This year, 2018, has been an important one for New Art Exchange. This autumn we are celebrating 10 years since our award winning building in Hyson Green opened.
It’s a time for us to reflect on what we have achieved and to look ahead to what we are planning for the future. I have had the honour of leading the organisation over the last 10 years through a changing political and social landscape, and one that has seen art and culture get stronger and stronger. New Art Exchange was born from roots communities, audiences and organisations, Apna Arts who focused on South Asian Arts and Emaca who supported the development artists of African and Caribbean origin.
In the 80s they found a new wave of rebellious confidence. They rejected the submissive, polite and accepting nature of our parents. The urgency to form the organisation was based on several challenges born out of inequality, racism and a society riddled with prejudice. Together these partners created a dynamic new arts organisation. Since then we have become the largest organisation of our kind dedicated to culturally diverse arts in the UK. Everything we do is driven by our vision “to stimulate new perspectives on the value of diversity in art and society.” We are still rooted in our local community which we aim to reflect, support and provide a platform for through our programmes and activities.
Artwork we have commissioned has now been bought for the Tate collection, and we have worked with a number of inspiring artists who have gone on to be nominated or have won the Turner Prize. We also made history by presenting the first ever regional arts pavilion at Venice Biennale, in the form of a mini golf course featuring nine installations from multi ethnic and diverse perspectives. This year we will launch a major new film at the Imperial War Museum by John Akomfrah to remember the millions of Africans but also wider colonised communities that served during WW1 with 14-18Now and Smoking Dogs Films.
We have led important digital initiatives including projects with Ted Global, Google Cultural Institute and Culture Cloud with the purpose of reaching a wider audience with our programmes. We also have a strong focus on talent development – our space is not only about artistic expression but about building a voice for new audiences through artists’ work. We have a number of programmes such as Real Creative Futures, ExperiMentor, Artist and Academic’s in residence. Our Yard programme and school holiday programmes bring creativity and young people together.
We believe that the ‘street never lies’
Last year our work was recognised on a national level by Arts Council who increased our core funding by an unprecedented 70%, for us to work with more school children, reach more young people in the local community, increase our digital work and help us develop a more sustainable future. This year we are also celebrating the 30th year anniversary of the Nottingham Mela, which is produced by New Art Exchange with support from Nottingham Asian Arts Council as part of Nottingham Mela Network.
Another innovation born in Nottingham, was the first ever Mela in the UK and formed the template for other festivals of South Asian Arts and Culture nationwide. I have worked on many of the Melas for 30 years, and remember when the then PM Margaret Thatcher and opposition leader Neil Kinnock wrote to congratulate us in the summer of 1988. We see our festivals as an informal way of bringing people together and an opportunity to celebrate and reflect the mere possibility to eat, dance, think, debate and interact. Every year we celebrate the traditional Polish festival, Fat Thursday, local food culture at Melting Pot and local makers and designers in our Craft Fair.
We believe that the ‘street never lies’, so our Café Culture is also really important – as you enter NAE you smell food; this is a place for ideas, meetings, style sharing, politics and debate. NAE is a place for philosophical reflection and pragmatic change, the change that we need to see in the world we experience and form; a planet where there is hope, happiness, peace and opportunities for all people and communities, and a place where imaginations can dream the impossible and where art, culture and creativity flourishes.
The future decade remain ambitious where local roots will continue to connect globally, in a new and changing world of complex diversity and identities in a state of flux within an expansive digital and technological global era. The work of NAE will focus on a new generation and new models of how art and culture is instigated, presented and consumed, supporting great talent, young people, families and artists, unlocking a vast imagination untapped. At the heart of our work will be – making visible minority-diverse Britain connecting Hyson Green’s neighbourhood and the UK art ecology across Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia and the Middle East, South Korea, Europe and the Americas.