Category Archives: Art Venues

Cardiff M.A.D.E. Cafe

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?

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Chapter Staff Tee Shirts

I popped over to Chapter Art Centre last month to enjoy a film and a couple of pints. It seems they’ve issued their staff with a new uniform since I was last there. Well half a uniform at least… staff tee shirts.

God only knows who designed them. They are black, the front is plain with no design or embellishments whatsoever whilst the reverse has the Chapter title cut out from a rectangle that graduates from red to yellow reminiscent of a sunset.

From a practical point of view they’re completely ineffective as you’re only be able to identify a member of staff from them if they have their back to you.

And from a design point of view they’re horrific. With all the talent available in Cardiff alone you think they would have commissioned a designer or illustrator to produce something snappy. I’m guessing that they either asked one of their fine artist (who from my own experience often lack any design sensibilities whatsoever) friends to come up with the design or else the staff team themselves all came up with a design each and they selected one to use by drawing lots.

Ok so I know this is only a small matter and yes I do have bigger gripes about Chapter. The thing is this sort of thing is indicative of the arts in Cardiff. Putting a little more time and thought into the production of these t-shirts wouldn’t haven’t been a big ask and everyone would have benefited; Chapter would have a better image and their guests would be able to identify their staff from any direction and not just as they’re walking away.

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