Practice in Place - Ashanti Hare
Ashanti Hare shares their experience of what it’s like to live and work as an artist in Plymouth.
Tell us about you & your practice:
I am an autistic, non-binary artist, writer, researcher and infinite soul. I’m also an intuitive channeler, tarot reader and newly re-awakened healer. I grew up making mud spells and magical artefacts while my mother tended her garden in South London. I now find myself making larger, more intricate spells and artefacts in Plymouth, Devon where I currently live. I originally came to Plymouth to study Fine Art, completely oblivious to the deeply spiritual and rich historical landscape that I’d find myself in. I thought after I graduated that I’d go back to London but the South West has become quite special to me. I still visit London frequently and try to get to as many exhibitions as possible or spend time in my mothers garden. It’s an oasis in the middle of chaos.
Bringing a playfulness and light to the very serious business of healing and honouring my ancestors through the re-telling of histories is important; particularly when the subject matter itself can be heavy and the work emotionally laborious. As an intuitive channeler and using my art practice as the instrument for this means, I flow between many mediums - from craft processes such as garment construction, embroidery and beadwork; to performance and film, sculpture and installation.
Often in my work I use materials and concepts that are the essence of my research. This is especially important in the use of textiles and mark making as a universal communicator of time, movement and culture. I am currently working on a walking apothecary and witch doctor performance.
What are the great art spaces and organisations you love to visit?
Art spaces can be daunting to navigate in general and as a neurodivergent person even more so. I always seem to gravitate towards some of the more community/artist-led spaces such as GROW and the pop up shows at some of the Vacancy Atlas spaces, Leadworks and Minerva Cafe. During my studies at Arts University Plymouth I had wanted to create a pop up venue and studio spaces in Plymouth for recent graduates and early career artists like myself so it’s been great to see these materialise.
As much as I like to watch out for local artists and makers in Devon I do like to venture to larger organisations in Plymouth such as MIRROR, KARST and The Box and also across the South West. I enjoy visiting Tate St. Ives, Arnolfini and Spike Island in Bristol, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange in Penzance and the Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Honiton. There are also so many places I have yet to frequent.
What resources or facilities are there that you (can) access?
CAMP is a brilliant resource for networking, residencies and bursaries. I was part of a project/ working group called DECAMP/RECAMP which had a focus on how to make art organisations in Devon, specifically CAMP, more inclusive of global majority creatives in the city. I met like minded people, built friendships and widened my network. Now that I’ve found my feet a little, I’m excited about the Go And See bursaries and the next round of residencies that CAMP offers. Borrow Don’t Buy is great in terms of borrowing equipment for projects without huge costs. This is also true for Plymouth Scrapstore; I frequent the scrapstore for materials because it’s so cheap and you’re bound to find something you can use.
This also ties into the next question of cheerleading for your peers.
I was fortunate enough to have people who were supportive of me, my work and my creative voice right out of university and because of this I became an associate for Flock South West, a contemporary arts production agency. This allowed me to work on some cool projects such as Frontpage/Backpage/Centrefold, a publication showcasing artists work from Plymouth distributed during British Art Show 9; and PEOPLE by LOW PROFILE. I also assisted MIRROR Gallery as Social Media Lead. Speaking of, MIRROR also provides great resources for artists in the South West. I was happy to be a featured artist on the MIRROR homepage for the Hammer To Shape, Mouth Open brief; one of which is live now!
Cheerlead for your peers! - Who would you like to shout loudly about?
Oh I love this question! I’ve become part of such an interesting and diverse community of artists and makers since moving to Devon so it’ll be hard to keep this list short and sweet. Some of my favourite local creatives at the moment include; Stella Olivier, Georgina Grant, Dan Guthrie, Molly Erin McCarthy, Huhtamaki Wab and Monica Shanta Brown, Tilly Craig and Arielle Etheridge. Ella S. Mills and Lorna Rose of Talking On Corners are also doing some cool and important things!
There are so many emerging artists coming out of Arts University Plymouth so I like to keep an eye out for them too. I’m excited about future work from Dezeta Fantie, Scarlet Winter, Hannah Cade, Nis Murat and Richie Johnson!
Where do you make your work?
My most recent work was made during a graduate residency at KARST where I shared a studio with Bath Spa graduate Mitzi Dabrowski. I enjoyed sharing the space with Mitzi and found it motivating; It was great having a community of artists to talk to and bounce ideas off. However, I’ve always had a solitary creative process and one that requires privacy, sometimes immediate making, especially when working and communicating with spirits or being in meditative states.
This was something I found limiting with a traditional studio. I find transitioning from space to space or with multiple tasks tricky as a neurodivergent person so I’m actually in the process of turning my tiny living room into a studio space at the moment. I live close to the Hoe so I go for walks regularly and I have friends that remind me to leave my bubble from time to time. It can be isolating when you work and create from home.
What opportunities are there for artists in your area?
There are so many opportunities to show work in Devon and Cornwall, specifically with the rise of pop up venues, artist led studios, galleries and test spaces that support research, development, collaborative work and solo shows. You do have to be proactive and really pursue what it is you want to do but I’ve found that there are people who will support you or at least signpost you to the right places.
As I’m fairly new to navigating the Devon art community, I’m definitely saying yes to projects that are outside the realms of what I’d become accustomed to but it’s been a great way to acquire knowledge and skills that I didn’t know I needed. I also think a lot of my time post graduation has been about building confidence as an artist and thankfully there are tons of projects and open calls that facilitate this growth.
I’d recommend that artists based in Devon and Cornwall join CAMP, sign up to local mailing lists and utilise social media.
What or who helps you maintain your practice?
Something I love about the creative community in Devon is that people want you to succeed and will shout about you too!
I’m an Associate with Flock South West, a contemporary art production agency, and also work as a freelance writer and arts administrator. I work from home so I’ve been lucky in that this has really helped support my practice and given me the freedom to focus on developing my other interests. I’m about to start offering my services as a tarot reader and intuitive channeler which I’m excited about!
I’m also fortunate to be the recipient of the Platform Graduate Award 2022 which comes with a year of mentoring and funding that went towards my residency and current projects. I’m also a recipient of the annual artist residency with Southcombe Gallery and am looking forward to that in the summer.
I also walk quite a bit which is normal in Plymouth and not so normal in London. I spend a lot of time meditating on the Hoe or going to the park, which started during Covid for mental health and has continued on. I now have walking buddies and will be venturing even further!
What else would you love VASW's audiences to know about where you live and work as an artist?
There is a really beautiful, lively art scene in Devon that is continuously morphing and challenging narratives. It’s an honour to have landed here and at a time where my work can be held. As an artist who sits within many minority groups and makes work reflecting that, you fear that it won’t be understood or might not find its place; but the creative community here is accepting and good-natured.