Artist-Run-Initiatives (ARIs) are an increasingly popular option as studio and gallery spaces. They have long played an important role in showing the work of early career and experimental artists and serve as a vital point of connection for the creative community, often filling the gap between tertiary institutions and commercial or state-funded galleries.
In part two of our ARIs toolkit we sat down with Bernadette Klavins and Elise Bonato from FELTspace, Adelaide’s longest running ARI which was established in 2008, and asked about the key to FELTspace’s longevity.
What was the main drive behind starting FELTspace?
In late December 2007 Downtown – Adelaide’s first ARI – closed. This meant there was a void in the offering to emerging artists in Adelaide. Our five co-founders established FELTspace with the intent that it provide a place for recent graduates and emerging artists, and artists with experimental practices to exhibit.
What governance model do you have in place?
We have a committee of co-directors, currently there are eight of us, and we try and meet weekly. We are all volunteers and commit an average of ten hours per week to FELTspace, but this can fluctuate depending on what is happening at the time. This has been a successful model, there’s no hierarchy within the committee, we’re all volunteers.
Do you use volunteers in addition to the committee?
Yes, we have about 20-25 volunteers, mostly students, who all give their time to sit the gallery. We usually roster our volunteers in three hour blocks.
Kelly Reynolds (SA), Making Myself At Home, August 2017. Photography by Steph Fuller
Do you have a succession plan?
Not specifically. Co-directors usually stay on the committee for 2-3 years so there is a fairly regular turnover. This means we are regularly bringing new energy and new ideas into FELTspace which is probably part of the reason we have endured and evolved. We place a call out/ advertise for new committee members when we need them.
How do you maintain the vision for FELTspace with changes to personnel?
FELTspace has always had a clear vision, to support recent graduates, emerging artists and artists working in experimental ways. The committee has always adhered to that, and it’s really important that new committee members understand and support this vision.
How do you fund FELTspace?
We have a fundraising auction every year which is our major fundraiser, and we’ve done other events like quiz nights. We also apply for Project Grants through Arts South Australia, and as we are located in the city we can also apply to Adelaide City Council for grants to support our special projects.
Who curates the exhibition program?
We do two call outs each year. We have the Front Gallery and Back Gallery and also FELTdark, our projection screen in the front window that operates 4 nights per week. When we’re scheduling exhibitions we try to make sure we support at least one South Australian artist each month. We’re also mindful of the other events and festivals happening in Adelaide and South Australia and schedule exhibitions to fit in with them.
Do you charge artists to exhibit?
Yes, our fees vary depending on which space the artist is using. An artist can pay between $75 and $300 to exhibit. We try to keep these costs as low as possible for artists. We can connect audiences to artists if they are interested in purchasing a work, but we aren’t directly involved in sales and don’t take any commission.
What else should an exhibiting artist know?
We encourage artists to insure their work while it is on exhibition. Artists are also expected to give and informal artist talk at the exhibition opening. All collateral that supports our exhibitions is now online, we don’t print any room brochures anymore. We instead direct that money towards documenting the exhibitions, so that FELTspace and the artists have significant records of their work in the space. Artists can use these great images of their work to further promote their practice and in applications for other opportunities.
How do you spread the word about FELTspace programs?
We have a mailing list that we send information to regularly and we also use Facebook and Instagram.
FELTspace is located at 12 Compton St, Adelaide.
Guildhouse financial members are able to obtain one on one professional development support about many areas of their practice. Contact us for more information.