Pop Up art space – Fabric’s big art adventure

Ann Rutherford
14 September 2011

It’s May 2010, and suddenly a cavernous empty retail unit in Centenary Square becomes a reality for Fabric to use as a temporary art space. Given the task of creating the art space from not much more than a bit of concrete dust, I had a clear idea of how to make it work. Luckily there was funding and enough of it to make things possible.

The first task was to install power, lighting and a structure to take exhibitions. Raise the Roof were hired to install these elements. At the same time Fabric issued a call out for proposals. About 30 of these were received over the next few weeks.  It was at times difficult to decide on what to program where, but a large file of exhibitions soon grew that would carry us through into 2011.

With enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers we launched a diverse programme of shows. We were new, with no existing audience to speak of and were situated on a gloomy building site with hurrying passers by.  I designed punchy graphics for the front windows and decided on a busy, active programme to keep people coming back to see something new each time. We marketed as much as we could on the limited staff and budget, and used the Pop Up logo as a brand, but it seemed to work, visitors picked up and we were getting about 100 people through the door each week. Thomas Walshaw designed beautiful flyers that we got Rob Knight to print out for mates rates. We aimed to present as professional a face to the public as possible with good quality displays, labeling, text panels, lighting, and varied arrangements of the space to suit the needs of the artists. It was also important to be open when we said we were and maintain the public levels of interest with different styles and types of work. We kept exhibition costs within strict limits to eek out the budget with the cheapest costing just £12.00 and the costliest only about £800.00.

We borrowed projection equipment from Bradford Grid and were given tables and furniture by Bradford College and Bradford Chamber of Commerce. We painted furniture white to make it look like a contemporary gallery space, and used huge amounts of fire retardant fabric from Whaley’s to create spaces within the unit. We also used contacts made in the city though years of work and study as artists ourselves and this ability to source really good, interesting artwork just when we needed it was invaluable. It is still just a temporary art space though and without Starbucks next door we would be doomed – they provide our water, our Wi-Fi, so we can manage all our projects, and most importantly our en suite toilet facilities. 

I must say thank you to all the fantastic volunteers, paid staff, and artists that have been such a joy to collaborate with on all sorts of projects, all that continuing enthusiasm for this venture really has made it worthwhile.

We’re still here, come and see us soon!

Ann Rutherford