Monday, 9 May 2011

One Year of Art in the Underbelly

1 year old, has it really been 1 year already!? When I was first approached by Dan and Katie to take on the space I could never have envisaged being where we are now. We began with humble beginnings, tentatively dipping our toes into the inviting but unpredictable waters of Norwich's cultural scene and have grown from a simple exhibition space into a gallery, installation and performance space. Space is limited but the unique charm and layout lends itself to the work we exhibit and the people who perform. Often it forces our artists and bands to readdress their work to fit the space and thus I can confidently say that more often than not, what you see at Art in the Underbelly will never be seen again elsewhere.

In the past year we've hosted shows by photographers, illustrators, graffiti artists, kinetic sculptors, performance artists, abstract painters and much more that I just don't have the space to list here. We've strongly championed the local talent that Norwich is home to whilst also exhibiting work from as far afield as the USA. Its been a hell of a learning curve as years go. We have tried and tested different opening nights, different line-ups, encouraged people (despite the extra work it creates for me) to work directly onto the walls (I have had to paint over, strip off and cover up some phenomenal work). Musically, we've been gifted with everything from a rare stripped down performance by Death of Death of Discotheque to a full, 7-piece performance by Norwich Stalwarts, The Vagaband as well as killer DJ sets from The Anthropologist, Dan Tombs, Laver Lave, Free King amongst others. Recently, this thing you hold in your hands is one of them, we've begun a line of very limited and very special gifts for the early birds who attend our shows. One-off mix CD's, screen printed tote bags and handmade books have been among the unique items that our keenest customers have managed to get their hands on.

My philosophy for the space has always been one of accessibility, unity, continuity and cohesion.  We're on our way to achieving those goals, a lot has been done this year but there is still work to be done. Our attendance numbers for openings have rocketed this year and its a delight to see so many people every month. We'll be shutting up shop in the summer as the heat rises down here but we'll be back in September with specially commissioned shows by John Scarratt, experimental drone act, Transept, the return of our international open submission show, Submit & Exhibit, an interactive poetry performance by Hannah Jane Walker which has been taken around the country and to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Finally, we'll be undertaking the installation of our permanent Stairwell Gallery featuring works from our private collection by artists from around the world.

Its been a stressful, fun, haywire, high-pressure, slightly drunken year and I'd like to thank all the people who've helped us get to where we are today. We genuinely wouldn't be here without all the artists, musicians, technical bods, DJ's and most importantly YOU.

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