Fundraising Appeal for 198 CAL as New Exhibition Opens

We are fundraising to secure our future by building two additional floors on our premises to house The Factory: an impact and innovation hub for youth enterprise, gallery space, together with rental space to make us financially sustainable.

198 Contemporary Arts and Learning have acquired our building at 198 Railton Road  from London Borough of Lambeth through the Community Asset Transfer Scheme. Our unique organisation has grown from a grassroots community space founded after the Brixton uprisings of the 1980’s into an influential national model of excellence in the visual arts, boldly pushing boundaries while giving a voice to under-represented creative individuals, communities and cultures.

In this, our 28th year, we are as committed as ever to making a real difference to people’s lives in our community, with projects that provide real benefit for personal, social and emotional well-being, as well as supporting the development of emerging professionals seeking to build careers in the creative and cultural industries. We aim to unlock potential and provide a platform from which individuals and young people, in particular, can learn new skills, aim higher, achieve more and ultimately live fulfilling lives.

Our three strands of work – Art, Education and Enterprise – offer a platform for the unseen and unheard. We provide routes to empowerment through building aspiration, nurturing latent artistic talent and widening engagement with the arts.

We hope to provide a community asset for years to come. The achievement of this goal will ensure that 198 can continue to grow and thrive, benefiting more people and providing a space where people are valued, contributing to the strength and resilience of Brixton. We believe that we make a difference to people’s lives and we hope that you will want to join with us to make this happen.

A new exhibition opens at 198 Contemporary Art & Learning this week. Disordered and Reconsidered, curated by agency for agency, is the first public exhibition of the year-long project Possible Futures at 198 Contemporary Arts & Learning. Following on from the Rockers, Soulheads & Lovers exhibition and events series, the Gallery is busier than ever with visitors from all over the world.

The new exhibition opened with a symposium, a series of events and a preview this weekend. A panel of leading artists, curators and archivists came to reflect on the 28-year history of 198 Contemporary Arts & Learning in Railton Road.  After 28 years of renting, 198 recently purchased their building, yet are still struggling to establish financial sustainability. This exhibition delves into the boxes of the gallery's archive, opens the press books, browses project documentation, recalls histories, and names the artists and influencers who have worked with 198. 

With the new Tate building opening and White Cube institutions proliferating, many older, diverse, grass roots organizations have had to close through lack of funding: “Millions of pounds have been invested in those large institutions, which means the need to protect 198 has become more and more important,” emphasizes curator, David A Bailey. Against the backdrop of 198’s constant struggle for survival, questions were raised on how to build on the legacy, and engage with the changing community to leverage 198 as a cultural asset. “The 198 has been through many threats of closure, but has shown incredible resistance over the past 28 years, especially from people who have a stake in the place.” The new vision of 198 as a cultural and innovation hub depends on raising the funds to build two new floors on the Railton Road premises, with hot-desking space and rentals to support future financial sustainability.

Bailey looks back: “Brixton has always been a special place. Back in the 80s you could see Damien Hirst and Jay Jopling arguing in a local café. There was Race Today magazine, published by the Race Today Collective, which included figures such as Darcus Howe, Farrukh Dhondy and Linton Kwesi Johnson; and the mini black Frieze festival. Autograph’s first home was in Brixton too. It was like a cultural rebirth, a renaissance, an explosion and 198 was at the centre of it. I don’t know any other area of the country where this was happening.”

“During 1984-1989 something remarkable was going on in Railton Road and the surrounding area. Looking at it now, the area has changed completely in terms of the conditions and the community. The question is how to continue the conversation about non-diversity, and to challenge the mainstream connection between politics and culture. As the urban uprisings in 1981 and 1985 demonstrated, Brixton has a very fiery energy, which may be being eroded now, and we are asking what will emerge out of the submerging effects of gentrification,” reflects curator and artist, Barby Asante.

Panelists agreed that 198 is a significant community asset, because of its unique and indispensable role in nurturing and providing a space for black artists over the changing landscapes of the past three decades.  “198 gave me my first opportunity. I came to 198 in the early 90’s, aware of the Gallery’s role in the resurgence of Black British art-scene in the 80’s. In 2001 I was an artist-in-residence and held my first exhibition there. It has been a significant influence in the development of my practice” recalls Asante.

Lucy Davies, who has been director of the 198 for 16 years, adds: “I first came to 198 through Paul Dash who I met at Goldsmiths. It was providing a platform for emerging artists, curators and people looking for a career in the arts. At 198 they were free to experiment, express their voice, find support and move on. So many of today’s artists started here, in fact we have over 100 of their names on the wall for this exhibition.

“Our work with local youth has also been important. We work with a large network of referral agencies, sending us young people with multiple and complex needs unable to access education in the mainstream. We give them one-to-one support, skills development and mentoring. Education is usually seen as something that’s done to people, here its people participating at the same level to create something relevant together,” she adds.

“To a great extent, the development of 198 has been informed by the funding we could access, and we have been working in response to the needs of young people and the community. But with the recent hyper-gentrification in the area, our communities are becoming displaced. Our asset is a community legacy, and this is a pivotal time. We still occupy a position on the fringes, and too often we are used to tick diversity boxes, yet left scratching around on the outskirts. We have a strong vision now and we need the community to get involved to make it happen. We are setting up a new Youth Board to feed in new ideas, and looking for new Trustees who can help guide us through this transition, as well as conducting a grass roots fundraising campaign.” concludes Davies. 

Donations can be made through: https://www.justgiving.com/SomethingForAll. Or Text to 70070 with the message: 198CAL £50 (or the amount you wish to give).

FURTHER INFORMATION

198 Contemporary Arts & Learning is located at 198 Railton Road, a street in Brixton associated with the 1981 & 85 urban uprisings, figures such as CLR James and Olive Morris as well as anarchists, squatters groups and more. Originally called Roots Community, 198 was a West Indian social club where dominos were played, jazz filled the air, meals were shared and people came together for good times.  Founded by locals Noel Morgan and Zoe Linsley-Thomas in 1988 the gallery was created to exhibit artworks by black (Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority) artists and to engage young people through art education.  Artists such as Fowokan George Kelly, Jaimini Patel, Faisal Abdu’ Allah, Sonia Boyce, Aya Haidar, Aubrey Williams, Delaine Le Bas, Susan Stockwell, Larry Achiampong and Barbara Walker have all exhibited in the gallery.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:

Please contact Lucy Davies, Director, !98 CAL: 0207 978 8309

lucy@198.org.uk

EXHIBITION INFORMATION

The Disordered and Considered exhibition is part of Possible Futures and is funded by the Arts Council of England. The Disordered and Reconsidered Symposium invited artists, curators, archivists and others to join in a dialogue to consider the context in which the 198 Gallery was formed and operates. Panels reflected on archival practice in relation to the political histories that inform the gallery, its relationship to its locality and the wider cultural and critical landscape of the art world. Strategies on how the archive can inform future possibilities for the gallery were also considered. Constituting an archive represents a significant moment, on which we need to reflect with care. It occurs at that moment when a relatively random collection of works, whose movement appears simply to be propelled from one creative production to the next, is at the point of becoming something more ordered and considered: an object of reflection and debate. 

 Contributors included:

David A Bailey: Curator — International Curators Forum

Gilane Tawadros: Chief Executive DACS and Vice Chair Stuart Hall Foundation

Dr Ash Sharma: Postgraduate programmes co-ordinator in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at UEL, Co-Editor Darkmatter Journal

Chandra Frank: independent curator, writer and PhD candidate at Goldsmiths 

Rita Keegan: Artist 

June Givanni: The June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive 

Larry Achiampong: Artist

Kelly Foster: Cultural researcher and London Blue Badge holder 

Ben Cranfield: Lecturer in Cultural Studies at Birkbeck

Amal Alhaag: Independent Curator/ Side Room Amsterdam