Enhancing the energy between entrepreneurship and the arts!
There are many amazing cultural hubs and art spaces in Johannesburg, but the trendy Victoria Yards in Lorentzville, East of Johannesburg, and its story is an entirely different one. It is a unique new space for viewing and experiencing art which offers an alternative to what one would usually come to expect. The regeneration of this derelict warehouse space into a magnificent ecosystem is as much a commercial enterprise as it is about creating social development opportunities.
Chrisel van der Merwe, Tectonic Plate, 2018. Courtesy of the artist & The Project Space.
Nestled within its many facets, is The Project Space – a non-profit cultural institution founded by Ugandan born visual artist Benon Lutaaya in 2016 – a platform centred on developing creative spaces and offering opportunities to emerging female contemporary African artists, and young entrepreneurs.
Through its annual Young Female Residency Award, The Project Space offers 9-12 months sponsored female residencies to a local or international artist – to build their levels of exposure and help grow their international professional networks. The work they create during the course of these lengthy residencies is exhibited at all the major local, and some selected international art Fairs. This approach exposes their work directly to potential collectors, media, curators, and established galleries. This has been made possible due to the creativity, and selfless commitment of Benon Lutaaya, who sponsors The Project Space’s initiatives.
As an open plan Creative Space by design, The Project Space is intent on developing a creative community. An inspiring space that is perfect for peer to peer engagement, and knowledge sharing. Residency artists; Alka Dass, Lebohang Motaung, Asemahle Ntlonti, Chrisel van der Merwe & Ana Pather have all shared how their existing practice was challenged during their time spent at The Project Space and commented on how their residencies there was a critical junction in their artistic careers. They also added that although they worked at the residency as individual artists there was a great spirit of community and the studio had game-changing energy.
Lebohang Motaung explaining her work during a studio visit. Courtesy of The Project Space.
Benon Lutaaya adds, “the industry is short on spaces dedicated to the commitment to grow young talent by allowing them enough time, space, freedom and the resources they need to develop. Our challenge is how do we achieve that without compromising why we set-up the organisation in the first place, and avoid becoming another failed institution due to lack of funding. We want to prove it’s possible, by being the first non-profit cultural space that’s financially self-sufficient, whose success is dependant upon its own internal creative and business activities, sharing and partnerships. I have a responsibility as the CEO of the organisation to my board of directors, the art community at large, and to the benefit of future generations, to make it happen. We don’t want to be another creative space that isn’t creative in business. Our entire strategy and future programming stem from the knowledge that art and business are not separate. Rather, understanding business is vital to growing the visual arts, creating spaces, and expanding markets and opportunities for art and artists to thrive. This is why we have also developed and set up an Entrepreneurs Residency programme which now starts in 2019.”
Benon’s comments underline the fact that many nonprofit, arts and culture organisations simply lack the creativity and skills required to navigate the current political and economic times – a problem The Project Space seems to be on top of with its innovative approach and support of its creative and founding benefactor, Benon Lutaaya.
Asemahle Ntlonti, Sikhalela ngaphakathi, 2019. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist & The Project Space.
Aysha Waja, Director of The Project Space adds: “Our empowerment depends entirely on our organisation being flexible and adaptable to market developments. For any artists that get the opportunity to take up our residencies, it is no guarantee of future success. Personal effort and drive – while taking advantage of the opportunities and community we have set up – is the only way.”
Artists that are passionate about their creative career and willing to go the extra mile to success, are a naturally good fit for The Project Space. Watch out for their 2019 open calls!