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Photographer Ronan Mckenzie on creating the home that the art world needs

Well aware of the obstructions that come with navigating the creative world, particularly as a Black female in the industry, RONAN MCKENZIE has launched Home as a space that is welcoming and accessible to artists and audiences alike. She talks to KATIE BERRINGTON about seeing her dream become a reality, and the impact the space will make

Photographer Ronan Mckenzie, founder of Home

The name for Ronan Mckenzie’s new multifunctional creative space came easily to her – the ethos at the very heart of Home is “to welcome visitors, to let them sit, relax in and breathe the space and the works… to counter the cold and harsh feeling of the typical white-wall space, which is built to exclude,” she says.

With the launch of the north London space this month, the photographer and curator is determined to tackle many challenges that the art world poses – in particular, the lack of opportunity and accessibility available within and to it. The idea first began to come together in 2018, with a group exhibition titled I’m Home, which showcased the works of four Black artists: Mckenzie, Rhea Dillon, Liz Johnson Artur and Joy Gregory.

[It] argued that home and family were topics more binding than race or gender, as a response to the constant lumping and grouping together of Black and Indigenous People of Color artists,” says Mckenzie. “I’m Home showed the diversity in response to the theme of home and family from the profile of artists who, in society’s eyes, are all the same.”

At the time, Mckenzie was also becoming “increasingly aware of the lack of representation within gallery spaces for BIPOC artists and didn’t understand why it was so difficult to find or see the work of these artists – of which there are so many”.

She knew that it was so crucial for more spaces, opportunities and recognition to exist that she put her savings ­– which she had intended to buy a house with – into creating Home. “A new art-space concept is desperately needed, not only because the representation within most gallery spaces is still not diverse enough to respond to and appreciate the incredibly vast talent currently working,” she says, “but no spaces are able to offer programming that has community and artistic development at the heart of its practice.”

I am all too aware of the difficulties of navigating creative industries as a Black female. Amongst the current offering in London, there needs to be a Home
McKenzie describes Home as “a modern hybrid of an art gallery and a community events space [] with a library and creative work space”

“Art spaces remain hierarchal and out of reach for most ­– especially BIPOC audiences – making entering artistic spheres extremely difficult and maintaining a place in them even harder. Drawing on my own experiences of showing work at institutions, and working across fashion and arts, I am all too aware of the difficulties of navigating creative industries as a Black female. Amongst the current offering in London, there needs to be a Home.”

To ensure that it serves as a valuable place to as many as possible, Mckenzie has curated a program of events that invites a wide range of people in, “to encourage connection, community and intergenerational conversation”.

[It] aims to set an example by treating collaborators fairly and non-exploitatively and being transparent about who is behind it

“Here lays the foundation of Home,” she reflects in the week of the launch. “A permanent space of the same grounding and values, one that would be built to celebrate the work of incredible artists – with a keen focus on BIPOC artists – and create a space for people to just be.”

[It] aims to set an example by treating collaborators fairly and non-exploitatively and being transparent about who is behind it from the offset.”

Developing an exciting program of shows and events to come in 2021 and 2022 began with approaching a list of artists whose work Mackenzie has always loved and found inspiring. Looking to the future, she says that presenting the work of Deana Lawson or Kerry James Marshall, “two artists who I’m massively inspired by for different reasons”, would be an absolute dream.

“However, to be completely honest, my dreams are coming true with Home being more than just an idea; being a real, tangible, physical place that I can go to, and to present the works of the artists I am already in conversation with, and just to open its doors to anyone who wants to come and be part of it.”

In a year that has brought with it such challenge and loss, reckoning and change, Mckenzie hopes that Home will spark joy through its events and exhibitions. More importantly, though, “that everyone, but especially Black and Indigenous People of Color, know that it is a place they are welcome to take space in, to bring their ideas, present themselves, their work, their families, and know that they will be accepted and respected in the way that they should.”

For more details of Home and its upcoming program of events, go to homebyrm.space

A poster for Ronan Mckenzie and Joy Yamusangie’s WATA, Further Explorations exhibition at Home