London based artist Stacie McCormick is known for her abstract and gestural paintings. But she is also a champion of artists too. In 2015 she founded Unit 1 Gallery Workshop, a space in West London that provides studios, residency programs and exhibition spaces for artists and curators. Having seen how the coronavirus pandemic has been a huge hit to artists, she has launched a fundraiser called Money For Our Artists, with the hope of raising money – a whopping £150k (or £500 per artist) – to support her community. We spoke to Stacie about setting up Unit 1 Gallery Workshop, her fundraiser, and her hopes for the post-corona art space.
What first got you interested in making art?
I actually can’t remember not making, painting, drawing- I am the 5th of 6 children and I somehow think it must be linked to differentiation- art made me – me in a large family! One day I must post the San Francisco Chronicle prize winner from 10 years old – I am still examining the same thing! (might tempt everyone to donate and then I will reveal!!)
What gave you the idea to start Unit 1, can you explain the concept to us a little bit?
The idea to start Unit 1 Gallery-Workshop has been a lifelong desire to constantly be engaged with artists – but the real catalyst was nearly 11 years ago when we decided to leave London and moved to Charleston SC – it was here I started residencies to keep in touch with international artists and introduce them to a provincial US city that has so much to offer. When we returned to London I was determined to continue.
How has it grown over time?
I am still amazed by the growth and how the organisation has expanded – what started with a serendipitous opportunity for our huge and gorgeous space with no following, no existing reputation is now a solid identity. Through trial and error as well and some instinctive initiatives it has developed from an uncomplicated premise much like the golden rule. It is utterly thrilling to see our 4 residency programmes get such a high calibre of applications and witness the ongoing benefit through and after the participation. We have ambitions to provide even more benefits to our members so further growth is on the horizon. I am proud that it has adapted and become itself through our strongest element- the artists that have worked with us. We are “all of us” connected by the amazing experiences together here in west London and that includes the public that has become such a big part of our family too.
Can you tell me about your Money For Artists campaign?
During the Covid-19 days of introspection we kept thinking about ways to keep our membership present and supported. We knew we had many artists working freelance and zero hours and really in need- It became quite simple, right now the very best way to support our member artists it to raise money to give directly to them as soon as possible, that way we could directly support them to keep well and be able to return to their practices.
Why is it so important that we support artists during these times of uncertainty?
We have a quite international group of artists most of which are based in London – it is already very hard for artists to keep a job, studio plus materials, and home going- We feel certain this Money for Our Artists will have a huge impact and we are having wonderful feedback from our members and our public. Nearly 9k in 9 days and we are in conversation with some exciting corporations for larger donations. The importance of artists is inestimable. You only have to pick up any history book to see that the main view of a societies’ is through arts. Artists enhance our lives now, but the evidence of our time is seen in the work of artists as chroniclers – this is always worth supporting and protecting.
How have you personally been keeping sane in quarantine? Have you been making new work?
Give me a crisis and I get busy. It was clear for me that I wanted to keep present and I quickly developed the Conversation Series. From April 1st we conducted 50 consecutive conversations on 2pm everyday Instagram Live that have kept me sane and connected. From the response and messages – was just the tonic to break up the monotony of the day! I am excited to announce here that we will publish a book of the answers as everyone contributed recommendations of books, movies, artists, and recipes – turns out to be quite a compendium – we will offer it for £25 donations. As for new work- I try to paint everyday and had an extreme reaction in the first month and worked in the gallery space, in the car park and completed a series of large works on paper. I am now managing some smaller works but, frankly and importantly I am really dedicated to the fundraiser now.
What do you hope for the post-corona art space?
I am curious to see the new technologies and how the gallery world adapts. Everyone who knows me, knows I am a people person – so I want people back! I think we are in an amazing position because we have a unique model that is support centric. Ideally, the hope is a return of open exhibitions -we had to postpone one of our signature programmes, the Radical Residency®. So, short term it is my aim to get the 10 selected artists into the gallery for their month of studio practice and then launch their exhibition! Bigger picture I am happy to say is better and more optimistic because we received Arts Council England funding, which of course gives us a life line financially but it also is so very important to have such an amazing organisation validate us and invest in our future. We are determined to continue with our mission to support artists with space and time and now specifically to raise an enormous fund to keep them working and to protect our programmes that will continue to support more artists an infinite loop creating a wonderful win win. Donate NOW!
Also! This is hot out of the 360 camera… and still a work in progress but super cool watch must be on your phone on vimeo app its interactive!!! …. https://vimeo.com/423721610/22b23c49e1 the sound quality in the first bit is terrible but keep watching and once inside you get a virtual exhibition The Galleries Association provided for this!