Outside of the Cultural Comfort Zone and into: The Thought Foundation

What is your New Year’s Resolution? I used to be all about less eating, more exercise, more this and less that – however, I gave up many moons ago as I just never kept them. I’m more about lifestyle changes ongoing than setting impossible unrealistic challenges – plus it’s highly unlikely, I’m ever going to be super model thin or run a marathon so pretending that “could” happen, is both hilarious and pointless.

Right, so my New Year’s Resolution is: “to go outside my comfort zone as much as possible”. I’m all for trying new things, doing things that terrify me, living by my gut instinct and striving for personal development and growth; I intend to do more of that this year but like most, I fall into routines! I go to the same restaurants, same galleries, check out the same cultural programmes, same same same! Now that’s wonderful in a way – I love those places, I’m fiercely loyal and they keep providing me with reasons to come back. But it also means, I’m in a cultural bubble of comfort……there is a whole world outside of that, venues, creative spaces, performances, pop up stuff, events etc, that I’m just missing out on.

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Leanne Pearce – Breastfeed

I’m also aware that so many culture vultures (including me!), focus too much on Central NewcastleGateshead……. In short, my cultural sphere is too small, I need to break out, adventure, seek pastures new, visit new venues, see new exhibitions and performances by companies I haven’t engaged with….. I’m excited to do so!

The first place on my *must* visit list is the new Thought Foundation!  It’s a new Community Interest Company (a CIC) in development in Birtley, Gateshead.

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It is the brainchild of three very proactive and entrepreneurial creatives Leanne Billinghurst, Gareth Billinghurst and Hayley Rodgets (and Leanne and Gareth’s two little girls Josephine and Boadicea). As a collective they are on a mission, a mission the Culture Vulture can really get on board with!

  • Firstly, to keep creative talent up in the North East – yes yes yessss! You don’t need to run off anywhere else, there are oodles of creative opportunities bubbling here!
  • Secondly, to make art accessible and to evidence that Arts and Culture really is for all! Anyone and everyone has it within them to be creative and to enjoy creative engagement.
  • Thirdly, creativity, innovation, business, arts, making, doing etc – they all have things in common and can be used to overcome today and tomorrow’s problems.

We love this agenda and we think we will love Thought Foundation – so what is it? Basically it’s is a new thoughtful arts space and cultural organisation with big creative ambitions; to inspire, promote and support creatives and the local community. They have self-funded and crowd funded the major renovation project, as previously the building was used to house a vehicle repair shop. Visually imagine a transformation from a vehicle inspection pit and petrol pumps into a big white space for creative possibilities.

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Thought Foundation will house MINDFIELD- a transformative gallery, THINK- thoughtful eclectic shop, BRAIN FOOD cafe and kitchen, IMAGINATION STATION – alternative kids play zone and BRAIN SPACE – a workshop room. The space aims to be open, dynamic and thought provoking. Clearly a space for culture vultures, little culture vultures in the making and artists……..I’m interested to see exactly what activity and creatives get involved in the space!

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I first heard about Thought Foundation through social media and finding Leanne Pearce’s (married name Billinghurst) art work. At the time alongside, first testing out the idea for The Thought Foundation she was also working on her current exhibition “Breastfeed” with large scale portraits depicting mothers feeding their offspring. This type of work not only visually interested me, as it is beautiful and evidences great talent in portraiture and painting, but thematically as I’m going through that stage where lots of my friends are having children and each having very individualistic experiences breastfeeding. Leanne’s work celebrates and displays focused and intimate moments as a breastfeeding mother – the bond, the natural beauty, the functionality of the process and showcases different versions of the maternal and female experience.

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An artist pushing forward this positive agenda should almost certainly be on your radar. Within Thought Foundation in 2017, a project called “New Born” will be on going. Leanne has defined this as “a creative response to parenting” and I’m excited to see elements of how “Breastfeed” intertwines into that, alongside new creative additions from other artists, Mums, Dads and carers and potentially her own personal evolving experience as a Mum. Oh gosh – I’m getting excited just typing about it – I love the beginning of project development when anything and everything could be possible!

So Culture Vultures, onto the most important question, how can WE get involved!? Well, they are aiming to open Feb/March of this year with a soft launch – keep an eye on their Facebook page for that and make sure you attend; I love being the first to check out a new cultural gem so I will certainly be there. From then on, people will be able to visit and they are planning on developing a cultural programme housed within – so expect events, projects, exhibitions, workshops etc.

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If you’re a creative and artist and want to get involved, well this is the best time to reach out to Thought Foundation and have your input from the beginning. If you have a particular project or their mission sparks an interest in you, drop them a line/pop in and visit and make it happen!

Their first exhibition is titled “Thoughtful Planet” and is a creative response to environmental issue we currently face. They are currently seeking artist submissions for this immersive, multi-disciplinary exhibition. So if you are an artist/creative that works with Film, Photography, Painting, Sculpture, Installation, Light/sound, Poetry/written word, Spoken word art or Performance then they want to hear from you.

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Submission process is open until 30th January 2017 – so you’ve still get plenty of time to pull together a brilliant brief!

If you’re a maker, artist or creative business, well then there could be a collaborative opportunity here! They are looking to develop a great range of stock in their shop THINK. Supplying to a creative stockist is a great way to get your products out there, a different means of selling and they are passionate about supporting local creatives, so if you have lush creative products, why not send them a message with some examples!

And if you’re like me, always looking for a new venue for an event, conference, to run workshops etc, well as I said before, there is a whole world outside of the NewcastleGateshead central zone of culture so why not, discover it alongside being a part of creating your little piece of it in partnership with Thought Foundation! As Leanne herself told me “the opportunities are endless!”.

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Keen an eye out for their launch Culture Vultures; I’m expecting great things and in Summer 2017, I hope to bring something Culture Vulturish to The Thought Foundation! Keep your eyes peeled!

If you’d like to find out more about The Thought Foundation drop Leanne an email: Leanne@thoughtfoundation.co.uk

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