About the Free State Art Collective

After moving to Bloemfontein in January of 2017 and researching the arts scene locally, Karen Brusch saw a gap for the creation of an innovative support-base for local artists. Few possibilities exist in the visual arts in the Free State, and in Bloemfontein in particular. There is only one commercial contemporary gallery space and the national Oliewenhuis Art Museum. Consequently, there are few exhibition opportunities for local artists. Recently the Phatshoane Henney New Breed Art Competition (only three renditions) and the launch of the National Art Bank in Bloemfontein have opened further opportunities. However, the prospects remain numbered, and artists with enormous potential leave Bloemfontein for larger cities providing better support structures. Those that remain, scramble for ways to survive and often abandon their dreams of becoming full-time and established artists.

A further inhibiting sense that many artists in central South Africa experience, is that they are isolated geographically from the rest of the country; with Cape Town and Johannesburg dominating the visual arts spaces and culture. Additionally, Free State artists are stereotyped for focusing on preconceived subject themes. After much research, it became clear that the local scene is just as complex, innovative, exploratory and engaging as anywhere else in the country; and that perceptions need to be shifted. These observations lead to the realisation that there is a need for a new institution – a moving collective, unlike a gallery.

Art collectives have become popular both nationally and abroad, as an inventive response to particular socio-economic circumstances. One can see the obvious advantage for groups of creatives to collaborate and work on large-scale projects together. Collectives provide a platform for artists to brainstorm projects en masse, raise the funds as a group and oversee the fruition of their creative labour, collectively. What if collectives were created in each region of South Africa, opening a more vibrant and democratic artworld, no longer dominated by our economic powerhouse cities?

Like a gallery, the Free State Art Collective has a growing stable of artists whose work will be promoted and sold via the brand. But unlike a gallery, there is no tie to a specific exhibition space. Instead, the collective is mobile, working through the unique curation of events and via exposure nationally at established art shows and events.

The Free State Art Collective’s main purpose is to develop and sustain the careers of all the artists who belong as members and to raise awareness of talent in the Free State, thereby developing a more visible national presence. The Collective also aims to mentor emerging artists and to provide a network of information and opportunity. Workshops will be offered by professionals, providing further skills and conceptual development training; with the intention of keeping Free Sate artists connected to national trends and new innovations in art production and practice.

Over the coming 5 years, the Free State Art Collective will grow exponentially as it includes visual artists from all over central South Africa; have a substantial voice; and benefit from opportunities for dialogue with the rest of the country.

If you would like to purchase artworks, work or exhibit with any of the Free State Art Collective artists, please contact us.