Smithdown Social Arts Hub and Gallery 455 combine creativity and compassion in supporting the arts

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Smithdown Social Arts Hub has impressive creative arts projects that it is developing in support of local artists.

Smithdown Social Club closed in March 2020 as a result of the  COVID-19 outbreak. Having previously been a largely music industry ‘collective’ of bands, solo artists and support to help performers survive and prosper, they pivoted to a digital platform. This enabled them to continue to deliver music to the community and provide musicians with a digital ‘gig’ opportunity to provide some income during lockdown.

“Musicians are a highly skilled asset in the community”. So says Brenda Monahan, director, social entrepreneur and one of the driving forces behind the new Arts Hub. Brenda saw the need to also incorporate writers, visual artists and film makers into the Hub to create digital content and get artists and musicians networking and sharing their talents.

The Hub was able to access crucial funding through this digital platform strategy. Brenda explained, “This funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport through the Culture Recovery Fund has played a major role in the continuity of the business…(This includes) artistic programming covering art, music, literature, (and) film…‘Music Minds’ is a project dedicated to the mental health of musicians working in the music industry.”

Brenda continues,“The derelict state of our former venue caused us to also pivot locations and we now occupy the three stories at 455 Smithdown Road that provide the space for the Arts Hub operations. We turned the former post office…into Gallery 455, which opened in June 2021…Here we exhibit highly acclaimed art from a diverse range of local artists.

“This idea stemmed from successful art exhibitions held at the former Naked Lunch Café, the first co-operative café on Smithdown Road. (This was) started by social entrepreneur and local visionary, Paul Tsanos, who is also a Director of the Arts Hub.

“Over the last 12 months, the Hub has collaborated with creative artists and professionals. We successfully launched ‘Bridge Over Smithdown: A Collection of Poems’, and a short story book, ‘Smithdown Stories Near and Far’.  We also held two ‘Five to Film’ workshops with scriptwriter Paul Womack, where each participant developed a 5-minute film script and produced a short film each. These will all be launching this January.

“We have been approached by so many high calibre artists and have exhibited art by more than 25 artists, photographers and digital artists in four exhibitions since we opened in June. We look forward to many more during 2022, including some exclusives.”

The Hub has also used social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to good effect in highlighting the funding attracted by Brenda and her work in making successful applications.

This all sounds like a smooth road to transition but the Arts Hub’s evolution has not been without its difficulties.

“Our focus come January 2021 was to create the gallery space as our front-facing entry into the Hub and develop the 1st and 2nd floors into space for artists to create content in various ways. The challenge ahead is now about creating a new profile in the community, raising the awareness of our wide-ranging support and collaborations and increasing  art and book sales at Gallery 455 to help us on the road to being self-funded by the end of 2022.

“From the outset, our plans have been for the Arts Hub to be a focal and practical support for creative arts in the area. We knew that key to its success would partly be finding the right balance in terms of supporting everyone who needed it…Those working/involved in art, music, literature, film and (with a focus on) well-being through the Music Minds programme.”

“The Arts Hub programming for the new year will keep providing an exciting array of creative arts projects with social impact that support the creative arts community.

“We are all about being  local, supportive and socially enterprising,” insists Brenda. “For example, within Gallery 455 we cover costs of photography for art work to assist artists to produce prints and cards of their work to sell during their exhibition and todigitally place their work on our website once their exhibitions end.

“Our goal is to help promote their work long term…treating them like a human as opposed to just a commodity.”

Speaking about the exhibitions, Brenda added: “They are all fully inclusive…and are also supported by a variety of local musicians. We also include live music as a backdrop at exhibitions to (generate) a welcoming feeling (to combat) social isolation (after lock-down).

Gallery 455 has become a valuable network…on many levels…which makes sense given the diversity of artists involved. These include digital artists, photographers, creative art (that includes) oils, water-colours, canvas, illustration, graphics, abstract art and wood carvings.

Gallery 455 is involved with upcoming projects for community artists to deliver art classes that promote art for beginners and deliver self-development for experienced artists.

Brenda concludes: “2022 is going to allow us to showcase so many aspects of this wonderful Arts Hub.Throughout the year we will be developing opportunities for artists…to have an outlet (to) create and grow alongside the ethos of human values.”

Smithdown Social Arts Hub 

Gallery 455

455 Smithdown Road · Liverpool L15 3JL

Facebook: @smithdownsocialclub

Instagram: @smithdownsocial

Twitter: @smithdownsocial

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