We ran in to Reneilwe Mathibe at a recent art exhibition hosted at a private home in Johannesburg. She happens to be Education Manager of Artists Proof Studio (APS) and we were curious to find out what they do.
BD: What are you doing here?
RM: We are here to exhibit and showcase Artist Proof Studio’s artists work. Most of the work we have comes from students and alumni who have gone through the education programme.
BD: Education Manager, what does that entail?
RM: I make sure that the curriculum for Full time and Part time programmes is in place and relevant. I record and compile all lesson plans, timetables and assessments and student reports to ensure they follow the agreed formats and are consistent in terms of the relevant projects. I also mentor new staff and interns so that they understand the ethos and culture of Artist Proof Studio. I offer support to assist the drawing and visual literacy facilitators. I also manage the Patron Programme, liaising with patrons and students.
BD: Where do you find the artists? Do they come to you?
RM: Most of them come to us through word of mouth, from current students and staff. We are active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where we post open days and information about our programme. Some are referred by universities and art centres. 90% of our artists are alumni students who have taken printmaking and art as their career. They are given the opportunity to have the studio space, to print or co publish with our Professional Print Shop.
BD: Your mission is to develop citizens with a common set of values. How do you see yourselves achieving this?
RM: We encourage students to be active citizens during their studies and when they exit the programme. We do this by exposing them to current affairs of the country, inviting other artists to give talks about professional practice and also taking them to exhibitions to see and be involved in the art world. We have outreach programmes in our Special Projects Unit where students go into communities and share their skills and knowledge.
BD: Tell us about Artists In Arks
RM: We have two Arks in Soweto which are facilitated by our alumni students. The Arks focus on continuing creativity in young people. The artists in the Arks are professional printmakers and they teach kids around schools in Soweto. Most schools do not art as a subject, and so the after school programmes bridge that gap.
BD: Do you see a discernible difference in the children after the exposure to art? In what ways?
RM: Yes, I believe that we are all born with a creative sense. We start drawing at an early age and sometimes we lose our creativity when we grow older. When kids are exposed to art at an early age throughout high school, the level of creativity is encouraged and heightened. Not to say that all of them will be artists but they can venture in to other careers where they are able to think critically and creatively about the world and what they do.
BD: What is the mural projects about and what is the aim?
RM: The mural projects focus on taking the arts to the community. The Special Projects and Education work together commissioned murals. Students learn organisational skills, planning conceptualising, implementing and delivering on projects. They learn to be professional while giving back to the community thorough the skills they have learnt. We have painting murals in schools, children’s hospitals, corporate spaces and museums.
BD: What about non-commissioned mural arts? We have seen some beautiful graffiti in Brixton. Where do you stand on graffiti?
RM: Graffiti is a different medium, it is often associated with street art where walls are not approved to be painted on. I think visually interesting graffiti beautify communities where walls are run down and bring life to the area. People are always intrigued at larger scale graffiti/murals and you will find that they spark conversations and inspire.
BD: The artist has a lot to tell us about society and they always seem to be on point. What is the special ability they have in putting a mirror right in front of our faces?
RM: Visual imagery is powerful. Thinking critically and creatively about any issue allows artists to interpret how they see the world.
BD: South Africa is a young post-democracy nation and there is much going on. Understatement! Do artists have a special and specific role to play in the evolutions of South African society?
RM: Art has been around for thousands of years. As artists we able to document the world which we are living in now in, whether it be in music, visual arts, dance or theatre. And with the rapid evolution of technology there will be a rich archive of our history for generations to come.
BD: How did you get involved with the Queen Of Art (QOA) exhibitions?
Hlubi Shezi, the woman behind the QOA exhibits is one of our patrons. She is currently supporting a student through our patron programme. The programme helps to support young artists throughout their studies, to buy art materials and be motivated to create artworks outside the Education Programme. Hlubi is interested in the arts and she had invited us to showcase our artists who have gone through the Patron programme and are entering or making it in the art world.
BD: How many of your artists were represented in this exhibition and what are their names?
RM We had around 120 artists ranging from student work, alumni and professional artists such as: Mongezi Ncaphai, Lebohang Motaung, Themba Khumalo, Precious Mahapa, Bambo Sibiya, Indokuhle Zwane, Kelebogile Masilo and Sizwe Khoza
BD: What role have you played in their personal growth and development?
RM: I have been a teacher and a mentor for some of the artists. Some of them were before my time at APS. The time spent facilitating and giving back and forth feedback on their work and the conceptual development they go through is worthwhile. I have seen how students quickly realise that they are able to change perceptions from struggling to come up with an idea and coming up with the most intriguing imagery. Encouraging students to have a voice through their art and be active citizens.
BD: Were you happy with the exhibition?
RV: The exhibition was exciting for us! It was a lovely set up, less intimidating than a gallery. The people were amazing. We gave printmaking demonstrations and some of them printed their first proofs!
BD: How do artists who are interested in what you do reach you?
RM: We are on Facebook: Artist Proof Studio, Twitter: artistproofjhb Instagram: artistproofjhb Tel:0114921278