We transformed a 100-year-old disused secret theatre into a cutting edge contemporary art space in Sheffield. My role was to brand the space and curate the artists.
The Sheffield Contemporary is an artistic and cultural centre based in the Abbeydale Picture house in Sheffield. The space features a gallery, bookshop and a bar.
The Sheffield Contemporary brand embraces a collision of the industrial heritage of the area and it’s contemporary content. The brand’s characteristic features are formed of graphic visual cues sourced from classic electro-plating diagrams.
The brand system is modular and can shift and evolve parallel to the gallery. Glyphs are replaced with icons or artifacts that represent current themes within the space whilst retaining legibility.
The breathtaking space, restored by hand, is a Grade 2 listed theatre, formerly bolted shut and unexplored by the public; the previously inaccessible space had faced an entire century of disuse.
What was once a vibrant and functioning theatrical arts hub became increasingly redundant as the popularity of cinema rose and the demand for live theatre and performance depleted.
We wanted the nature of the gallery to echo the intangible heritage of the space, focusing on the tension between the obsolete and the cutting edge within cinema. The premise of the first exhibition critically echoes the space’s history, concentrating on the ever-fluid methods of how moving image and performance evolves within the arts.
The curated selection of featured artists challenge themes such as materiality, obsolescence and memory in moving image. The artist’s subject matter collectively mirrors the factors that originally threatened the space and by doing so pushes it into the future of media.
The spatial design is especially intended to address the nature of decentralized media and self-reflectivity in cinema, and how this is exposed in the public domain today.
The project team consisted of two architectural designers, Louis Koseda and Sam Atkinson, who have a wealth of experience working with heritage buildings and social projects, and myself, a Creative Director who has worked in the cultural design sphere for over 10 years. Collectively we have worked to get the gallery up and running, which included curation, branding, scenography, production, fabrication, and installation.
Despite the era-defining space’s rich character, it had become a prime example of stagnant conservationism. The building contains, among many other heritage features, the UK’s only working fire curtain from the golden era of cinema.
Together the team are working to lead the progressive restoration of the building in collaboration with CADS, a Sheffield-based arts charity.
Strikingly, the Sheffield Contemporary is purely self-funded to this point and was achieved with an incredibly low budget of £1000 along with an entire community of support.
Tools, time and materials have been selflessly donated by Sheffield’s artistic evangelists, who want to see the great space step into the 21st century.
Where timeworn media makes way for the new, moving image, artists need to constantly engage in discourse surrounding the shift from centralised media to de-centralised media. In the time of multi-platform, responsive and interactive placements, this begs the question, how will cinema respond?
Featured in Design Week : https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/8-14-may-2017/sheffield-contemporary-gallery-opens-1000-budget/