As some of you know, after six years of living in Weston and working (unpaid) as a curator and on my own art practice it was with wonderful timing that I upped and left town a month before the Wonders of Weston project was due to be launched. Bringing contemporary art to Weston has been something I have tried to do on a much smaller scale at the Uni Gallery, and it has been frustrating to not be around whilst these new works are being installed.
Much has been mentioned, on this blog and amongst us as a group, about the lack of publicity and about how no-one in Weston knows about this project (when we walked around town looking for 'culture' none of the people we talked to had heard of it), but what I wanted to write about is how The Wonders of Weston is known about, and talked about, by people outside of Weston. The week before last I was in London for the Frieze Art Fair- a huge contemporary art fair that draws the 'art world' to London. Many galleries and project spaces time their programming to mean that while Frieze week is happening their new shows are opening- thus maximising potential for selling work and creating the largest audience possible. While I was in London I talked to several people about Wonders of Weston and it turned out that not only had they heard of it, they were planning on coming to the launch. Now admittedly most of the people I spoke to were from Bristol based arts organisations, some may have even been involved with Situations, but I thought it was really interesting how people within the art community in Bristol know more about WOW than a lot of the residents of WsM do.
Down here in Falmouth it's a similar thing- whilst none of my classmates on my MA Curatorial Practice course had heard of it, many of the tutors and arts professionals i've spoken to had. And at least one person in my MA group was considering joining me in making the 4 hour journey from Falmouth to be at the launch. I suppose my interest is not so much in HOW these people know about WOW and the residents don't, but more a question of 'does it matter'?
Is this project about 'bringing art to the people', about educating the poor, uncultured masses of Weston-super-Mare, or is it about bringing exciting contemporary art to a new location and offering practising artists a chance to engage with a pretty unique landscape? Rather than getting wound up about the public not knowing about it, isn't it enough that artists are getting the chance to make major pieces of work without having to scrabble for funding? I think that WOW is just as valid a project in this respect as it is in bringing art to the local community. Opportunities for artists are few and far between, and I think WOW should be celebrated for this, just as much as any regeneration that might come out of it, but then what do I know, i'm only an artist/curator...