Becky Wild is a Director & Curator at AIR Gallery in Altrincham, Manchester. Also an artist herself, she graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2013 with an MA in Contemporary Curating and in 2012 she gained a BA (Hons) in Interactive Arts. She has exhibited in various locations around the U.K.
1. Tell us about the gallery and your vision for it
AIR Gallery is a North-West art gallery whose aim is to provide opportunities for emerging and early career artists in the field of contemporary art. Our organisation aim is to provide a varied schedule of exhibitions, activities and events for all members of the general public to promote community cohesion and reduce social exclusion, whilst also enhancing the local Great Manchester Art Scene.
Since opening our doors, my vision for the gallery has been to not only present a diverse range of exhibitions, showcasing different art forms, themes and mediums each month; but to also provide more than just exposure for the artists involved. Part of our ethos is that we want to support artists as much as possible, through on-site mentoring, paid opportunities or art-based competitions which will result in prizes to be won. We are still in our early stages but have started to set a precedent for paying artists to exhibit at our gallery, which we would like to continue in our future shows.
2. Could you give us some insight into your journey entering this field?
My journey started during the second year of my degree course in Interactive Arts where myself and fellow student Lauren Taylor set up a small collective of Interactive Arts Students and took on the role of curator to organise exhibitions at pop up venues around Manchester. Around the same time I was volunteering at BLANKSPACE, CUBE Gallery and for various other small arts organisations and started to gain an insight into the workings of the gallery which fascinated and intrigued me to want to know more.
Upon graduating in Contemporary Curation I started to apply these skills within my local community of Altrincham through community art projects, pop up shows and local art trails. However the field of curation is competitive and with little job openings and opportunities in my local area so I made the decision to work towards creating my own job and going self employed.
After a spate of freelance work, myself and fellow Director Alan Baker (MA Fine Art Graduate and successful early career artist) decided to create our own studio complex alongside two other professionals John Lockwood (Artist and Entrepreneur) and Daniel Devlin (Artist and Photographer). Collectively together we have built A4 Studios, an arts hub aimed at assisting disabled and low income artists as well as an event space, workshop space and of course a gallery.
3. What are you working on and how do you go about selecting the artists and works to show?
At the gallery we are always working on numerous projects so we keep 6 months or more ahead in our schedule. At present myself and Alan are working on our upcoming show At What Cost? which is an exhibition featuring 5 artists exploring the themes of conflict, crisis and migration in the modern world. Each artist has been commissioned to create the works for the show and we are currently working on producing a catalogue, planning an artist talk and organising a workshop run by graduate artist Matilda Glen.
For this show we selected the artists in numerous ways. The first was Jo Scorah who approached us with the idea for the show. After this we discovered the artists James Bloomfield through artist outlet Axis who we invited to take part. Having worked previously with John Lockwood and Thaleia Kavvada in previous shows they were also invited to take part as their current work is examining similar themes. Our last artist Matilda Glen was brought to our attention through one of our open call competitions, and we made the decision to offer her this opportunity instead.
In addition to the upcoming show, we are working on AIR Open 2018 which is our annual Open show. The selection process for this show will be through an external judging panel in which we have invited previous AIR winners Omid Asadi and Sandra Bouguerch, as well as artist and curator Louise Garman. Each time we run our open call, we invite different practising professionals from various art disciplines to get a fresh perspective.
At any other time, we usually select artists in a number of ways. It can be through running Open calls, online research, exhibition proposals, talent scouting at degree shows and exhibitions, through our mailing list or from artists visiting the gallery and having a chat to us directly about their work. We’re always on the look out for new and upcoming artists to help support.
4. What do you find is unique about Altrincham and Manchester’s art community?
The Manchester art community seems to be one of the strongest communities we’ve come across. With recent studio closures and redevelopment works in Manchester, artists have been under threat and yet rather than succumb to this, North-West artists have shown themselves to be strong, determined and resourceful and whilst one door closes, another 4 or 5 open with new studios, art spaces and pop up venues appearing all around the outskirts of the city centre.
Altrincham is a quiet and quaint little market town, that has recently itself been subjected to major redevelopment work to transform it from a ghost town into a thriving bustling high street once more. Due to this, it is one of the rising stars of the North West. Sadly Altrincham has been without a museum or art gallery for the past 50 years.
One of the main comments from working alongside members of the community over the past few years is that they would love to see the gallery and museum reinstated, and I hope that in a small way we can contribute to reconnecting the public with the art world; be it more contemporary art than historical and bring this missing piece back to the town.
5. Is it easy to combine your own art practise as well as running the gallery?
It has always been difficult to balance my own artistic practice as well as my curatorial practice. My role as a curator has always taken priority and in a way is as much my artistic practice as my own personal work as it takes the same level of dedication, experimentation, research and development as any body of work I have made. Now we have been established for one year, things are becoming easier so I can now have some time in my studios and away from administration and project planning to get a more even balance.