Creating space for artists: an interview with the creator of JMArt Space

Joseph Aina began JMArt Space , a platform for aspiring artists, writers and musicians, during his time at the University of Kent, and it’s been growing ever since. In anticipation of his second event, Open Space II – Lucidity: Love and Lust, we spoke to Joseph to find out more about his project. 

How did JMArtspace begin?

I came to university and I was a little bit upset that I wasn’t studying art. When I came to university I had to split myself – even though there was time to get into the creative mindset outside of my course, I found it difficult. I realised that the only way to do what I wanted was to create my current space, JMArt space.

Whilst doing that I realised that as an artist I could branch out my skills. I could learn to make beats, learn to master – then after that I started using photoshop and making my own clothes and stuff. I was doing a lot of creative things. Through that, I wanted to make one space where artists like me could explore their skills.

So it sounds as if you have a lot of different projects.

I just wanted a place to help artists find their maximum creativity levels. By just using as many artists as possible to explore a message and get a new message to an audience.

‘Smile’, Charcoal Drawing by Richard Aina

Do you perform?

I used to have a much worse stammer. So art used to be my voice quite a lot – especially poetry. But once I got to a certain age, and once I could link music and poetry through rapping – I found that I didn’t have a stammer. It’s always been very enjoyable for me to do for that reason. It flows. People always say to me that my rap is very interesting and different and I think that comes from the many years of doing poetry and lining up the different words in my head. A lot of people have different codes for different beats – when they hear a specific beat, like a four by four beat, the way people will hear it, their flow will align in a certain way. Eminem for example, has a very complex rhyming scheme, whereas some are very simple two-line rhyming to the beat.

I think that, because I have done lots of poetry before I got into rapping, I have quite an individual style.

Did it start as reaching out to student contacts, or did it begin online?

It was a mixture of reaching out to student contacts, artists I knew myself – and then obviously once things were getting posted online, people were coming to me for it.

The overall aim was to create a kind of Facebook for artists. While that’s still the aim, I realised that creating that wasn’t really very feasible right now. So my first year was mostly about creating a buzz – going to pitch after pitch hoping that I would get some funding. When I didn’t get the funding, I thought what can I do? How can I still provide that service for artists, but within my means?

Wav.2, Illustration by Zak Ahmed

How do you see it as a business?

Right now, the main focus is events. The artist’s work thing we’re still going to do, but I think that first, we have to create a community.  I was trying to sell artist’s work in the past, but that kind of thing takes too much energy and too much force.

The events we’re doing – the idea of that was very much around the whole idea of ‘space’, which came from me realising that space is really in your head. If you’re an artist with any amount of creativity, then any space is your space. The internet is infinite. There’s space for everyone on the internet. So, with this Open Space event, we want the physical space to be an extension of the website; to use as many tools as we can to create an experience, almost as if we were using the venue as a canvas. Put up pictures on the wall, decorate it within a theme – so that the second you walk in, you’re immersed in an experience.

That’s what the event will be like. It should be interesting – we’re going to try and incorporate music and arts because what I realised was that music does need to be at the forefront – it’s very hard to monetise small art events or small poetry events. Although the market is there, the market isn’t huge.

That’s why what we’re trying to do is somehow use music to help give other arts a platform. I think that a lot of people hold different arts in different regards. I think when people, for example, hear of a poetry event happening, they think ‘oh nah, I don’t want to go to that’. But having the music element ensures that a lot of people are there – and we can then sneak in a bit of poetry.

How would you like to see it progress?

We want to do monthly events, and hopefully, do an event at The Brewery Tavern which is very music focussed – Afrobeats sort of stuff. We would like a different performer each month to come down.

From not doing art, it made me realise that I needed art a lot. I didn’t really want to go down the Law route when I left university and I realised that in order to do that, I have to make progress in the arts during university. The way I see it, if I leave university without anything, I’ll have to start all over again and get a job part-time or full-time and do this on the side.

When I leave this I just want to do this and make my own music and my own art. I don’t really want to do anything else.

An Open Space event will take place at Alberry’s wine bar on 21st February, from 9pm-2am. 


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