Interview: Abi Hampsey (MINUTES Exchange) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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MINUTES Exchange is a collaborative postal art project run by three Newcastle University art graduates (Mark Bletcher, Abi Hampsey and Oliver Hoffmeister) which looks to raise money for worthy causes. With the second auction due to take place between the 18th – 31st of January, we caught up with Abi to find out more…

What is MINUTES Exchange? 
MINUTES Exchange is an informal by-post project that hopes to create dynamic and sustainable conversation between artists and make positive change!

First, we send a box full of paper to an artist and they select a charity to raise money for though MINUTES exchange. After making an artwork to contribute to the project, they will then send the box onto the next artist they nominate to do the same. When the box is full, they send it back to us, and the MINUTES team will host an auction on our Instagram page featuring all of the contributions to raise money for charity and to support the artists!

Tell us more about the project and yourselves?
The project actually started out as a bi-monthly painting magazine, in which we would publish conversations about painting and art, hence the name ‘minutes’. Due to the pandemic we weren’t able to invite artists to physically partake in conversations at the studio and so had to adapt. 

All three of us are graduates of the Newcastle University Fine Art BA and are practicing painters, with studios at the Newbridge Project.  Mark and Ollie live and work in Newcastle while Abi has recently moved to London to pursue a masters degree.  

How did you come up with the concept? What inspired it?
With our original concept coming to a grinding halt and with a small amount of funding left. We had to figure out how to be sustainable and most of all something that if we weren’t behind it would want to be a part of – where when one person wins everybody wins. 

We decided that it was actually now even more important to highlight the artistic communities and families we are all part of even when we cannot be physically together. The box starts with one person and ends with someone who the original artists may have never met, thus facilitating conversations and new relationships despite the restrictions of the pandemic.

We did not want to make a profit or become a business, we started this project because as graduates we missed the conversations you would get on a daily basis in the hallway or eating lunch. We wanted to facilitate that for ourselves and others, no matter what stage of their career someone was at. 

What were some of your favourite pieces in the first art box auctioned off. How much did that raise?
When the first box arrived back after it’s almost four month journey we were so thrilled by the obvious effort and time the artists had put into their submissions that it would be unfair to choose a favourite. Although we owe a lot of thanks to Narbi Prices for being an early supporter and helping hand along the way we were over the moon with the lockdown bench painting he chose to include. 

In the end this box raised a total of £700 for The Trussell Trust with the artists choosing to donate their proportion of the sales back to the charity. 

The second box is set to go on auction between 18-31st January. What can you let us know about this box and the charity it will raise money for?
The second box is a very exciting one for us as its charts artists and territories unknown to the three of us. Although starting in Newcastle it’s made its way to Newcastle alumni Andras who is currently completing a masters at the Slade, introducing us and the box to a whole new community. 

The artworks in this box chart the early career artists working in London right now. This box is raising money for the MS society with 40% of proceeds going to them, 40% to the artists and 20% back to us to help fund more boxes. 

What have you got planned for the future?
We hope we can sustain ourselves and continue sending out boxes, mapping out the interconnected rather than disconnected nature of artistic communities. 

We hope that once the pandemic allows it we can host physical exhibitions including all the artists that have taken part in the minutes exchange and allow them a chance to actually meet and facilitate those so valuable conversations. 

For now we just want to connect as many artists as possible and donate to as many charities as possible.

Painting by Andras

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