From its humble beginnings as Turtle Arts in 1999, Surface Gallery has evolved from a graduate’s enterprise into a sophisticated and key arts hub in Nottingham. Having relocated in December 2008, from its founding base in the Nottingham Voluntary Action Centre, to its current location of 16 Southwell Road, it has been given an excellent opportunity to expand and develop. As 2008 volunteer Gemma Smith comments, “It has shown me what shared enthusiasm and passion for the arts can attain and sustain.” This is because from its origins Surface Gallery has always had a relaxed approach and has become a meeting place for artists and art students. Its vision is to create an exhibition space where emerging artists can showcase their work without limits; as well as giving the opportunity to volunteers to be involved in all aspects of running an art gallery. Genelva Patterson-Meikle, who currently volunteers, finds that “The gallery has influenced me creatively and has allowed me to make many decisions about what I aim to accomplish in the future in terms of my career.” The gallery allows volunteers to make connections and gain experience in a field that is notoriously difficult to gain employment whilst striving towards a professional approach to the running of the Gallery.
The overall aim of Surface Gallery is to support the professional development of early and mid-career artists, curators and people wishing to work in the arts. This can be seen through its current exhibition ‘Ten Years of Surface...’ The exhibition celebrates and explores the history, present and future of the gallery as a volunteer-run arts organisation, whilst giving both past and current volunteers the opportunity to exhibit work in this unique show. Coming from a broad range of backgrounds it showcases a diverse and exciting selection of contemporary art practice that has contributed to, and developed, as part of the growing vibrant Nottingham arts scene. The success of Surface Gallery has been inspirational to some of its volunteers, who have gone on to exhibit in and curate exhibitions throughout the UK, work at the Tate Modern and V&A Museum and even establish their own creative businesses. The main focus of the exhibition is to celebrate the individuals who have contributed to the success of the Gallery over the past 10 years, as well as acting as a reflection upon how the experience of volunteering at Surface Gallery has influenced and made an impact on their future career paths.
By Adwoa Baah, current volunteer at Surface Gallery