Jeremy Wolf is an artist who currently lives & works in London. In 2020 he started “Art Walks”, a community project that aimed to get people living in the area to exhibit artworks outside their houses, turning the local area into an outdoor exhibition for the day.
@ewwwjerms / http://www.jeremydwolf.com/

I think in a lot of ways my art practice and the creation of the Art Walk are very separate and siloed from one another. As it regards my painting, I’m really animated by  the seismic shifts in politics and society we’ve seen over the past decade or so. I’m sussing out how those occurrences affect relationships and change dynamics across various peoples and groups. I’m pretty cynical about the purported success of Western Society, so accordingly my work often reflects the fear, desperation, exhaustion, and confusion that I believe define our current era.
That all sounds quite negative and I guess my view of society on a grand scale kind of is, but I am still a firm believer in the power of local community to forge real connections between people. I think that’s what the fabric of society is woven from. It’s that idea that led me to put together the Camden Square Art Walk. Or really, it’s that idea in conjunction with the context created by the pandemic. In late May 2020 it was basically the height of that first lockdown and I’d say uncertainty and fear were pretty much at their peak as so little was known at that point about the virus and how the government planned on getting things under control. Beyond that, though, I knew other people must be bored as hell because my wife and I were starting to get a bit stir crazy ourselves and the recourse to alleviate that boredom and build up of energy was very limited. With all that as the background, I started trying to think up ways that we could refresh a bit of that community connection and get people together, but do it in a safe, responsible way so that they would feel comfortable being a part of it all. Being an artist, art was really the only thing I had to offer, so I knew that had to be the jumping off point. But I also knew that it couldn’t just be me showing my own art and for the safety of all involved I certainly couldn’t be having folks into my flat, so once the concept became showing outside and putting out a community call for other artists, the Art Walk really took shape. From there it was actually pretty easy. I put out a call on the Nextdoor app trying to gauge interest and got a great response both from neighbors who wanted to show their own art and others who just wanted to view and take a stroll. There were also a couple of really helpful people who volunteered to help put together facebook pages and event invites and things like that to get the word out to a wider group. I posted up flyers in the area, sent messages to a couple of neighborhood Whatsapp groups, and posted to my Instagram account in the lead-up. But the linchpin for any outdoor event is the weather and we got amazing cooperation on that front – it was sunny and beautiful that day and that really helped to get people out of their homes and walking about trying to take in the day. All in all, we ended up with something like 15 artists showing pieces around the neighborhood from their windows, on their front stoops, and out on their garden walls. The event received such positive feedback from the community that we held a second Art Walk in late autumn as well. 
Unfortunately, I’ve now moved out of the area – I’m living in Leyton – but hope to bring the idea over here to East London this Spring. Since we held the first Art Walk I’ve noticed a few other neighborhoods trying similar ideas. I’m not totally sure if they’re linked in any way, but that’s really what the goal was – I wanted other folks to see this idea and try it out in their own communities because I saw how positive the reaction was in ours. Bringing people together and getting to know one another is the best possible outcome.

So how do you go about organising Art Walk, in regards to live selecting artists and getting people to engage with the project? Is there a specific route you have to follow to see all the weeks, and if so how do you decide on locations & placement? How many Art Walks have you done, and does it get a lot of interest? Do you think this is something you would have done if the pandemic wasn’t a thing, or did this purely evolve out of being in lockdown? 

So in terms of organizing the Art Walks, it’s largely social media based. I mentioned before that my original posting about the idea was on the Nextdoor app – that was because I knew that geographically, this had to be held in a limited area to allow for easy walking to all points in the show. Nextdoor naturally divides the online community according to physical geography, so that was a great place to start. Then, once I saw that we had proof of concept we created an events page on facebook and I started reaching out to the local area on a couple of community Whatsapp conversations that were already in place for folks in the immediate vicinity to share information during COVID times. I also whipped up a quick poster design for the event in photoshop and a neighbor was kind enough to let me print off a number of copies so I could put up information to reach anyone in the neighborhood not involved in any of the social media channels. I’ve attached a copy of the poster to this email so you can see.
When it came to selecting artists, we wanted this to be as open as possible and remove any obstacles to people taking part. As a result, there was no selection process and the invitation was open to anyone to show whatever they had been working on while locked down. I think that low bar to participation helped to drive up engagement and made people comfortable enough to show things that they otherwise never would have. We also found that some neighbors who the message had not reached saw the exhibition going on throughout the day and would then go back home and set up their own works to show. I really enjoyed that fluid aspect of it all.
As you can see on the poster, I also included a QR code. There was no specified route or order to the Art Walk, but I did plot out all the participating households on a google map linked at that QR code and included information on the artists (provided with their consent) and what they would be showing. Most people showed work at their own houses or flats, but we did have a couple of people place work in public areas or outside of pubs that were temporarily closed during that time. 
We’ve now done two Art Walks in Camden Square and both had a very strong response from the community. Now that I’ve moved to East London I’ll definitely be looking to bring this idea with me and hopefully can get something set up in Leyton once the weather turns a bit! To be honest with you, I’d have to say the Art Walk probably wouldn’t have come together without the context of lockdown. It was definitely an idea borne of the circumstances we were (and still are) all facing. It’s possible that eventually I would have done something like this in the future, but it was really that feeling of us all being so cooped up simultaneously kind of together, alone that drove the idea. I definitely don’t mean to say that the pandemic was a positive in any sense, but it’s 100% true that it was the impetus behind this concept coming together in my head was that shared sense of isolation that it led to. This was the best way I could think of to combat that.

Do you think Art Walks has had any affect on your own practise as an artist? Have you managed to maintain your own practise much throughout all these lockdowns, or has it been something you’ve struggled with? Have you ran into any problems or issues when running Art Walks? Do you think the projects benefits anyone? Do you have any future plans for Art Walks? Any ideas of expanding it further? Would you ever turn it into a nationwide event, or do you prefer it being small and local? 

I wouldn’t say that the Art Walks have fed into my practice directly, but they have certainly made me feel more connected to and invested in my new community in London. So by affecting my headspace and emotional state, they’ve definitely had an indirect effect. In terms of keeping my practice going, I’ve been extremely productive during this entire time period. I’ve actually been very productive since we moved to London (almost exactly 1 year prior to the initiation of the first lockdown), and been able to keep up that pace through coronavirus. It’s important for me to keep up the work as it provides me the space to explore my own thoughts and feelings about the world around me.
As far as running the Art Walks is concerned, the only issues I’ve ever run into are people displaying work in places that are hard to see from the street and certain folks who are displaying art not wanting to be listed on the google map associated with the show. But those are really small issues at the end of the day and really don’t have a huge impact on the event in total. Do these projects benefit anyone? Well they certainly benefit me, personally – I’ve learned how to promote and coordinate an event of this scope and gained valuable experience that I can hopefully build on in the future. I also get to feel more deeply ingrained in the community here which is something that I look for wherever I’m living. My hope is that other artists and people who participate also get something similar from doing these, but I can’t speak for them. In the future I’d love to do more Art Walks. Like I said, I’m really hoping the idea will be picked up by other communities around the UK (and further afield!) as it seems to be so welcomed by the community. But I do think it’s important to note that it works well because it is so small and localized. I could imagine the scope growing, but it would have to be something like a network of multiple localized Art Walks coordinating together rather than running as a single entity if that makes sense.

Is there anything you’d do differently with Art Walks, or do you find you’ve got a really solid system for how it all works now? How long does it actually take for the walk, like start to finish, or does it just depend on the route you take? Do you document or archive the walks anywhere, or is it more of a “had to be there” kind of thing? What’s the feedback been like so far? So if it could happen, how would you be involved with multiple little local walks? Or would you just stick with your original one based in London, and get others to coordinate and oversee the ones in other locations? (Or would you actually like to be involved in all the nationwide walks?)

Yeah, if you’re not learning from your experience, then you’re probably not paying enough attention. So yes, there are definitely things I would do differently for the Art Walks. Specifically, I’d probably work harder to try to get some press around the event. I’d also maybe try to tie in local businesses in some way – haven’t worked out how that would be or how to keep it in line with government recommendations on distancing, but it feels like an opportunity. I guess the changes I’d make are more add-ons, but to be honest, I think the mechanics of the actual event are pretty well sorted by now. 
As a viewer, the walk can take as long or as short as you’d like! Definitely the route you take is going to affect the timing, but in general there’s no requirement that you have to see every house showing work or anything like that. Sometimes folks linger, sometimes they take it all in while on the move – it’s really up to the individual.
In terms of documentation, I usually walk the map and take some pictures (some of which I’ve sent you), and we’ve discussed adding some sort of video component. Possibly even adding interviews with artists who are showing work and consent. But a lot of that additional documentation is harder to coordinate during COVID, so maybe once everything is a bit calmer on that front and we run another one of these again we could seriously consider that type of content. I post on my personal instagram account in the lead-up and post-walk times, but I think part of the charm (at least at this stage) is the ephemerality of it all. I like that it’s not intended to be some money-making venture that grows every year until it becomes the next Frieze or anything like that. The focus has really been on getting people out of their houses and out of that general COVID malaise and just reminding everyone that we’re all still here, together. And on that front, feedback was really strong. I think folks appreciated the opportunity to just have a reason to get up and stretch their legs and have something (anything!) to do that they could enjoy but was also within the safety rules and regulations that we’re all subject to at the moment.
If it did catch on and people were interested, I’d be happy to provide the playbook for how to get more Art Walks going in other places. That was kind of the concept early on. I don’t imagine it being a top-down, corporate style thing where I’m telling people what to do and controlling every aspect. It’s more an open-source type of thing, more me saying “here’s what I’ve learned in putting these together – take this and if you learn anything else or anything better, then let me know and we’ll tell the others.”

So like as a whole what’s your favourite thing about running these events? Are you glad you started organising this project? You’ve been answering everything so thoroughly that I’m literally starting to run out of questions haha!

Haha – well that’s good to hear! I wasn’t sure if I was giving you enough to go on! Your questions have been excellent 🙂
I think my favorite part of running the events was seeing the neighborhood reaction to them. Particularly for the Spring edition, it seemed like the stars aligned a bit between the weather cooperating and just the point of lockdown at which we tested the concept. Everyone was just so ready for, well, anything to do, so that hunger for a bit of culture was there and the enthusiasm was great. I also loved meeting new people from our block that I probably never would have met without having put the Art Walk together. My wife and I are transplants from New York, so our network is much smaller here in the UK than what we have in the US, and these events gave us a reason to talk to folks whose houses we were walking past every day but never seeing or having the opportunity to speak to. I don’t think I’d considered that aspect of all this until the day of the first event came and there was so much (socially distanced) conversation happening around the area. I also know being an artist myself how hard it can be to find opportunities to show work, so to give other people in the community that opportunity was something I thought was really cool. So yes, in short, I certainly am glad that we got these events together and I definitely look forward to trying to organize more in the near future. We’ve just moved to East London in Leyton as I think I may have mentioned, and I think it would be a great way to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood and again be able to give people something to do and look forward to.

I think I’ve ran out of questions, unless you’ve got anything else you’d like to add, or anything you’d like to ask me?

I’d definitely like to know a little bit more about your project and how it got started? Are you an artist yourself as well?

Yes I’m an artist too! But I don’t really make much work anymore, I just wasn’t annoying anything I was making and needed to take a bit of a break from it all., and after having to move back home for a while put quite a lot of the restrictions on the kind of work I was making previously. This is mostly why I ended up starting ORBIT, I just wanted something creative to focus on that I was able to do in between working full time/other personal duties, and it just allows me to communicate with a lot of people and really takes the pressure off having to make something all the time. Originally I started it as a curatorial project, just hosting the digital residencies we do on Instagram before I could start curating some tangible projects with it and hosting exhibitions etc, but with the pandemic and everything all the stuff I had in the pipeline really just faded away, which is why I started doing these online interviews, & also occasionally publishing people’s work! 

Really cool that you’ve been able to stay involved even if what that means has changed over time for you. I think it’s an excellent project and you’re touching on a lot of very interesting ideas and work by keeping it up. Do you think you’ll ever try curating a “real life” show or event once everything reopens? What do you feel like are the next steps for you?

I’m glad you enjoy the project! I think soon I do want to start curating physical exhibitions and hosting events once it’s safe to. It’s something I’ve been able to do in the last outside of orbit and I do really enjoy it, so hopefully things will ease up soon and we’ll be able to work in actual spaces again! 
What are your next plans for your work, like outside of Art Walk? 

Can’t wait to see what you come up with in terms of physical shows! I honestly can’t wait to get out into the world again and see some art live and in-person. Keep me posted!!
As for myself, I’ve got a few things coming up that I’m involved in. I know a curator from East London who is putting together an auction of emerging artists’ work partnered up with Artsy. I’ll have 5 or 6 pieces up for sale. Looking for that to happen sometime in April as it stands right now. I’m also in a pretty big group show called Art In The Age of Now at the old Fulham Town Hall opening in May. It’s a really cool space and I think it’s an awesome venue to host a show like this, so I’m really excited for the opportunity to show there. Aside from that, I had been working on a lot of digital paintings after I sliced my hand in the kitchen (had to get stitches and all that), and then this NFT stuff really blew up, so I’ve been doing some reading on that. I haven’t minted any NFTs of my own. I’d say I’m still more in the research phase and have a healthy dose of skepticism about the entire enterprise. But I’ll keep checking it out and see if my opinion changes…
Have you been reading about all this crazy NFT stuff? What are your thoughts?

That sounds so great! Do you exhibit your own work much, or even sell it at all? It’s such a competitive industry, so it’s really interesting to see the differences in artists, and how little or often people are displaying/sharing their working and developing their careers. What’s been your favourite gallery or space to exhibit your own work in, or even visit? 
I really can’t get my head around all the NFT stuff! It’s just a bit like digital copyright isn’t it? I thought it was something to do with that whole Bitcoin kinda world, but the whole thing just sends my head a bit west haha! 

It’s funny, because I’ve only lived in London for 2 years now, but I’ve shown work here many many times more than I ever did back in New York. I’ve found the entire vibe of the scene a bit more collaborative than back home, so I’ve appreciated that aspect of things and getting to meet interesting people. It’s also had the effect of allowing me more opportunities to show, which is really nice. At the end of the day, though, selling is really great and validating and all that, but if you’re only in the game for that you probably won’t last very long. In terms of exhibition spaces I think the one I’m most excited about is the (former) Fulham Town Hall. It really is an insane space and a really cool opportunity to show in. For viewing I’d have to say I really like the Royal Academy and the National Gallery. I love the RA has lots of little nooks and crannies you can find your way into and that they typically have multiple shows going on at once. I also think the Summer Show is an incredible idea. In terms of galleries, it’s a bit harder to say because London is a city where there isn’t really a centralized “gallery district” the way other major art hub cities seem to have. It’s more diffuse and that makes it harder to do the all-day hopping that I usually like to do. I used to spend entire Saturdays in Chelsea in New York browsing through all the work going from space to space and it’s great because they’re all nextdoor to one another. Do you know of any good shows up online at the moment? I’m sick of cruising instagram for inspiration…
As for the NFTs, I agree completely. I think it also tends to put your brain in knots because it really isn’t a great concept even though it’s being sold as a world-changing idea. It’s hard to wrap your head around that type of cognitive dissonance, haha. I’m pretty deep in my research hole on this now, and it really smacks of another scam to financialize “assets” that aren’t even really assets. Pretty crazy to watch the gold rush live and in real time, though, eh?

Have you ever had your work shown outside of London before, or do you prefer to just stay in the one city? What do you think of the Art scene in the rest of the UK, or do you not have much experience of it? 
Also how do you feel about Art (as a whole) in London/the UK compared to in New York? Has the change in location provided any benefits to your work?
Tbf we have a lot of really good online exhibitions coming out of Liverpool at the moment. We have the Liverpool Biennial and the Independents Biennial (which coincidentally I’m involved in) that both have really good online spaces dedicated to all their artists and programmes, I’d definitely recommend checking them out! But otherwise I haven’t seen much online exhibitions, I think I really struggle interacting with them so I haven’t been going out of my way to explore them. 

I haven’t (yet – hopefully?) shown work outside London, but would certainly love to. In general, I do not have much experience in the scene outside London, though.
I guess my feelings about the scene are that there’s a bit more openness to new ideas over here. This is completely subjective, but I’ve found folks generally very interested in finding out more about new artists and digging a little deeper than in NYC. I think it really just boils down to being forced outside of my comfort zone and being in a situation that affords me the time and space to experiment and try new stuff.
I’m actually really excited to get out to some other areas in the UK and check out the scene in these other cities. I’m imagining it would be even more kind of collaborative and exploratory so that excites me. I’ve always loved going to “secondary” cities and checking out the art scenes because I think there’s a bit more experimentation that’s fostered in those environments. If we ever get up there (post-COVID) I will be sure to give you a shout!
I completely agree with you on the digital shows – and to be honest it’s just a bit hard to get excited over them. I’m very much of the mind that standing in front of an artwork is the only REAL way to experience it…