Fringe Arts Bath festival, better known among the locals as ‘FaB’, is an annual visual arts festival that has recently finished up. The exhibition spaces that were once full of amazing artworks and the chatter of people, are now once again just empty shops and spaces dotted around the streets of Bath. Katie Constantine, History of Art student and curator herself, sat down with Bath Spa alumni and co-leader of the festival, Scarlett Mosnier, to discuss all things arty and FaB.
Scarlett, tell me what FaB is all about?
FaB is run by artists, giving people the opportunity to get their work out there. It’s for people who don’t fit into the regular gallery scene, who prefer not to have their work in a typical gallery, and for people who haven’t showcased their work before. What we’re doing is creating something for those who might not have this opportunity any other way.
FaB has been running for a long time now, how big was FaB this year?
It was a great turnout this year. We had fifteen venues, thirty-four exhibitions, over 200 artists, twenty-two curators and six community groups.
How successful do you feel FaB is?
For the individual artist, I think the success is as simple as getting in and seeing people’s responses to their work. The same goes for the curators. It’s having your show accepted and then bringing an idea into existence.
FaB is also successful because it has been an important stepping stone in the careers of many of its past contributors. For example, back in 2011 we showed work by Dorcas Casey, I then walked into the Damien Hirst tent in Dismaland (Banksy’s 2015 temporary art exhibition housed in Dystopian Theme Park in Somerset, England) and that same piece of work was there. We had selected it as part of the Bath Open Art Prize. To me, that’s success, knowing that we are doing something great with FaB because we get to see someone carry on, with an element of our festival having been part of their growth.
But it’s more than that, it’s the community spirit. It’s great that we have community groups involved, including people who are in an art group because they have a history of addiction or homelessness. They make artwork together and then they get to have an exhibition which is a success for them, for us and for Bath. It’s amazing to see them realising that they are being valued on exactly the same level as professionals. I love that and that is the biggest part of our success. Putting everyone on an even keel. To us an artist is an artist, they’ve all got a massively positive contribution to bring. None of this would happen without artists.
Would you say there is a good art scene in Bath?
There are great opportunities here in Bath and amazing things you can do – Fringe Arts Bath, 44AD Art Gallery, Bath Artists’ Studios and Bath Open Studios to name a few. You can volunteer, you can apply for exhibitions or organise your own exhibitions. Walcot Chapel is an amazing space and so is Bath Artist Studios. There’s Bath Artist Printmakers as well, you can use the facilities down there. Edge Arts is too. Art Bar at The Raven is really good, Mike Tooby (Bath Spa Lecturer) runs that and they’re always bringing amazing speakers. There’s so much going on in Bath and people have no idea. You don’t have to go to Bristol to get involved. Go into town and find out what’s happening.
How can students get involved with FaB?
During the festival itself we always need volunteers. In set-up week we need people who can hammer nails into walls, people who can learn how to put up vinyl lettering on the walls. People who can drive to get artwork to the exhibition spaces are always handy. But also volunteers to help with invigilating, stewarding events and to point people upstairs or to other venues. Then there’s take down as well. On a long-term basis we would also like volunteers to work with us throughout the year, whether it’s marketing, online publishing, copy editing and proofreading, graphic design or writing articles. But also arts and events management, project management, web development, archiving and interviews on previous artists. What we would really love to do is a series of follow-up articles on where people are now.
You can also get involved by curating and submitting an exhibition idea during the call out to curators between October and December. Or come in as an artist! We have current Bath Spa students in some of the shows this year, Bath Spa graduates, some UWE MA students at Bath Artist Studios and some students from University of Bath volunteering. Students at Bath College were also involved this year.
How can students get in touch so that they can be involved?
The best way to get in touch is via email. Our email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. We do have fun as well, it’s not just about the hard work!
FaB will of course be on again next year. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open for future opportunities to get involved. This is a great way for students to enhance their CVs from having artwork showcased, to curating an exhibition – but you don’t have to be an artist yourself, Scarlett mentions many other ways that you can get involved. Follow their website for more information: http://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/.
Words by Katie Constantine