I popped in to take a look around Cardiff M.A.D.E. just before the Christmas holidays. It opened last autumn in the space previously occupied by Milkwood Gallery and efforts are being made to continue the creative endeavours; the acronym stands for Makers, Artists, Designers and Enterprise.
In their own words…
We aim to provide a platform to showcase the work of Cardiff based Makers, Designers and Artists to the community, offering exhibition space, online shop, special events and a place to meet and eat with locally sourced food.
I have to say that they have done a great job with the space having completely renovated it following the takeover from Milkwood Gallery. The space has been knocked right through from front to back opening up what was formerly the gallery space at the back of the building.
However, it is not a big building at all and the provision of an exhibition space –and- a place to meet and eat is going to be a big ask of them. There’s barely enough room at the front of the space for two reasonable sized tables which means that for reasons of commercial viability they must be considering placing tables and chairs in the gallery space to the back.
At the time of my visit the main wall was covered in a mosaic of pleasantly framed prints, drawings and paintings by artists based in the locality. The gallery was occupied by five or six homemade Christmas trees made from a range of media from cardboard and wire to expanding foam which was possibly the work of local school children – I couldn’t see an explanation but it would make sense for them to be engaging the local community through schools and such in this way.
Unfortunately there was nothing to indicate that any curatorial nous had been exercised in the hanging or display of any of the artwork I saw reinforcing the appearance of Cardiff M.A.D.E. as a potentially nice café with some pictures by local artists on their walls. This is further emphasized by a look at their Facebook page, which at the time of writing features talk of cheese, chocolates and chutney as well as the exciting news that their orange toilet is just about ready for use and a meat slicer is on the way!
I totally understand the need for Cardiff M.A.D.E. to be a financially viable enterprise but the local area is not short of lovely coffee shops and cafes. Cardiff M.A.D.E. is hardly in a prime location being tucked away on an invisible corner between two residential streets and so they’re going to have to do something special to start attracting the attention of Albany Road shoppers.
It might be a smart move presenting themselves as supporters of Cardiff’s large creative community; at the very least it might help them to develop a small customer base from which to develop.
Of course, if I was to be really cynical I would suggest that this is exactly what they are doing and that their only real interest is in developing a successful café… but I’ll give them a chance as they’re new.
That said, if the artwork does start to appear like it is a mere afterthought then I can’t see the artists hanging around long. Curation can be a struggle, especially when trying to make ends meet, but integrity and respect are important commodities in the arts. Displays of art for art’s sake are, in my experience, more often than not some of the worst exhibitions that one can experience.
If Cardiff M.A.D.E. don’t show that they care about the art then why will the public?