If a department is as good as its students then we are very blessed indeed. In the past couple of weeks alone, students from the Department of Art History have successfully curated two exhibitions in Nottingham, first The Island and the World, an exhibition of original photographs by Remo Mattera at The Wall at Hockley , a first in the UK, and then Beyond Bounds, a collaborative show where art history students joined forces with Share Uganda and the East African Society to put together an exhibition at the Bohunk Institute that celebrates the diversity of African culture, food and art. Both shows were selected, curated, publicised, marketed, hung and staffed by teams of volunteers from Crop Up Gallery, a student-led curatorial group established in 2011. Please find below links to sets of photos from both exhibitions and Private Views:
The Island and the World, curated by Cosatnza Bergo (Ba Hons Art History, 2nd year), Private View 15th November 2013, The Wall at Hockley, 7:30-10 pm.
Beyond Bounds: The Art of Community , curated by Laura Rutty and Charlotte Keeble (Ba Hons Art History, 3rd year), Private View 18th November 2013, The Bohunk Institute, 7-10 pm.
Crop Up Gallery started as an idea by one of our graduates, Charlotte Hopson, who has since gone on to undertake postgraduate studies (in curating, of course!) at a different institution (Charlotte has moved to The Courtauld Institute of Art). Charlotte’s idea is seductively simple: establish a group of students who share a passion for the arts, and a desire to learn practical skills by doing them. Pool the skills the students bring to the table, whether in writing wall text or editorial copy, whether in marketing, in finance, in business law, in events organising, in actually hanging and handling art works, and set up a properly structured group, with clear governance structures and lines of responsibility. Then, work on a case-by-case basis with changing groups of artists, in a variety of locations, making exhibitions of original contemporary art happen. Simple the idea may be, but making Charlotte’s dream come true took quite a lot of hard graft.
Crop Up started, as already mentioned above, in March 2011, and a small handful of students succeeded in putting their first show together, with practically no budget and certainly no experience in the team. Yet, Illuminate, their first show, was a conceptually challenging and surprisingly complex show. Illuminate paved the way for everything else. The breakthrough for Crop Up came thanks to the generosity of alumni.
In December 2011, Crop Up secured some seed corn funding from Cascade, part of the University of Nottingham’s Impact Campaign; we were awarded just over £4000, but this fund has made all the difference because essentially, these funds allow Crop Up to take a more directive, selective approach in the way they interact with artists, allowing better, more ambitious projects. Impact recognised and acknowledged the group’s important role in fostering student enterprise in the Department of Art History, and in establishing links with Nottingham’s thriving art community. The significance of the funding to enable CropUp to develop and flourish can’t be overstated. It has allowed the group to transform itself from a loosely connected band of students financing some printing of digital photographs, mounted in an adhoc fashion with double-sided tape and Polyfilla, through a series of bake sales and inspired DIY to a body that has doubled its core membership, has developed the capacity to work on several exhibitions at the same time through designated task groups, runs its own social media channels, can solicit proposals and select the ones that appeal to the group for originality and impact. What started out as an idea with lots of potential has become a reality. What was an ambitious student group hamstrung by lack of finances, has become a semi-professional body now starting to generate the funding for further projects.
The first exhibition set up and curated after the award of Impact’s Funding was Nature through the Lens, in March 2013. For Crop Up to be sustainable, core members of the group need to be concerned both with securing funding, and establishing long-term leadership; as the group is student-led, turnover of core members is high, so the group has developed quite sophisticated mentoring mechanisms where senior students in team leadership roles mentor junior students who will take over leadership once the senior students graduate and move on. This mentoring scheme adapted by Crop Up is based on the Department’s successful arthistorybuddyscheme, so practices that distinguish the academic delivery of the programme have been adapted by students in a wonderful case of transferable skills being transferred! Incidentally, the arthistorybuddyscheme which started in 2012 was also made possible by a grant, this time for £650, by the Impact Campaign.
So, what does the future hold for Crop Up? With two successful exhibitions this term already under their belt, Crop Up are already planning their exhibitions for 2014. The group are always soliciting proposals from artists and groups who have a project that needs curating, but projects that are already firmed up for 2014 include a collaboration with the University of Nottingham Students’ Union who celebrate their 100th birthday in 2014, Crop Up are involved in the 100 Heroes Project for April 2014, so watch this space. Then there is Crop Up’s Tunnel Art Gallery initiative which will transform one of the University of Nottingham’s most unusual and exciting spaces, an underground tunnel running between the Trent and Portland Buildings into a temporary art gallery. Finally, their third firmed up project for 2014 will see Crop Up leave the bounds of the city of Nottingham and take over the prestigious Thoresby Courtyard Gallery for a couple of weeks, bringing their very own style of curating to a professional gallery while, in turn, learning on the job, so to speak, from the team at Thoresby.
None of this student enterprise could happen without the support Crop Up has received from the donors contributing to the Impact Campaign. Thank you, and the very best of luck with raising the final £50 million.
Note: CropUp are supported by an advisory board that includes a number of academics from the Department of Art History.