Tuesday, October 22

Project Brighton: The Socially Engaged Art Salon (SEAS) has proven to be a highlight of Artist Open Houses – meaning it is time to find out more

- June 12, 2017

SEAS-expo-2017 pb

SEAS – the Socially Engaged Art Salon, is located in the heart of Brighton in an 18th century building that was built for servants of the Royal Pavilion. It is also the home and brainchild of Gil Mualem Doron, a mid-career artist and curator, his partner and their two small dogs. Dr Lucy Finchett-Maddock, of the Art/Law network, interviewed Mualem Doron about the latest sensational exhibition ‘Somewhere, Over the Rainbow’ that took place during Artists Open Houses, and his plans for a SEAS event during Refugee Week in June.

Lucy: SEAS is celebrating a year since it opened in May 2016. How did SEAS came about?
Gil: Generally speaking, Socially Engaged Art, which is carried out in collaboration with local communities, as well as social and political art, don’t have much space, if any, in commercial galleries and often, for various reasons, it is also marginal in public galleries. I wanted to create a space that is dedicated to this kind of art.

Lucy: Considering that social and political art is side-lined by galleries and museums… is there actually need for such space?
Gil: The fact that each of the three exhibitions we have had was visited by more than 500 people, and that the Mayor of Brighton as well as several art and community organisations endorsed SEAS, says it all. We had amazing reactions from visitors. Some never experienced this kind of art; others said they were surprised to find the radical works exhibited here as part of Artists Open Houses in Brighton.

Lucy: You are not charging entrance fees for the gallery so is it economically viable? How do you operate it?
Gil: It isn’t easy. SEAS have been supported by several organisations, among them Sanctuary on Sea, Platforma, Counterpoints Arts, and other organisation that have helped to publicise the events here. Some funds were raised by selling art works and through the Airbnb we started here. However, without the willingness of artists to exhibit, give workshops, and talks for free we couldn’t do it. As an artist I don’t see this as a sustainable option in the long run and we are now seeking funds that will cover five exhibitions per year, where the artists will be paid some fees, at least, for their contributions.

We had amazing reactions from visitors. Some never experienced this kind of art

Lucy: What were the exhibitions that SEAS has had so far?
Gil: We participated in Artists Open Houses in 2016, and 2017, and as part of Brighton Photo Fringe. One of the exhibiting artists, Estabrak Al-Ansari even won one of the Photo fringe awards. But SEAS is not only a place for exhibitions – we also initiate community projects. For example, I carried out three months of workshops with the Migrant English Project where former refugees told their stories by creating a series of collages that were printed on porcelain plates and created a multi-media installation with their work. Similarly, as part of The New Union Flag project that won an Art Council England award, I conducted workshops in several schools in Brighton and the pupils’ work was exhibited here. Each exhibition also included workshops and artists’ talks, which were very popular.

Lucy: Can you mention some highlights from the last exhibition, ‘Somewhere, Over the Rainbow’?
Gil: For the opening we had the outgoing Mayor of Brighton & Hove, Pete West, unveiling the proposal for a Brighton Flag, a performance by Vocal Explosion, works that were formerly exhibited in the Tate Modern (by Laura Sorvala and myself), and two very engaging photography projects by Russell Watkins and Alice Mutasa. One of the most exciting moments was to see the proud faces of the participants in the Migrant English Project workshop when they saw the installation and received copies of their art works.

Lucy: What are the plans for the future?
Gil: On Saturday 17 June we will host a Refugee Week event that will include artists’ talks, poetry reading and short films. Currently we are looking for funding to create an artists’ residency where artists from migrant/refugee backgrounds and artists who practice socially engaged art can stay for a short period, produce work with local communities, and exhibit it here.

More about SEAS and ‘Refugee Week 2017: does art matter?’ can be found on Facebook: Seas Brighton, and on www.seasbrighton.com
The Art/Law Network is a gathering of artists, lawyers, agitators, coming together to work and collaborate for change. More about the network see here: www.artlawnetwork.org




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