In the heady days of the sixties, with ‘happenings’ and impromptu exhibitions in far-flung redundant industrial buildings that then no one wanted, the artistic enterprises survived in a mad mix of experiment, innovation and indulgence. Even London’s Roundhouse, then run down and dilapidated, was occupied by avant-garde performance and arts groups. The hard-edged eighties brought an end to such freedom. Today the situation has shifted again. The ‘credit crunch’ has resulted in many empty shops premises as retailers have been forced out of business by the economic downturn.
All of which makes the recent pronouncement by Hazel Blears, Communities Secretary, about proving funds to help people to temporarily convert such empty shops into such things as ‘community projects’ or even short-term businesses, too good to bypass. As temporary art places – for the whole range of visual arts – they could be effective in moving art/craft out of the gallery and into the High Street, introducing the work to a new audience. Galleries brighten up the street, avoid grim-looking and depressing empty premises, and are a good thing all round.
Check out the website: www.artistsandmakers.com/emptyshops
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