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Translated by Anna Knight

Visual Arts in Clermont-Ferrand: Coming Together and Cooperating

by Émilie d’Ornano

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On the national scale, many artists’ workshops and entities dedicated to the visual arts have a fragile economy. It has become essential to imagine new schemas of cooperation and mutualisation, in order to engage in an examination of new resources, to attempt to take the precarity out of the sector. The pooling of premises and equipment is nothing new, but these days it seems more visible.   So it has now become a major issue to respond to a material necessity, given the precarious status of artists or in the face of a rise in real estate prices. Various initiatives have thus emerged, such as Wonder1 or Doc!2 in Paris, Bermuda in Sergy or, more recently, the Espace Montebello3 in Lyon. 

Resource-pooling practices are increasingly highlighted by the powers that be. In Clermont-Ferrand, the city and regional councils are engaged in a proactive policy in favour of the visual arts. In 2017, the collective Les Ateliers,4 Artistes en résidence,5 and the exhibition space In extenso6 have, for instance, been asked to devise a shared project and invest the municipal space La Tôlerie.7 This reciprocal trust with the local authorities has allowed the collective Les Ateliers and Artistes en résidence to come under La Diode’s project. Several cultural associations have already been installed for several years within this artistic and cultural wasteland: VIDEOFORMES (digital art), La Maison des Jeux, the Chœur Régional d’Auvergne, and Boom’Structur (choreography hub).

Artistes en résidence (a residency platform created in 2011) and Les Ateliers (a collective of artists’ workshops created in 2013) are already very interconnected. The two associations very quickly pooled their tools, means, and skills, since they are both found in the Brézet neighbourhood, just fifteen minutes from one another. Their installation on the site of La Diode is, all in all, the logical materialisation of a physical convergence within the same site, of two associations with different but complementary missions. Artistes en résidence grants artists a workspace, accommodation, and financial support so that they can develop research and creative work. The association also holds combined residencies with partners internationally. As for Les Ateliers, they offer individual spaces for artists for a six-month period, renewable once. Responding to a clear economic concern, the monthly contribution remains deliberately affordable (50 euros per month and per space).

Many associations choose a horizontal, collective, and cross-sectorial organisational model. Artistes en résidence and the collective Les Ateliers have also opted for this way of operating. After decades of pyramidal structuring in the art world, we observe that new generations of artists and authors within the field are trying to extract themselves from it.

Since August 2021, the two associations have occupied three hangars, spanning a total surface area of approximately 2 000 m2, made available by Clermont Auvergne Métropole. Artistes en résidence and Les Ateliers have had the opportunity to provide specifications, enabling them to obtain spaces suited to their activities. The association Les Ateliers therefore has seventeen individual workshops and three are dedicated to Artistes en Résidence. The two entities have also designed common areas: workshops reserved for ceramics, wood, or metal, and even an exhibition space. The premises remains open to non-residents, offering the possibility for artists to occupy “the project space”.

The associations are devising this new space of production as a locus of emulation favourable to encounters, in which formal and informal connections between artists and other cultural stakeholders can be established and developed. Without a doubt, this new installation on the site of La Diode will allow the activities deployed and launched so far to be multiplied, strengthened, and rendered viable over the long term.  

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