We’ve just started something new in Newport. With the support of Arts Council Wales, National Theatre Wales TEAM and Newport City Council we have begun a new arts collective called Newport International Airspace. You may well ask where that name comes from or even what it might mean but to us it epitomised our intentions as a collective. N.I.A. was established off the back of The Meeting, a project procured and produced by local artists keen to change an empty high street space into a pop up arts centre last November. The Meeting was a reaction, a reflection even, to the words from the local community about the present state of Newport. Artists and performers were challenged to use these words to create an exhibition, a tour of the city and a performance that inspired some contemplation, debate and, in this case, further action.
Newport has not faired well in recent years and as a collective we wanted to reflect not only on the city but the actions of its artists. In ‘The Reenchantment of Art’, Suzi Gablik considers the role of the arts and the artist in accelerating movements towards changes needed to bring human beings back into balance with their ecosystem. With specific reference to social issues, Gablik argued that art is a catalyst for change which could in turn help us to ‘heal’. In difficult financial times Newport Council has been forced to close one of the most innovative visual art spaces in the museum, the temporary exhibition space, with the loss of its experienced and proactive curator. This may well seem to many as a sensible solution to a budget that will not meet the needs of the services provided across the city but we firmly believe that the arts matter and in times of difficulty they are essential. John Tuso wrote exactly that. He said ‘The Arts matter because they embrace and define the soul of civilisation. A nation without arts would be a nation that stopped talking to itself.’
So we have begun to develop our own vision of what an arts collective could offer. We are just four at present, from varied and diverse backgrounds and with a commitment to share and develop our ideals. We began this with a week of sharing that included workshops in photographic storytelling, drawing and mapping, mosaic sculpture and devising theatre. These workshops have enabled us to share our practice and highlight our collective inspirations and objectives to connect what we do with a wider community.
Furthermore as a collective we are aiming to explore the City in a number of ways including walks and talks with community groups and artists alike. We are just beginning and look forward to the journey ahead.