‘I wanted to make something of my life in the art world’ says gallery director

Gallery director Kimberley Lewis softens the tone of the art industry, by transforming Blackwater Gallery into a welcoming community space

Kimberley Lewis at the gallery’s coffee shop, which is where New Mums Club gather every wednesday

After working for over a year as the director of Blackwater Gallery in Cardiff, 38-year-old council estate-born mum, Kimberley Lewis, breaks classism within the art world. She invites the local residents in living Cardiff Bay to attend events at the gallery free of charge, eager to ensure that Blackwater is viewed as more than “just a gallery.”

Very few people from a working class background manage to infiltrate the art world, says Kimberley, but she has broken that mould. Originally from Aberystwyth, brought up by a single mum, she went on to study fine art, and knows all too well the inaccessibility which surrounds the art industry.

She has been the director of Cardiff Bay’s Blackwater Gallery for 18 months, and a recognition of her working class roots has enabled her to approach the running of the gallery in a nuanced way. The gallery is situated in the heart of a housing estate, exposing people to art who otherwise may not have had the means to experience it.

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Kimberley has always had a passion for art, and thanks to her supportive mum, she was able to pursue a career she loved. “My mum has always allowed me to make my own decisions in life. I think parents often discourage their children from studying art because they think they won’t get anything out of ​​it. I felt like I had to prove a point.”

Kimberley Lewis admiring the artwork of one of her most recent signings, Makenzy Beard, who is only 15 years old

The events have been well received, although that might have something to do with the free glass of prosecco in the way in

Adding colour to the community 

Kimberley’s management of Blackwater Gallery seeks to make the artistic scene less daunting. From free exhibitions, to live music events, to coffee mornings; there is something for art enthusiasts and novices alike. 

“The events have been well received by the local community, although that might have something to do with the free glass of prosecco on the way in,” she chuckled. It is a gallery which showcases contemporary artwork from both emerging and established artists not confined to Wales.

 “We are the only commercial space on Prospect Place. So I felt it was our responsibility to offer services to the residents,” Kim said. After a serious conversation six months ago with the gallery team about how to encourage more people inside, they sought to create more events and change the atmosphere from cold and stark to warm and welcoming. “Before it was ‘just an art gallery’ but now it is more of a community space,” she said proudly.

The new mums club

Prior to Kimberley’s current role, the mum of four experienced the challenges of balancing motherhood and keeping hold of a job. Through the creation of the new mums club every Wednesday at 10am, Kimberley wants to provide people with the support she failed to receive when she was a new mum.

“When you have a newborn, motherhood is a lonely time,” Kim said. “I wanted to create a place for mums to come and socialise. There are 900 apartments in Prospect Place and there are lots of mums on maternity leave, whose pay has already been cut.”

This gallery offers a free service to the community. “It’s not the time to charge people extortionate amounts of money,” Kim said.

The gallery director has future plans to continue proving that irrespective of your familiarity with the artistic sphere, art is for everyone. She said, “I wanted to make something of my life in the art world.”

Emerging artists on our doorstep
  • Blackwater Gallery’s owner, Jamie Aherne, is always on the search for emerging Welsh artists.
  • Upon attending a graduate show at Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2018, he took one look at Jon Walls collection and bought every single painting. Wall is now signed and regularly commissioned by the gallery to carry on creating artwork.
  • Makenzy Beard, a 15-year-old artist from Swansea, held her first exhibition at Blackwater Gallery earlier this year, and is also now signed to the gallery.