UNIT 1 GALLERY | WORKSHOP - INTERVIEW WITH STACIE McCORMICK

Kim Booker & Megan Preston Elliott
October 2018

Stacie McCormick is an artist and the founder of Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop, an exhibition space in Notting Hill which offers residencies to emerging and mid-career artists and curators from all over the world. It is a fabulous space filled with light and the energy of artists going about their work, temporarily relieved of the financial and other practical constraints faced by artists today. The space is intended to foster collaboration and community, as well as offering collectors and the public the chance to get an insight into the working practices of artists. 

Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop, front view

Courtesy Stacie McCormick

©Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop

Kim Booker​Unit 1 Gallery l Workshop was founded with the belief that arts are central to society and in significant need of support. What do you think that the main difficulties are for emerging artists at the moment?   

Stacie McCormick: I think the first and principal issue for any emerging or even mid career artist is to have the space and time to make work that is either free or inexpensive. It is a challenge to put your practice first and meet the bills, before you are actively selling your work. Artists are self-employed businesses and take all the risk with few clear pathways toward financial reward, and therefore often work two to three jobs. Crucially, we are interested in providing space and time for artists and building a sustainable initiative that continues to do that.

Megan ElliottCan you tell us more about what you do and how you help emerging to mid-career artists facing these issues? 

 

SM: Currently we have two programmes: the Solo Residency and the Radical Residency. The Solo Residency provides one artist with a very large, exceptionally well-lit studio space above our exhibition space, adjacent to my studio and office. It lasts for 3 months and culminates in a solo exhibition. An artist is selected for the residency from an open call. Having been overwhelmed by the quality of applicants, we expanded to having the Radical Residency, a programme inviting 10 artists (from the open call) to take over the exhibition space as working studios for a month, culminating in a group show.

Bianca Barandun 

Solo residency, August 2018

Image courtesy Stacie McCormick

©Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop

Bianca Barandun 

Solo residency work in progress

Image courtesy Stacie McCormick

©Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop

“We have a very strong desire to bring the 'working practice/working studio' to the public.  The experience of seeing and interacting with an artist whilst in the midst of creating work is rewarding, engaging and informative, bringing a depth of relationship well beyond the typical white box, artist absent gallery experience.”

KB​There seems to be a real focus on an engagement between artists and the community. How do you help to foster this relationship and why do you think it is so important?   

SM: We have a very strong desire to bring the 'working practice/working studio' to the public. The experience of seeing and interacting with an artist whilst in the midst of creating work is rewarding, engaging and informative, bringing a depth of relationship well beyond the typical white box, artist absent gallery experience. Connecting the public to the artists through these experiences also enables the artists to receive direct feedback and is an opportunity for them to strengthen their own ability the express themselves regarding their studio practice.

ME: Why do you think it is so crucial that artists have space and time in which to work without commercial pressures?  

SM: Stress is the enemy of everything and if we can provide a free, nurturing space it seems only natural that the conduits and channels for the artist’s work to come through are eased and encouraged. I think we all want to be taken care of and to give artists the freedom to expand has so far been thrilling to witness and, in every case, they seem to pinch themselves that they have had the chance.

Radical Residency II

Gallery converted to working studios, 

September 2018

Image courtesy Stacie McCormick

©Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop

KB: Could you say something about how you think the traditional gallery model is changing and what you see happening in the future?  

SM: So many factors are changing the traditional gallery model, from the Internet to art fairs. The dwindling number of small galleries in the high street is really rather sad. To have a gallery in your area and art in the fabric of your neighbourhood is enriching. I do know that artists are forever re-inventing themselves and the pop-up culture that Airbnb and Appear Here have paved the way for means more and more creative ways of exhibiting. We are witnessing an amazing response to our dynamic space and I feel that is because it is alive with making. There is only so much the digital world can deliver - in our space we want the connection and the experience.

ME: Talk to us about the Radical Residency programme – how do you think a communal studio space helps to further artists’ practices and instigate wider critical engagement?  

SM: We are now on the second instalment of the Radical Residency and, I have to confess, I was concerned that the success of the first one could have been a one off. I am pleased to say that we are just over halfway through now and the second group is proving to be equally as dynamic and rewarding. There are so many benefits to the artists working together in such an intense way, but the one that I did not anticipate, but that seems to be the strongest, is the mutual respect and support. Artists love to have their work admired and purchased, obviously, but it is an entirely different experience to have support and respect from other artists. When the group sets themselves critical seminars and they focus on each other’s practices, I really sense a boost and strengthening. Artists need to hear from other artists that they are on the right track (or not) and that what they are doing is worthwhile. This camaraderie and mutual support outside a lonely studio practice is in our opinion invaluable.

Radical Residency II

Jo Jae, work in progress, September 2018

Image courtesy Stacie McCormick

©Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop

KB​Who are the artists on the current programme, Radical Residency II and how did you select them?  

SM: The current Radicals are Sol Bailey Barker, Gwenyth Fugard, Mirra Golfrad, Connie Harrison, Jae Jo, Amy Mizrahi, Lucian Strindberg-Boyle, Dominic Till, Frank Wasser and Amina Mcconvell. They were selected from the applications we receive for our solo residency programme and we use a variety of metrics including interviews to decide. With the Radical Residency, it is important to look at the potential dynamic between each of their practices and the potential benefits/crossovers this could have.  I am of course amazed by the direction the artists actually take and the unfolding collaborations that could not have been predicted. We hope we have provided the environment to allow them to flourish.

“The vision of what we are trying to achieve is huge and takes an enormous amount of energy, which thankfully we have.”

Radical Residency II

Dominic Till, work in progress

Image courtesy Stacie McCormick

©Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop

ME: What has the response been from artists on the programme and how have you seen their work evolve whilst on the residency?    

SM: Whilst I cannot speak for them, the feedback I have received has been unanimously positive. The first 10 have really bonded amongst themselves and I do feel all of their practices have expanded and grown. We have had some transformations - a printmaker turned sculptor - and I would say it is a remarkable confidence builder.

ME: We noticed that you also run community outreach programmes and critical writing residencies. Can you talk to us more about these initiatives?   

SM: The writing residency is brand new and we are working on this being another dynamic opportunity for both the writer and our organisation. Critical discourse and art writing are being overwhelmed by the immediacy and speed of the internet/digital world. We are in real need of ‘interpreters’ and we are very keen to support this. The community outreach, I confess, is not operating at the level I would like at this stage, but we have on-going plans to bring together our immediate neighbours with a view to knowing our local area better and its depth of interest. It also gives us the chance to ‘show them what we do’.

Radical Residency II

Sol Bailey-Barker, work in progress

Image courtesy Stacie McCormick

©Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop

Radical Residency II

Amina McConvell, work in progress

Image courtesy Stacie McCormick

©Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop

KB: As artists ourselves also running a magazine, we both wanted to know, how do you balance being an artist alongside running Unit 1 Gallery l Workshop?        

SM: The short answer and I am not sure I balance it at all! The vision of what we are trying to achieve is huge and takes an enormous amount of energy, which thankfully we have. I think my passion for my practice is inestimable and is the birth of all that I am interested in, so it takes priority on the days it can and it is making big strides due to the fact I get so much feedback from all the artists that we work with - such a privilege.

ME: That's good to know! I agree that being able to meet and work with other artists is a huge benefit of running an art related initiative. As our final question, we always ask, what are your key pieces of advice for emerging artists? 

SM: Well, there could be so much, but I think that it is crucial to remember to stay aligned to the exceptionally unique aspect that is you and to never forget that only you can make this work. Work every day at it in some capacity, look for heroes to inspire you and move your practice. Do the boring stuff that matters - keep your public profile up to date, go to everything you can, meet as many artists as you can. And when it is derailed, go to a great gallery or a museum and look at the work of fellow artists and keep on making the world a better place. 

The Radical Residency II exhibition

runs from 23 – 29 October 2018

Unit 1 Gallery | Workshop

1 Bard Road, London W10 6TP 

www.unit1gallery-workshop.com

Stacie McCormick

www.staciemccormickstudio.com
 

© 2019 by Assemblage Magazine.

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