#7 International Visual Artists Exchange Programme
50 stories from The Acme Archive
The International Visual Artists Exchange Programme was run from the Acme Offices at the gallery in Covent Garden between 1977 and 1981.
The idea of international exchange was first raised in the “Future” section of the 1976 Acme brochure, which suggests that “the same kind of exchange and co-operation could operate on an international level, whereby artists in Europe or the US and other countries could come to Britain for a short or extended period and have somewhere to work and live in exchange for similar facilities for British artists”.
David Panton and Jonathan Harvey formalised this into a proposal for an exchange programme in March 1977, which attracted funding from the Arts Council to develop the programme. A trip to North America the following month with a rapid series of face-to-face meetings brought contacts with New York based artists including Cy Twombly and Sean Scully, partner organisations in New York, Montreal and Toronto and matched funding from the National Endowment for the Arts USA. By mid-1977 the exchange programme was up and running.
The method for exchange in 1977 was low tech by modern standards, but effective. Artists completed an exchange request form and exchanges were advertised in a newsletter written by then Acme staff member Heather Waddell, which was distributed by the member organisations. By January 1980, 10 artists had completed exchanges between London and New York and further interest was expressed from France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Australia and New Zealand.
The programme closed in 1981, but has sown the seeds for the Acme International Residency programme which started in 1987 and Acme’s later advocacy relationship with studio groups in Montreal and working relationship with WASPS in Scotland.