CASE STUDIES

Natalie2 - Open Access Exhibition, Walsall

During February 2016 Natalie² exhibited in empty commercial property procured by Hammond Associates. The retail property based in The Old Square Shopping Centre featured an Open Gallery where Natalie² presented their Open Access exhibition. The mixed media installation used dismantled technology, carefully selected threaded books, photography and interview extracts to explore the ongoing issues surrounding digital inequality. The work aimed to unplug the silence about who is able to access digital technology and who is represented through social media platforms. The pieces were inspired by the closure of local public libraries and the reduction of library services, such as those of Birmingham’s new city centre library, where the question of accessibility is forcibly highlighted.

The interviews were taken from participants that were either volunteers or service users of SIFA Fireside in Digbeth, Birmingham – a charity that tackles homelessness and alcohol misuse.
Natalie² was a multimedia, visual arts initiative led by Dr Natalie Shona Hart and Dr Natalie Linda Jones. Having met while studying in 2011, they were immediately struck by the cross-over between both their arts-based practice, theoretical research and ambition to expose the (almost) unspoken inequalities now growing ever-wider, in regards to the social gap.
Their work is driven by their mutual determination to probe issues of social inequality, and to highlight the ‘lost narratives’ of everyday, ordinary, life in which the effects of this can be seen. Integrating participation is also, therefore, a crucial aspect of their practice.

Old BHS store transformed in Sutton Coldfield

Hammond Associates along with the Birmingham office of Commercial Property Agents CBRE have worked together with the owners of a former BHS Department Store in the Gracechurch Shopping Centre in Sutton Coldfield to enable the store to be used in the nationwide scheme which utilises empty commercial space for artistic use.

The 50,000 sq ft (4,700 sq metre) unit has been prepared and curated by Gavin Lawley and his art group, Direct Art Action, partners of East Street Arts, the leading Arts Charity promoting the scheme with over 100 premises under management at any one time.

Direct Art Action, a local group with local members, hold themed events, exhibitions, craft fairs, workshops and live performances.

The scheme is funded by the Centre out of the savings on the costs associated with maintaining void units and, of course, they benefit from the many additional visitors it brings to the site.

A clear case of everyone’s a winner.