‘The Art of giving Art’ at Manchester’s Free for Arts Festival

October 4, 2010

Out walking the streets of Manchester this week, there’s a chance you might get pelted with a cardboard tube thrown at you by a passing cyclist. This is nothing but a lucky occurance.

If you’re good enough at catching you’ll be the recipient of a collection of artists’ drawings found rolled up inside, the initiative of PaperGirl which is an artist run ‘urban action, party and bicycle workshop’. The idea was sprung in Berlin four years ago in response to tightening laws upon all kinds of street art. The aim was simply to land the artwork directly into the hands of the general public, avoiding any association with graffiti or placarding. And we all know that the best gifts are, on the most part, the ones you don’t ask for. The artworks included in the Manchester project are being exhibited on the walls of The Soup Kitchen, Spear Street all this week.

Papergirl has been brought to the UK for the first time for Manchester’s Free for Arts Festival which opened onFriday 1st and will run until Friday 8th October. The festival has been woven into the city’s buildings, back-streets and artspaces to give artists the opportunity to find their audience in unlikely places and by unexpected means.


In a railway arch on New Bailey Street, you’ll see two out of the three festival curators, Lois Macdonald and Helen Collett, in the thick of a performance. They’ll be testing one another on GCSE maths skills, performing bleep tests and generally exposing their strengths and weaknesses as a collaborative art duo to a possibly critical public reception.

At the Art Corner space you will find the Toy Shop exhibition curated by Laura Gee who told us she applied the Toy Shop theme to show ‘the playfulness, and versatility of contemporary image-makers’.The show in itself is an installation with elements of 2d and 3d illustrations, props, prints and even toys on display. Gee highlighted the artist Daniel Frost in the Toy Shop for this piece; ‘a chase scene capturing red indians and cowboys in a circular mobile’. Gee has also produced a number of ridiculously cute screen-printed wooden mini toy shop’s, and they are available for visitors to take home.

There is a risk however of devaluation, and it arises from the openness and readily available nature of art when it is freely distributed.These days government arts funding is so hard to land and initiatives like Free for Artsresourcefully find ways to make things happen regardless, so perhaps we shouldn’t get too anxious about this right now. Works included in the festival are for sale, free to view or even to take home thanks to the contributions of enthusiastic,aspiring artists and festival co-ordinators. Art is not necessarily for everyone, but thankfully festivals likeFree for Arts are ensuring we at least have the option to decide.

Words, Jane Faram


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