Save art: Two artists rescue gallery and support emerging talents

Liam O’Connor and David Brook have saved the Bay Art gallery, a hub for artists in Wales and abroad, trying to reestablish it as one of Cardiff’s most important art spaces.

Liam O’Connor and David Brook took over the Bay Art gallery amid challenging circumstances last March.

Two artists have saved a Cardiff gallery that was threatened with closure after the pandemic.

Liam O’Connor and David Brook took over the Bay Art gallery that support emerging creatives, and hope to reestablish it as one of Cardiff’s most important art spaces.

“There was a danger this could be lost. We just didn’t want to see it destroyed,” said Liam, one of the joint managers. “The main focus of our program is to be artist-led. We want to support artists, not just sell paintings. We want to promote artists for their work.”

The gallery building provides young aritists with shared studios to kickstart their profession.

Driven by their passion for art, the two artists support not only gallery operations but also the broader artist community. “Offering a platform for exhibitions and studios upstairs, the whole building is to support artists from Wales and abroad,” said Liam.

Especially, the gallery tries to support emerging creatives who have just graduated. “It’s very hard to start after university. A lot of artists give up because they can’t do it on the kitchen table at home, especially larger paintings,” said David. “What we’re hoping is we can give them short leases of six months or a year to have a studio to start, so they can get a feel of what it’s like to have a working space of their own.”

There will be also communication activities held to assist artists in their painting work. “For example, on the 20th of this month, we’re going to have a crit, which means a critique. Young artists can put their work on the wall, and we talk about it,” said Liam.

The managers did fixing work themselves to save on costs.

Liam and David took over the gallery under challenging circumstances. “The building had become rundown during the pandemic. We also stopped being supported by the Arts Council directly,” said Liam.

In particular, they spent much time restoring the gallery. “People neglected buildings during the Covid. All sort of things happened, like floods. It started leaking, with water coming in, mold on the walls, and the floors being damaged,” said David. “So, we’ve had a very hard year, bringing this place back to life.”

The managers use their own savings to run the gallery and are looking different options for the future. “We are not for profit. We have very little money,” said David. “At the moment, we try to get some funding from various people.”

They also did repair work themselves to save on costs. Liam, dressed in blue workwear stained with white paint, was installing lights himself. “I’m the director. I’m also doing the lights, and David fixing the audio. You could hire somebody to do your lights, but they would charge you 1,000 pounds. So, we’ve also got lots of skills,” said Liam. They enjoyed the process.

After the new management team took over, test exhibitions were held and warmly welcomed by visitors. Photo by Bay Art

The upcoming exhibition on Friday marks the relaunch of the Bay Art gallery. “We have done one-day or two-day shows to test in the past year. This will be our first time we’re open fully for the whole month,” said David. “And from now on, we’re going to do shows regularly.”

The exhibition features the work of two Welsh artists, Sue Williams and Geraint Ross Evans. Sue has had a studio in the gallery building for 30 years. Geraint is an artist who works in Cardiff and teaches at the Royal Drawing School in London.

“There’ll be a big opening on Friday. People from different cities will come. We have lots of people who like our gallery. And usually on weekends, we get the most visitors when people come to Cardiff Bay for walks. We are looking forward to it,” said Liam.