people with genuine enthusiasm towards the arts. Prettys host a biannual exhibition, where they basically deck out their lovely office space with artwork from University of Suffolk artists and invite lots of people from the local area to see it on the opening night.
Luckily for us, this year the work featured in the exhibition was exclusively from the Waterfront Studios – which is a space for artist alumni of the University of Suffolk to rent inexpensive studio spaces within the university.
Each year the role of curator changes, and this time the Echo Exhibtion was curated by the lovely Sarah Bale and Julie Dodds, who share a studio space at Waterfront Studios. They were responsible for selecting and collecting work and installing the two story labyrinth of Prettys’ office with 24 artworks – a mammoth task which they managed to accomplish with tireless enthusiasm and energy.
Where do I come in?
Although I don’t personally rent a studio space (although I’m looking forward to that point in the future!) I happily fell into the exhibition since I work for a creative company called Pop My Mind which is based in the Waterfront Studios. We work in a shared office space in the middle of the artists, meaning we are constantly met with the hammering and drilling noises of Carlos’ jewelry making (the ‘Mad Dentist’ as we like to call him), the cheerful conversations of Sarah and Julie from the corner, and the smell of turps from Adam’s paintings in progress. It’s a really awesome space to work in (even though I can get easily distracted from all the exciting things happening around us) and since my co-workers and I are also artists, the curators kindly included our work!
I entered four artworks into the exhibition which were included: three portraiture ink paintings and one illustrative piece. Plus I also snuck in another ink painting when Sarah and Julie were scavenging for more artwork on the day of the opening night, since Prettys opened up another room for them to fill!
The private view
The opening night drew in loads of interesting people from the local area, including Prettys staff and contacts, friends and family of the artists, creative people from around Ipswich, and even the Major of Ipswich! There was a lovely buzzing atmosphere as people discussed the artwork and their connection to the event, and despite the amount of rooms which the work was spread between, there were many tight squeezes through doorways and quite a queue at the buffet table.
It was lovely to see my pieces integrated into the exhibition among some outstanding work from the Waterfront Studios artists. There was such varied and high quality work throughout the exhibition, and I found it especially nice to see people’s artwork which I had seen in-the-making now finished and out of the studio context. Having them displayed on walls around the office really brought them to life: Sarah and Julie did an amazing job of matching complementing artworks together and arranging the exhibition so that it seemed both professional and homely.
Ten pieces of works were sold that evening alone, the first one being a stunning portrait of Frida Kahlo by portrait artist Adam Riches (see it on Twitter here). My co-workers and I actually bet on Adam that he would be the first to win – which obviously means we have excellent taste! A few artists also got commissioned that night from visitors of the exhibition looking to furnish their lobbies with some fine art.
A huge congratulations to my boss Oliver Squirrell too, who won the ‘Best in Show’ award for his photographic print (below). This is an award with a paid prize, given out twice a year by Prettys Solicitors to the favourite piece of artwork as selected by their staff.
How this benefits the artists
As an artist, one of the key things to grow (both in terms of developing your practice and your creative career) is through exhibition exposure. Being involved in exhibitions like the Echo Exhibition is a really valuable experience which connects you to people in the community who you might not have the excuse to talk to much before – as well as a means to meet loads of other art lovers who may be interested in your work and want to support your progress. The biannual opening event by Prettys is looked forward to by lots of people in Ipswich – after all, who doesn’t want to spend an evening drinking wine and looking at artwork?
This valuable exposure of your pieces to like-minded people, and space to mingle and chat, is really what makes exhibiting work in professional ground exhibitions so exciting! The award from Prettys is also a lovely added touch since it is a great way of rewarding an artist for their merit whether their piece is sold or not.
A win-win situation
In my opinion, getting the art world and the business world talking is very important. Being an artist is a not an easy profession or hobby – especially when trying to make a worthwhile living out of your creativity – and it can be difficult to get on the first stepping stone of your creative career without support from the community.
No matter what we do as our day jobs, we should all support the things we are passionate about wherever possible, which is just what Prettys has done. The office has now been furninshed with some diverse and skilful artwork for half a year, and the artists have had their work seen by loads of people and even sold due to this. This win-win situation is a fantastic way of making art relevant and commercially viable; I definitely think that other companies should follow their lead and bring the arts as a significant aspect to their business to improve their own workplace and the creative industries too.
Thanks for reading.