g39 is an artist-run organisation and creative community space in Cardiff and this month it celebrates 21 years since its inception in 1988. For the last 21 years they've organised and presented a wide-ranging public programme of activities, from major exhibitions, talks and formal symposia to experimental projects and social events. To celebrate this milestone, we asked them to answer 21 questions to reflect back on their last 21 years and share their vision for the future. 

  1. What does g39 stand for?
    ​We take our name from our first address - 39 Wyndham Arcade - and the 'G' stands for gallery. When we began in 1998 we didn't expect to have a permanent venue; instead we anticipated using several temporary venues around the city for our exhibitions. Each would follow this numbering system (we also had a g02 and a g-LH). But then our venue at number 39 became permanent - and so did the name!
     
  2. How would you describe g39 in three words?  
    contemporary - creative - community
     
  3. Can you tell us about the g39 team? 
    g39 is able to happen thanks to the efforts of a wide network of people. At the core we have a team of six part-time staff (all of whom have trained as artists and/or have their own art practice outside of g39). And we couldn't do what we do without our extended network of freelancer professionals (technicians, designers, curators etc), and a team of committed volunteers too.
     
  4. Why did you choose to establish g39 in Cardiff?
    Co-founder Anthony Shapland is from South Wales - after graduating in 1996 he'd experienced London's artist-run scene and saw the potential to bring this idea back home where there were no regular showing opportunities or spaces for early career artists.
     
  5. What inspires you about being here?
    Working in the arts here you experience a strong cross-sector collective will and mutual support that you don't always see in city artscenes (just think of the Cardiff Without Culture campaign, and more recently Sound Diplomacy's Music City report). It's a characteristic that we shouldn't take for granted.
     
  6. What was the arts scene in Cardiff like in 1998?
    There was a good artistic presence in the city. Lots had happened to create a good working environment for artists, but in the years leading up to 1998 there were successive losses of artist studio provision across the city. We wanted to ensure that contemporary artistic practice became very visible again and that artists were able to connect with one another and with their audiences.
     
  7. How many people have enjoyed art in g39 in the last 21 years? 
    We've welcomed about 160,000 people through our doors - so that's equivalent to roughly half the population of Cardiff. 
     
  8. How much has g39 changed since its launch in 1998?
    In size and our scale of operation, it's changed substantially (we now have 6,700 sq ft compared to 350 sq ft when we began). And of course we didn't have things like Instagram feeds back then. But we're still working to exactly the same priorities as when we first opened the doors in 1998 - to support early career artists, and create opportunities for the public to experience contemporary art of Wales. 
     
  9. What has been your favourite moment to date?
    Too numerous to mention! It's always rewarding to see the artists we support go on to achieve great things. And those moments when you can see an audience member has just had a profound experience in the gallery - that's really special.
     
  10. Can you pick one artist or creative in Cardiff who we should go and find out more about?
    It's virtually impossible to single out one artist above all others, but I would always take the opportunity to remind people of Tamara Krikorian's outstanding contribution to the artscene in Wales. She was a renowned pioneering video artist and shaped public art commissioning in Wales - she's ultimately responsible for many brilliant elements of our built landscape today. She was an inspirational person and a great friend of g39.
     
  11. What stand-out exhibition will you always remember? 
    In 2005 we presented the 'On Leaving and Arriving' exhibition to celebrate Cardiff's centenary. We used shipping containers placed in key retail and civic locations around the city centre to exhibit the works of international artists and Wales-based artists. It was the one of the first times we were able to attract high profile artists from abroad to work with us, and we also had fantastic support and commitment from Cardiff Council to help us realise one of our most ambitious projects to date.
     
  12. What are your plans for your 21st year? 
    We have some great exhibition seasons in the pipeline - coming up is 'Sprung Spring' which will explore comedy and pathos in art; after that our autumn season will be the annual UNITe independent art school, kicking off with the Made in Roath Open in mid-October. In the new year we'll be handing over the reins to art-music collective Rat Trap who will be devising, curating and presenting an entire season with our support; and alongside this we'll be recruiting the second cohort for the g39 Fellowship. Exciting times!
     
  13. What’s on the horizon for g39?
    We became a charity in January this year (whoop whoop!) so we're currently looking at what that means for us long term. We're also doing some really exciting site visits to plan for our forthcoming relocation in a few years' time - watch this space...
     
  14. What impact do you think g39 has had on the creative community?
    We've supported so many people in the early stages of their artistic careers, either as artists or employees - if you look at the ecology of an artscene we fulfill a crucial role in providing a constant flow into the next generation of creatives. Part of this is simply being there as a dependable supportive locus for people - whether that's structured support, or simply bringing together artists and audiences in an unstructured environment like Breakfast Club.
     
  15. How many artists have you collaborated with?
    It's getting close to around 800 artists at the last count...
     
  16. Can you show us a photo of g39 in action? 

  17. Where would you like to be in another 21 years? 
    'Small' and 'independent' are our business planning watchwords at the moment...I think we'll be more tapped in to community initiatives of the future, and I'd like to see culture consumption and engagement promoted in similar ways to how we think of health and fitness now.
     
  18. Who would you love to work with that you haven’t yet?
    We've always had good conversations with the School of Architecture, and I think there's a lot of potential for really interesting and exciting collaborative work where the practices of art and architecture intersect. And we'd love to bring Manifesta to South Wales!
     
  19. How far does g39 reach, outside Cardiff and Wales?
    When we speak to artists and curators from across the world at international events like the Venice Biennale it's encouraging to learn that they often know of g39. We don't often get the chance to export, but when we do we build strong enduring relationships - the international artist residency at URRA in Buenos Aires is a good example of this. 
     
  20. What projects are you working on now?
    We're about to launch the 'Sprung Spring' season on 9 August with Tim Bromage, Philippa Brown, Rebecca Gould, George Manson, Nightshift International and Marcos Chaves - so keep an eye out for that. And we're looking at improving our professional development offer to artists by introducing a Warp membership with lots of member benefits.
     
  21. How can people get involved?
    In lots of ways! When there's an exhibition on people can come along to our regular Breakfast Clubs on Saturday mornings for tea, coffee and chat; we periodically offer professional development opportunities for artists like the UNITe season and the g39 Fellowship; we also have a great volunteer programme (volunteering is a really effective entry point into any artscene - I can personally vouch for that); and we have a rolling Internship and occasionally other employment opportunities - keep an eye out for these on Creative Cardiff!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY G39!

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