Thrift Radiates Happiness is an exhibition that sits either side of a full stop.  It arrives at the end of the Arts Council Funding Aedas Presents was granted in 2010 and the end of the use Aedas’ Birmingham office space in 2012.  

It is, however, also the beginning of something new.  Thrift Radiates Happiness builds on the arts and architecture relationship bridged by Aedas Presents. 

Aedas Presents was founded by Kate Eagle, marketing manager for Aedas West Midlands, and Director of TROVE, curator Charlie Levine in 2010.  Its original aim was to bring exciting emerging artists into a corporate space, offer first solo show opportunities and challenge Aedas’ audience, visitors and employees with something new.  Aedas Presents combined both business and art world, with audiences growing for each exhibition.

With their last show in the Birmingham Aedas office in May 2012, Kate and Charlie began to consider other options for their partnership, and wondered how they could build on the success of the Aedas Presents original 18-month programme.   It was over a glass of wine one lunchtime that Charlie spoke to Kate about the possibilities of using the Municipal Bank in 2013 for an exhibition.  Knowing, though, that without proper funding and partnerships, the building could never be opened up and programmed to its full potential, Kate instantly suggested that it become a TROVE / Aedas Presents project.

It was through this already established and respected partnership that additional project partners came on board.  It started with Gavin Orton, then the Director of the Birmingham Architects Association, followed by Carina Schenider and Matt Dobson at the RIBA West Midlands, and finally the Library of Birmingham archives. 

It is through these partnerships, conversations and skill sharing that Thrift Radiates Happiness has come about.  Its overall aims are to present high quality, accessible art in an amazing surrounding.  Both the art and architecture will compliment each other, and all partners will be given the opportunity to use the building for their own audiences as well as open the building up to the public, passer by, art and architect enthusiasts as well as local historians and general interested parties.

Thrift Radiates Happiness aims to be a platform for future projects.  Not necessarily in the Municipal Bank, but rather between associates, partners and helpers on the project.  Thrift Radiates Happiness will open up communication and marketing channels, its potential for future collaborations and crossover projects is huge, with new conversations already happening between the partners for future activity in the West Midlands.

This project highlights the need for cross-disciplinary conversation.  Art and architecture meeting in this type of activity is beneficial to all parties.  Business and the creative industries helping each other out is integral to their survival.  It is fitting that this exhibition takes place in a bank.  Cash, funding, the recession and commerce are the themes found within the art exhibition that will take place.  But they are also highlighted in the partnerships, some of which have offered monetary support, others advisory support and all offering enthusiasm for the project.  Just knowing everyone involved is passionate about the building, the exhibition and each other, can only lead to exciting future projects, conversations and alternative models for producing arts and creative industry activity in the region.

Charlie Levine



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