‘We don’t want to lose our converted toilet art gallery!’


[from Islington Tribune]

Islington Tribune – by PETER GRUNER
Published: 16 May 2008

Supporters and organisers at the Finsbury Park art exhibition opening night

‘We don’t want to lose our converted toilet art gallery!’

Fears that exhibition space will be replaced by information centre

ART lovers turned out in large numbers to support a popular gallery in a converted public toilet which is being threatened with closure.
The exhibition, featuring work by six young artists from Islington, Haringey and Hackney, is expected to be the last at the gallery in the centre of Finsbury Park because there are controversial plans to turn it into an information centre.
The row over the proposal has also sparked a debate over who should be running the park, which extends into the three boroughs.
Haringey currently manages Finsbury Park but there are calls for Islington – which provided the gallery with a £3,000 grant – and Hackney councils to also be given a say.
Gallery organiser Shiri Shalmy said that unless there is a change of heaart by Haringey she would be shutting down after the current exhibition finishes on June 9.
She added: “I poured so much sweat and tears into this exhibition. I wanted to prove to Haringey that this is a worthwhile venue for art and should be supported.
“I invited all the councillors and all the parks and culture officers to the opening night of the exhibition and not a single one of them turned up. Nor did any of them bother to let me know they wouldn’t be coming. I think that says it all.”
Supporters of Shiri include peace campaigner and local resident Bruce Kent.
“I thought Shiri’s exhibition was very impressive and she’s doing a very good job,” he said. “I hope that between Haringey and the Friends of Finsbury Park they can offer her some art space.
“I’ve always believed the park should be a trust supported by all three boroughs and not just Haringey.”
Another supporter, US-born installation artist Natasha Rivett-Carnac who lives at the Angel, said that apart from Shiri’s exhibitions, few events at the park bring so many visitors.
She added: “In just one year Shiri held 10 exhibitions which brought in up to 8,000 visitors. That’s pretty good for someone who does it all volun­tarily and even spends her own money on it.
“She enjoys a huge following and the closure of this art venue would be a serious loss to the community.”
Historian Hugh Hayes, who has written a book on the park, said it was too important to be left to one borough.
“My impression is that few Haringey councillors take any interest in the park,” he added.
“Residents in Islington and Hackney feel they want a say on how it’s being run.
“But I’m not sure if it can double as an arts and community resource.”
But Ann Barwick, chairwoman of the Friends of Finsbury Park, said the building was always intended to be used an information ­centre.“Any use of space should involve the community, although there is potential for a small gallery,” she said.
“The point at issue here is that it can’t be exclusively used just as an art centre.”

* The exhibition includes up to 40 new works all for sale. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 12pm to 6pm. Admission free.

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