Kate Howe is an American artist and writer who moved to the UK a year and a half ago after being accepted to the prestigious MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art.
In these uncertain times, when artists struggled to find a venue to showcase their work, to get feedback or simply socialise with an audience, Kate Howe managed to create a place of exchange in her own studio, and to develop and activate an actual community thanks to her simplicity and openness.
Kate Howe Studios and ARTSVP started their activity almost at the same time, and witnessing her development and growth by looking at her use of ARTSVP has been a unique way to get to know her.
How Kate Howe Studios came to be
When Kate realised that the pandemic would have kept us home for a while and that the Royal College of Art could not have opened its doors any time soon, she decided to move out from central London and find a cheaper and bigger studio that could better meet her practice needs.
Luckily, she stumbled a space in Hampton Wick, Kingston, which was far bigger than required but much better value. While working on her practice, a series of zoom tutoring sessions with John Slyce (Senior Tutor, Research, Painting MA) and and Jonathan Miles (Tutor, Arts & Humanities MPhil/PhD) made her think on the necessity of sharing and taking a risk. 'We spent a lot of time thinking about how the art world MUST change, about how this is a moment in time when everything is being squeezed and changing so fast, and there is a huge rupture for action. So I just decided to believe in that, and to focus on sharing my practice, curate shows with my colleagues of the RCA - even if nobody came - to develop a practice of coming together however we could, and doing whatever was possible with what we had.'
Kate never aimed to open a gallery, 'what I wanted to do was to give artists the opportunity to take risks with low consequences. Artists pushing theirselves to get off their stretchers as a painter, for instance, or to use new material. If you hire a space or get into a group show somewhere, you want to make sure that you don't loose this opportunity, and tend to create what you know is going to be received well, you are not going to take risk, because opportunities are fewer and far between. Instead, this space is a place to show and experiment without having the fear of doing it wrong.'
It is about making people feel comfortable and building confidence
The way this project took shape and the way Kate was modelling the space is closely linked to her background and childhood. She grew up in an artistic environment, between theatres and artists' studios, her mum was a painter and her dad an opera singer. But what mostly influenced her idea of a creative environment was her aunts' cocktail events, salons, in the early 70s in her house in Laguna Beach. 'I remember being every Sunday at my aunt's house with actors, artists, philosophers, writers. Each time the whole house was rearranged, hanging new stuff, tapestry and sculptures in the middle of the room. People playing the piano and eventually just drinking and have fun. That place felt welcoming to me even though I was 6, the grown-ups would talk to me and listen to my opinion. It was a very democratic group of people and the thing that brought them together was this thing of really enjoying to talk about art, or be near it, or just thinking about it, while drinking of course!'
As she explains, there were two aspects that made her studio turn to what it is and they were both community-driven. On the one hand, there was the concern for her fellow painters at the RCA, and the people she was in the program with. She decided to open the studio to anyone who needed to show. A very key aspect of the studio, that turned into a crucial quality of the space, was a window facing the street that allowed to showcase work during lockdowns.
People in the neighbourhood were walking by the studio, seeing the work, thinking of looking to the vetrine of a gallery and started getting curious about the space, asking when it would have opened. This 'lockdown' effect was completely unexpected. After a first moment of confusion, and almost discomfort for seeing the loss of idea of her private studio, Kate actually realised that she liked the buzz created in the local community, and the energy that brought some great new fresh air in the neighbourhood.
In response to that interest, not necessarily related to buying art but instead to connect with each other in an artistic environment, just as it happened at her aunt's house, Kate started to organise events. The significant footfall since the very first events was a surprise, and this is the moment when Kate realised she needed to set up her ARTSVP account.
How has ARTSVP helped
Kate and her studio manager Veronika have put ARTSVP through its paces has been great to hear their feedback. Here is what Kate had to say.
What was the reason for using ARTSVP?
As soon as I started using ARTSVP, I was able to check how the event rhythm would have changed throughout the night and to know my audience. How many people were coming from my local community and who was coming from outside. ARTSVP has helped me interweave these different needs
Is there anything unexpected you found since using the booking system?
Knowing your audience, being prepared, checking them in, following up, in a more professional manner, slightly more systematised, puts a bit of order in an otherwise much more chaotic world.
How did you use ARTSVP between events?
In between shows, with the space is my studio, ARTSVP gave me the possibility to let my audience know when I am not open. I also helped me to create time, and not do everything manually. You saved me from not making things done, that huge range of things that normally would take forever, using a google calendar, the emails back and fourth, creating spreadsheets.
How has using ARTSVP impacted you and the studio?
ARTSVP has been a great solution to manage my time, to lead an event space while being able to focus on my artistic practice. Having a flexible booking tool in place was huge, it helped me so much, and actually our use of your system not only changed the way that we were 'seeing' the space, but even the way it has been evolving! With you guys I could see my business growing. ARTSVP is much more than a booking service, for me it actually was a personal relationship building tool, and it gradually showed me how my personal connection to the community is really vital to my business.
We look forward to seeing how Kate Howe Studio's continues to develop and we will be sure to check in again for an update. For the latest updates on the studio/gallery I suggest following her on instagram.