Acquired as part of Makespace Oxford's Meanwhile in Oxfordshire project, since the summer of 2021, Fusion Arts has been partnering with landlord New River REIT to activate two empty retail units in Gloucester Green, Oxford, 95 and 99, transforming the spaces into creative pop-ups.
We only had number 99 for a couple of months before it was snapped up by a new renter, but during that time we were able to refurbish the space and work with ACKHI to put on a pop-up display version of the Caribbean Living Room exhibition for Oxford Windrush Festival week, bringing a taste of this 1960s West Indian front room recreation to communities and audiences in central Oxford.
When we were first given the keys to 95 Gloucester Green the space was in need of a little TLC! Over the course of a couple of weeks our team worked hard to convert the unit into a multi-purpose gallery space, cleaning, tidying, finishing off the walls, floor and ceiling, installing power and an accessible kitchen at the lot. The kind folks at the nearby Arts at the Old Fire Station lent us ladders and brooms which aided our work and enabled us to save energy and resources and make use of pre-existing equipment.
We then worked with Bounce to design some bright and attention-grabbing window vinyls that created buzz around the new space and gave the space a distinct brand identity while showcasing its connection to Fusion Arts. These were installed onto the unit's windows and in mid September 2021 we were ready to launch!
On the 25th September 2021 95 Gloucester Green was launched with Elder Vernacular, a drop-in workshop and window exhibition by artist Nor Greenhalgh as part of the community and horticulture project Fig for Oxfordshire's Great Big Green Week.
Elder Vernacular is a research project that is compiling a palette of art materials grounded in the East Oxford landscape. Nor & Fig are interested in the rediscovery of a visual 'vernacular' in the contemporary context of COVID and climate change, which have both encouraged city dwellers to embrace their immediate local surroundings for both their psychological and physical wellbeing.
For the workshop, people were invited to drop in & experiment with a number of natural and locally sourced materials including plants, flowers, dyes and papier mache to create biodegradable artwork.
Meanwhile, the exhibition featured artwork and materials that were developed as part of the project, including experiments and art produced in workshops with Restore's Elder Stubbs Recovery Group along with natural inks, paints and sculpture materials all sourced from the East Oxford landscape. The exhibition ran in the windows of 95 Gloucester Green for three weeks before moving to 51 Between Towns Road.
Since then, 95 Gloucester Green has played host to a number of exciting creative events and shows, including the Call of the Silent Cell film premiere and Q&A event for the One Cell At A Time exhibition, My Neighbour's Meal by Eiko Soga, a Ruskin School of Art end of year sale, and a display of lanterns made for Oxford's Light Festival. For more information about these events, you can visit the 95 Gloucester Green blog that we wrote.
There are lots of exciting plans in the pipeline for this multi-purpose creative space, ranging from use as a photography studio, to pottery shows, to touring exhibitions. In particular, this March, the space will be playing host to a new rendition of the touring exhibition Some of Us Are Brave to coincide with International Women's Day. This exhibition showcases the feminine, form and function of black women's creativity and celebrates the work of black female artists. If you are interested in exhibiting work in this new exhibition please visit our opportunities page for further information, or if you have another idea for creatively animating 95 Gloucester Green, get in touch with us.
Overall, we are really proud of this accessible city centre creative space and what we have been able to facilitate with it so far, and we are looking forward more exciting times ahead! Watch this space...
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