A small call to action:
If you like what we do here at Small House Gallery, and you’re in the position to, and feel inclined to, please consider visiting our >>>>>> paypal.me link <<<<<< and contributing to our upkeep, whether weekly, monthly, yearly, or just a one off, and help us keep keep ticking along.
It costs £84 a year to WordPress to host the amount of photos we have on the site. (Yes, now that the amount of work shown has grown, it’s time to start looking for a photography based website which will offer more GB for less – we’re locked in for a year though, from September 2021-22 when it comes up for renewal again). CuratorSpace charges fees to curators who want/need to list more than one listing at a time, and to be able to keep files of all past submissions. If not for this Small House Gallery project, there would be no reason to have a paid membership to WordPress or CuratorSpace, so they really are project-specific necessary outgoings. (There are several other expenses that wouldn’t need to be paid out without Small House Gallery’s existence – it’s boring AF to talk about, but we actually might publish it at some point for transparency’s sake).
In all honesty, this project is very close to shut-down, despite the recent adjustments made to the schedule (re one artist’s show per month rather than three), and this is because the honour system re: tips and commissions hasn’t worked – even with the nominal fee introduced as a last resort just before the Summer Show, attempts to break even have somehow failed. We haven’t been able to utilise sites like Patreon and Buy Me A Coffee because maintaining profiles on those platforms and trying to grow audiences takes time/energy/focus that was/is needed for curating shows, admin, logistics and website/social media maintenance. And adding art sales to the list of jobs was really not working when there is no staff to delegate to. Funding via the Arts Council wasn’t possible for the project as it stands because it doesn’t just serve the needs of one (underfunded/underrepresented) demographic in a particular area of the UK… And a substantial and reliable alternative source of funding has not been found to date, therefore, as there’s no way to continue that is fair to all involved, the project can only continue for now as an occasional side hobby on a very casual schedule.
The original contingency plan if the project closed was to at least keep the website up as a longterm time-capsule of all shows held in the Small House Galleries to day, but with the project’s growth it has long ago exceeded its 3GB storage limit given with the free plan. The upgrade costs £84 per year for but that only gives 13GB of storage, and the more shows we have, the more photos stored on the server, the more it costs just to keep the website live. The paid version has been paid out of pocket 2 years in a row, now. It’s not going to be possible to maintain that without outside contributions or funding or income from somewhere. (Plus there are separate web-hosting fees to be paid annually to another hosting company just to be able to own the website name.) We’ll have to shop around for a better deal and transfer the whole site over to another company – building a website from scratch again takes time and money – even if it were done in-house ‘for free’ it would mean forgoing income – a luxury we simply do not have. Honestly, it’s boring but shocking how much time and money goes into this project and how little is gained beyond ‘likes’. Without that somehow transposed to income, it’s not possible to carry it forward. And going back to the free version of the site, with the WordPress name included in the web address, means having to delete so much content to fit it back into the tight 3GB storage space limit that comes with the free package, meaning no more archive of shows. Just one or tow photos and that’s it.
What to do, what to do??
Small House behind the scenes…
Small House Gallery started out as a fun and joyous little project with big aspirations of becoming a long term fixture on the London/UK art scene. It was founded in 2016 by artist Eldi Dundee, then took a hiatus between 2018/19, and was revived and reinvigorated during the first Covid lockdown 2020, when a dedicated Instagram account was formed, and an ‘Open Call’ on CuratorSpace went out inviting artists to submit for solo and group micro exhibitions. From the very next day, and ever since, there has been of a steady stream of exciting international proposals, from the Americas, to the Middle East, and several points in between.
In the New Year (2021) two new Small House Gallery dolls houses were added to the project. One (called Small House Two) is the same style as the first, but it has an additional floor (a basement level). The second (which is the third house in the group) is a completely different style, shape and size of house. It came ready-restored and pimped by a design team (it was broken when they rescued it from a stall in Colombia Road market) and it offers a much bigger footprint than the other two houses, but with fixed, pre-styled, retro interiors which are staying as is. That house is called Small House Cottage. This expansion means that (in theory) more than one artist can show concurrently, and/or it gives one artist the potential to show work in multiple mini house-scapes, simultaneously or sequentially.
The demand for Small House Gallery exhibitions may have been a Covid fluke, or maybe it could last years. We can’t know where all the efforts and time put in will lead. The plan is to keep Small House Gallery going for as long there’s a desire for it, and as long as interesting, accomplished, playful emerging- and mid-career artists from all around the world are attracted to this 1:12 scaled curatorial offering (and as long as it’s affordable to carry on). Long term, with extended investment or a lump of dedicated funding there could be artist commissions down the line. That would be the desired outcome.
Running a contemporary art gallery for a dolls house (three houses as of January 2021) isn’t exactly what you’d call an income generator. There’s no salary, and yet for a venture so small in scale, there’s a huge heap of unseen, unpaid, work, time, and creative energy that goes into managing and maintaining the project behind the scenes. It has been wholly self-funded since its conception, and since its revival in early September until mid March 2021, was offered as a free service for artists to apply for and to show in. That’s six and a half months of unpaid full time work, which was of course unsustainable long term. The curator’s personal investment in the infrastructure and maintenance significantly outweighs any returns. And the conundrum has always been: how can all the lovely instagram and facebook hearts, thumbs and fire emojis be turned into actual income so that the project can at least breaks even and not be a financial burden to anyone, especially not the artists, and least of all the curator? And how can money be generated so that staff can be hired and jobs shared out, without the ethos, artistic vision or culture of Small House Gallery being compromised?
Big-time gratitude for all the followers and their moral support, likes and mentions! And big love for the the organic and authentic growth of followers! It’s so very validating and rewarding to have people respond so positively. But, as flattering and affirming as all of it is, no one who doesn’t come from the aristocracy can live off sweat equity and smiles.
How to financially sustain this venture without ‘selling out’? or losing creative control? Without compromising the integrity, quality, vision or playfulness that have been abundant in these early days? And especially important: how do do so without making the project inaccessible to people who are genuinely struggling? (And at the same time, without the founding curator personally suffering from burnout from overwork, underpay and despondency? A danger that is particularly ironic given the project was revived during lockdown to buoy mental health.)
The idea of charging artists fees for submitting or showing work was avoided for as long as possible, until it was crystal clear that the voluntary contributions model had failed. It feels awful to have to resort to charging fees.
It was that, or pack the project in after a good 6 month run, and with artists lined up after that until December 2021! Continuing on as things were would’ve meant working for free for 15 months, miraculously forking out of personal pocket. Not possible.
So the new Call Out on CuratorSpace started asking for a whopping £3.00 submission fee from each artist proposing work for a show, and if selected, the artist is asked to pay a small admin/curation fee of £15.00. That doesn’t even cover an hour’s wage on the project, but still, it will hopefully help keep the project ticking along until sponsorship or a successful funding bid comes along.
Since the start artists were asked to agree to cover all the costs of the safe packing and insured shipping of their work to and and from the Small House Galleries, and to chuck us a very humble 20% on any works that sell as a result of exhibiting with us. Artists have been responsible for selling their work, and sales have either been rare in practice, or artists have rarely been throwing back a commission our way if sales have been happening. Some artists haven’t contributed anything at all towards the project for whatever reason, not even their postage on returned works. And it sucks when that happens. And if they can’t they can’t, but when the majority can’t, it’s impossible to carry on.
The £15.00 fee is the minimum suggested amount, but if artists who can afford to pay more, do so as generously as possible, that will potentially enable us to waive or reduce the fee for an artist who might be at a disadvantage economically. (The amount each artist pays is between them and the curator alone. As far as everyone else is concerned, all artists showing with us have paid the fee equally! What happens in Art Club, Stays in Art Club. )
Ads have been kept off the website up to now, as they have the potential of being so irritating when they interfere with visual content (slowing down loading time, or covering it completely), and as an art website/blog, it’s very important that such things do not happen. But, thanks to new settings, it is (apparently? hopefully?) possible to have a say in where ads appear on these pages, and so as of October 2021, ads are being allowed on the bottom of each page and on the side bar. Do use the contact form to tell us if you have any issues. (If need be – or if it’s an amusing juxtaposition of ad to content, you’d be welcome to send screenshots via email!)
No idea if it will generate enough to get by, break even, carry on. And therefore, perhaps naively, there is a hope beyond hope that some sort of sponsorship, investment, or grant will come through in addition that can help cover expenses, and – let’s dream big – bring in a living wage for the curator, some staff hires and the artists who are submitting!
With outside support we could
- Provide some bursaries for artists from important, underrepresented, and under-served demographics to show on a fair sliding scale, or for free in some cases.
- Commission artists for shows for specific charitable causes, perhaps even to raise money towards a fund for the previous point.
- The commissioned artists could be FROM those demographics, thus putting our money where our mouths are.
It could be very positive for a company’s corporate responsibility image, perhaps.
We could use one of the houses for a few creative retail collaborations maybe?
We could rent out the detachable basement floor of Small House Two for well curated project placement or something along those lines.
We’d only welcome financial support or contributions from companies, corporations or funding bodies who would agree not to interfere with our’s project’s creative autonomy and authenticity, and for which there is no ethical clash. We’d also want to have a say in how, where, when and for how long their logos are displayed. We’d want to see it as a creative collaboration and the sponsor would need to respectfully treat it as such in order for it to work.
We started our instagram page in September 2020 during Covid lockdown. Our Open Call on CuratorSpace went live late September. We had our first submissions through Instagram in the beginning of October. Our reach, though still small by modern corporate standards is very low, but it’s grown organically without desperately pushing for growth, to 1000 followers in 11 months. Maybe it will grown more and faster from now? Anything is possible, so maybe at some point down the line we will attract corporate collaborations and sponsors? And yet, we cannot count on that happening.
Decided NOT to apply for a Arts Council England Project Funding, as it would be necessary to shoehorn the project into their remit to serve a particular area of England, or a particularly underrepresented demographic, and though I want to be as inclusive as possible for artists from all backgrounds and all presentations of humanness (thumbs up to intersectional identity politics) it would be disingenuous to suddenly start focussing in on serving one demographic above another, simply for purposes of trying to get money from a finding body (not to mention the tax payer!) for this project – especially as there’s already been a calendar-full of artists in place, from September 2021 to July 2022, and they don’t all tick the same ACE boxes.
Others for whom an identity focused programme or agenda is more useful, truthful and essential should have full access to that pot of ACE money.
This project has been helpful in terms of connecting otherwise isolated individuals during the lockdowns, and it’s helped quite a few of us in terms of our mental health, past lockdown, but the social NEED is no longer there, so it doesn’t fulfil ACE requirements in that way. The project is no longer a Must Have for mental health purposes for anyone, but a Nice To Have.
It’s very early days into our current incarnation, emerging ever so slowly from Covid Lockdown number 3 (2021). Majority vaccinated, masks no longer mandatory but still encouraged, schools back in session – in person, travel traffic-light system phased out… yet new variants continually cropping up, and winter on its way, might there be another shut in period where this project does tick the box of being essential to artists mental health again??
For now, trying to remain on some sort of positive track, the energy and focus is going on selection of a diverse array of artists whose ideas and output thrill, inspire, stimulate or provoke us in some way, and on helping them develop a fantastic micro show in one (or all) of our humble little South London/online gallery spaces. Sales is still up to them because curating and all the creative and practical admin is already a 3 person job being done by one person currently (for free, even with the token fees which some pay and some don’t – can/can’t or will/won’t makes no difference)
The point of all this? (The clue is in the page title and tip jar image)
A repeat of the small call to action:
Again: If you like what we do here at Small House Gallery, and you’re in the position to, and feel inclined to, please consider visiting our >>>>>> paypal.me link <<<<<< and contributing to our upkeep, weekly, monthly, yearly, or just a one off, and help us keep keep ticking along.
THANK YOU FOR READING TO THE BOTTOM OF THAT LONG-ASS SPIEL!!
And thank you for your time, and your generosity – whatever amount you can give. If you can’t help financially, please do continue to support the project by spreading the word about it. Visit the virtual shows, share them on your social media accounts. Support the artists we work with. Follow them online. If you can and are so inclined, buy their work. Be lovely. Spread the love.
With thanks and kind regard,
Small House Gallery