I’ve just finished collating and thinking about the feedback that visitors to the exhibition have given. It was a pleasant task as the feedback was overwhelmingly very positive, praising both the exhibition as a whole and individual artworks. There was some constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement as well, which I was also pleased to read (honestly!). Here’s a report based on the feedback, with some thoughts at the end.
Approximately 250 people came to the launch event, which far exceeded expectations. Following the launch, 184 people visited the exhibition. Of these, 54 people came to an event accompanying the exhibition organised by the Arts and Minds Network on 14th April.
The majority of visitors were from Leeds, but people also visited from across Yorkshire, from Manchester, Warrington and Settle and as far afield as Leicester, Edinburgh and London. This largely reflects the hometowns of the artists.
25 people took part in an online survey after the exhibition. Most of them (21 or 84%) were people who’d attended the exhibition, 6 of them (24%) came to the launch event, 4 (16%) were part of an organisation that supported the exhibition. (Respondents could tick more than one answer).
32% of survey respondents were disabled people.
During the exhibition, approximately 80 people left feedback in a comments book.
Tweets during the exhibition were collated and can be seen at https://storify.com/ShoddyArts/shoddy-exhibition
All the survey respondents thought that the exhibition met its aim of challenging negative assumptions about disabled artists, with nearly two-thirds (16 people, 64%) saying it met this aim fully. Seven people (28%) thought the exhibition mostly met this aim, two (8%) thought it partly met it.
The art on show was really good. It was attractive and also hard hitting – it showed disabled people are capable of high levels of creativity.
Great artwork – not amateurish. Very insightful.
Great pieces on display, some of the highest quality I’ve seen anywhere. Many would have left non-disabled artists envious.
Many of the comments in the comments book appreciated the high standard of the artwork:
Phenomenal level of art
Eye-opening work, some really stunning pieces!
Really classy work
Another aim of the exhibition was to highlight the “shoddy” treatment of disabled people by the government. Again, all survey respondents thought the exhibition met this aim, with 60% or 15 people saying it fully met it, 32% or eight people saying mostly and two people (8%) saying it partly met it.
Many of the pieces moved me to tears. I felt empowered and inspired by seeing values I hold dear depicted in art in so many different ways.
Not all the exhibits seemed to address this issue, although the ones that did were really on the mark.
From the comments book:
I enjoyed the themes of ‘Shoddy’ – textiles – being undervalued – having to fight for your rights….
Amazing work on display with an amazing message behind them!
What a moving exhibition – makes me sad, angry and moved all at once
I really appreciate the powerful social messages about inclusion, empowerment and respect inherent in the experiences of making this art.
A topic that truly needs a light shone on it
A great theme and idea for an exhibition in such difficult times, a good way to visualise all that is going on and how life is for disabled people.
What people particularly liked about the exhibition
People were generous and enthusiastic in their praise for the exhibition. Commonly used words were:
Inspiring, Beautiful. Insightful. Moving. Fantastic. Colourful. Awesome. Thanks.
The phrase that cropped up most often was “thought provoking”.
The variety and range of work was mentioned regularly in both the survey and the comments book. People enjoyed the interactive aspects of some of the art. Visitors also thought that the exhibition was organised and displayed well, with thoughtful curation and labelling of the art.
I loved the lay out – the room looked great, and I liked the way all the space was used, for instance some exhibits on the floor, some hanging from the ceiling. It was really colourful, lots of bright reds used, so it looked exciting. I liked that you could handle many of the exhibits. I especially liked that it was politically motivated art – not just nice stuff, but gathered together for a purpose.
I liked the range of work and artists; the lovely quality of the work and the mix of sound, visual and digital work
Great work, beautifully displayed. Thought provoking and inspiring at once!
It bridged the personal and the political well.
Really lovely exhibition. Everything I’ve seen really thought-provoking, but beautiful as well!
Very impressed with the shoddy exhibition… Some tough subjects expressed beautifully through creativity!
Excellent curation, strong themes, real mix of style, and in parts very powerful, I’ll really be taking this exhibition home with me.
What could have been done better?
On the other hand, there were constructive and helpful comments aimed at strengthening the curation and improving the labelling. The venue was generally liked, but a few people found it a bit “gloomy”, “off the beaten track” and found parking difficult.
A number of people said the exhibition should have been in a mainstream gallery, a testament to the quality of the work.
Others found it difficult to hear the speech at the opening event – mainly due to the number of people there.
Some limitations of the space, resources available, execution of curatorial vision (don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it!)
I loved the work and LAB has a great DIY ethos, but I would also like to see the work displayed in higher profile venues
It would have been great to have had photos/videos of the artists at work on their pieces.
Getting involved in future developments of Shoddy
Eleven people offered support or help if the project develops in future, with eight others saying they might be able to help.
The offers included publicising, performing, setting up, photography, exhibiting, project management, facilitating creative workshops, fundraising and curatorial vision.
From the survey respondents, 59% found out about the exhibition from Facebook, 18% from Twitter, 45% from someone else, 18% from the leaflet. A small number found out about it from the Shoddy blog or other websites.
Judging by the feedback, Shoddy was a success. It met its aims and, importantly, confirmed that disabled artists are producing excellent work, which deserves to be shown in mainstream art galleries.
The exhibition attracted a large number of visitors, particularly to the opening event. While numbers were likely to have been boosted by national press coverage a few days before the opening, most of the survey respondents actually found out about Shoddy via social media, with only two people mentioning a newspaper.
There appears to be an appetite for seeing the work of disabled artists in the city. People engaged with the art for a variety of reasons – for the political or social aspects or simply to see good art.
Great to see a political textile exhibition
Everyone in my group loved the art work and learned something new about the complex portrayal of disability
I didn’t look at it from that angle. Just came to see some interesting artwork.
Beyond viewing the work of disabled artists, a number of people, both disabled and non-disabled, are willing to actively support this or similar projects in future, offering a range of skills and expertise.
Shoddy was exhibited at Live Art Bistro (LAB), a temporary space brokered through East Street Arts. While not a gallery space, LAB offered ramped access from the street and a large, ground floor space for the exhibition. It would have been ideal to have shown Shoddy in a gallery space, but this wasn’t possible for a number of reasons, mainly cost, availability or accessibility. Finding an accessible venue to show Shoddy was very difficult, in the end the choices were extremely limited. Taking the viewpoint that a friendly and welcoming venue could over-ride some of the shortfalls in accessibility (mainly parking), I chose LAB.
This proved to be a good choice. Many people liked the venue and the space. Using a temporary space (previously a motorbike showroom) fitted in well with one of Shoddy’s themes of re-cycling and re-purposing. There’s a vibrant DIY art scene in Leeds and it was my intention to position Shoddy within that scene, where artists make use of temporary spaces as they become available, or rent cheap spaces in unusual venues. But access to these venues rarely seems to be a consideration, with artists and organisers feeling that they have no choice in the matter. I don’t think that’s true, and hope that Shoddy can at least put access higher on the agenda.
Thanks to everyone who came to the exhibition and to all those who shared their thoughts and feedback. Work from the exhibition will be shown again, in Batley, shoddy’s birthplace, in Leeds and perhaps in other parts of the country. I’m not planning another exhibition, but, encouraged by the reception of Shoddy, will be taking and creating further opportunities to make the work of disabled artists more visible in Leeds.
We are not shoddy, or waste – we make so much from the material of our rich lives!
Gill Crawshaw 4.5.16