ROOM is an artwork and mobile art space first commissioned by Art at the Centre in November 2010, since then it has achieved high levels of public engagement and creative outputs including 17 separate artist research projects. The space has supported emerging artists across North Kent to showcase their work in public spaces. ROOM is now extending this journey connecting with multiple partners in the South East region including Brighton Photo Biennial. The expansion of the route will create new networks, and a wider audience chance to experience this new model of art in the public realm.
The ROOM is a bright blue multi-functional exhibition and workshop space created from an altered shipping container. The shutters on the window spell out ‘ROOM’ in circus font, announcing the arrival of this unusual object. The public reaction is mixed; the utilitarian shape makes passing people accept its authority, yet the signs of creativity subtly elicit further investigation.
“ROOM is so distinctive it attracts curiosity, people were excited to hear about it touring and that such a thing exists and can appear on their doorstep.”
Jane Pitt, artist awarded ROOM bursary 2011
Coming across unexpected art, is a key part of the project’s power. People taking a stroll in a park or down a seaside promenade, would expect to see a few traditional public artworks, the odd bronze sculpture, a graffiti tag, or a poster for a festival. To discover a complete artist studio or mini gallery space is a complete surprise to the majority of the initiated.
By opening up in places which are not yet claimed by other artworks ROOM is piloting the potential for art as an agent of change. This way of engaging the public has certain rewards as previous artist in residence Jane Pitt remarked, ROOM acts as “ the excuse (& repository) for people to talk in a way they don’t normally about how they experience where they live.” Thus the space functions both as merchant of culture, as well as listening, capturing collecting repository of creativity.
This process of exchange is exposed for viewers to observe and comment on. Galleries have long been seen as elitist spaces within which people must behave in a certain way, look but not touch. ROOM challenges this stereotype by stepping out of the glass fronted / polished concrete floor mould, and ditches the white walls for basic plywood internal surfaces. The appearances and scale of the space invite more people to cross the threshold, without consciously choosing to ‘do’ art, and it only takes a moment to appreciate what it contains.
ROOM also takes the art to the subject matter. The emphasis of the project is on finding new locations which create interesting contexts in which to make and exhibit art in. Rather than constantly animating the same static space, a change of scenery and change of owner, allow for unlimited possible creative outcomes.
“The means of engaging a site. It has been an enlightening experience, being able to spend an extended period of time in a space not normally accessible to me. It has enabled a completely new body of work to appear from a space that I never thought could elicit imagery that I would find so meaningful”
John Dargan, Artist awarded ROOM bursary 2011
Artists are always redefining the boundaries of what constitutes art. ROOM invites artists to expand the possibilities of place where those changes can occur.