Launched in 1999 by graduates from Nottingham Trent University under the former name, Turtle Arts; Surface Gallery, in the heart of Nottingham, have raised their profile over the years to become synonymous with emerging artists.
As an independent, volunteer-run contemporary art gallery, Surface supports local artists by providing affordable studio space, hosting exhibitions for them to showcase their work.
In addition, the gallery also functions as a training ground giving their volunteers’ the opportunity to work in areas such as marketing, design, community engagement and finance; developing transferable skills that help advance them in the workplace.
After re-branding in 2002, Surface Gallery secured grant funding with a number of providers and, as described on their website, had:
“Developed a four-storey building, which consists of a bustling office space in the basement; a bespoke gallery space on the ground floor; eight studios spaces on the first floor and a unique project space on the second floor, previously used for exhibitions, residencies and photo-shoots.”
Run by a voluntary committee, Surface has between 30 and 40 additional volunteers working at any one time.
Recognising the dedication of the team, at the end of 2013 the committee agreed that they needed to further their own business know-how in order to provide the gallery volunteers’ with better facilities and development opportunities.
They approached NBV Enterprise Solutions to help them explore new avenues of income with hopes that it “would give Surface Gallery the stability to focus on developing and improving what we do over the long-term, having a positive knock-on effect on the standard of our exhibition programme and the opportunities we are able to offer artists and people in the local community.”
Working with NBV business adviser, Seema Edwards, a volunteer attended a Management Master Class and she worked with them to help focus on their future aims.
Seema said: “I helped them establish more specific goals for the year, and to think more about their marketing plan. I then helped them think how they could strategically achieve those targets. They have now forged links with other partner organisations and funding holders.”
As for the future, the team at Surface will continue their journey to increase income and build their confidence as an organisation.
Using established business models and strategies, Surface endeavour to continue to work with artists and continue to contribute to the rich and diverse art scene in Nottingham.
A Surface Gallery spokesperson said: “The mentoring support has been invaluable in helping us work on our organisational focus and aims.
“While we do not follow a more ‘traditional’ business model, we have soon realised that traditional tools can still be really useful to us.”