Interview with Liberty Rowley (The London Arts Board)

Published Nov, 2015

Liberty Rowley tell me about yourself, what is your background?

Who am I? I studied sculpture at Camberwell college Which wasn’t my initial intention — I wanted to study film, but they said that we will not be able to touch a camera for the first year. So I thought ‘That’s stupid I am going to transfer to something else’ .

What happened after graduation?

I spent a lot of time working at a second hand bookshop on Charing Cross Road, and I made my work, and I did different internships in London and in Manchester. Now I work at Mall Galleries I am the marketing department. Just before I started working there I moved with my flatmate into a flat opposite the Camberwell college.

How did you come across the noticeboard that would become The London Arts Board?

From our window we could see a bit of waste ground with a noticeboard and I thought ‘Uuuu I will have that.’ When we moved in it had a fence around it but the gate was open so you could wander in and out and not many people did. It turned out that the reason the piece is waste land is because there is a cold war bunker for Southwark council underneath it. There used to be a doctors surgery there but it got knocked down in the 80ies, and I am assuming the notice board stayed from that surgery.

Did you get in touch with the council or did you just take over the board?

For the first two years I just got on with it. And because the gate to the area was open, someone from the council would come in every so often and clean. So they would take away the rubbish and paint over the graffiti but the would not touch the board. So I took it as official confirmation that this was mine. Then a massive gate was added to the fence so I have to climb over the fence now.

Have any works been stolen?

Just one.

Not many people will look at a disused notice board and think ‘That’s a great spot for my gallery’ What was the ‘aha moment’?

I don’t know. I remember joking to my friends a few months before hand ‘I am going to commandeer it’, and they said ‘Do it then’. And that is how The London Arts Board got started.

How did you approach the first few artists to show on The London Arts Board?

It started with people I knew. Now, I spot artists I like at exhibitions I got to, or online, and just ask them. What I am asking for is not the actual work just a high resolution of the work. I pay for the work to be printed and I stick it up on the notice board, so actually the artist does not have to do anything.

How much time does it take to organise and manage an exhibition on The London Arts Board?

I try to get all the confirmation and the information from the artist at least two months in advance so that I can put the press release together and start getting in touch with the press.

All the marketing is the same as it would be for a normal exhibition, and I am always amazed when people actually go and look at the exhibition in person. I always assume that everyone will look at it online — I look at most of the exhibitions online. However, I am aware that people actually do come and look at it. My flatmate passes the noticeboard on the way to work and she always reports back like ‘I’ve seen someone take a photograph’, ‘I’ve seen some people having a discussion about the board’ , ‘I saw someone looking at the board.’ People do actually use it as a proper gallery in that sense.

Do you do private views for the exhibitions on The London Arts Board?

No, I don’t want to draw unwanted attention or be arrested for street drinking, besides it is a busy corner with a busy main road.

Are you involved in any art festivals or fairs?

I keep missing Art Licks, but I have been involved with the Camberwell Arts Festival for the last few years.

Where do you see the project going?

I don’t have any plans. I always try to direct people back to the artists website I know there where a few interests in sales but I don’t know if any work has actually sold.

Have you been approached by artists asking to exhibit their work?


Who approaches you and do they know that the space is not a gallery but a board?

Well I get a range. Lewis Bush who’s photography I showed approached me. He sent an email sending ‘I really want to show, I cycle past the board every day’ so I asked him for a link to his work and I really liked it.

Some people obviously don’t know and say ‘How do I hire the space?’ Then I get some artists emailing ‘Here is a link to my work’ thinking that The London Arts Board is some official funding source. There are people who have done their research and know what they are sending an email to. On the whole, these are the sort of people who’s work is also to my taste. There is obviously an aesthetic or set of ideas that people who think an notice board on a busy road is a suitable space for art gallery share. I also get a lot of people asking to do an internship.

Any advice for artists?

The thing that I am most aware of at the moment, especially after the degree shows is the number of artists who do not have a website! If you do not have a website no one can look you up. And sometimes you really search for someone and you find their Facebook page and you know its them and yet they have none of their work on Facebook! Not even amongst their friends are they saying ‘Oh look at this thing I am making’. Everyone I am following on Facebook, everyone of my friends is saying ‘look what I made’, or ‘I am in this exhibition come and see’. If you are making things you have to be telling people about it all the time. I am amazed that some artists are not online.

It amazes me too, people want to be discovered but they still think that ‘to be discovered’ you need to be in a gallery when actually you just need a really good SEO. You need to optimise your website for the search engine and be on social media like Instagram.

So many people buy and sell through Instagram now. If you don’t have a website, if you are not on Instagram or other social media — you do not stand a chance.

I know of a lot of people now who got exhibitions or omissions from Instagram and its not as if they have many followers sometimes they just have 30.

But it’s the right thirty.

Any advice for people who want to start a project in an awkward space. What are the top lessons you learnt running The London Arts Board?

Don’t ask for permission — do it. If you think it’s a fun idea chances are other people will think so to. So do it, otherwise someone else will do it and then you will be sad.

What where/are the start up costs for The London Arts Board?

£21.95 a month- for print and postage of the exhibition. and every 6 months I have to buy wallpaper paste which is £2.99.

A book that you would recommend for artists and curators to read.

Walking’s New Movement by Phil Smith.

Arriviste by Suzan Finlay.

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