Our wonderful local collaborators, visitors and artists share some of their thoughts
I joined the opening day for this extraordinary exhibition and programme of events whilst sitting upstairs, at the back of a number 63 bus. After a number of stops, the top deck was invaded by Sasha Galitzine and her merry group (they had just left the opening of the salon 63 presentation at Barber Streisand) and under expert tuition, I was persuaded to make a portrait of the person sitting next to me; even fellow passengers unaware of the project willingly took part. Later in the day, I watched the owner (for over 30 years) of Miami Health Club on the Old Kent Road, giving the most enthusiastic and professional guided tours of the exhibition which had just been installed there. It included the transformation of their jacuzzi room which will remain as a permanent work of art. Sasha Galitzine has the most extraordinary ability to engage with artists and communities in a seemingly effortless fashion, forging friendships and presenting art in a truly innovative and transformative way. Salon 63 will live on in the hearts and minds of all those who witnessed it - and in those beauty salons with whom she so spectacularly collaborated for years, if not decades to come.”
Working with Dan and Charmaine at Miami Health Club was, without hyperbole, one of the most rewarding experiences of my artistic career. I initially approached Sasha’s project with trepidation, unsure of how my work was relevant to the Salon culture in South London and cautious of the politics of my engagement with them. This caution was quickly allayed upon meeting Dan and Charmaine. I was immediately impressed by the generous and community-minded work they had been doing at Miami Health Club for over thirty years and was keen to work with them. Following a number of conversations about my practice it was evident that they were excited by my installations - permanent/ semi-permanent conversions of out-of-use spaces into functional environments geared towards a specific set of activities. When they showed me their jacuzzi room that had lain derelict for many years an opportunity to do something meaningful, long-lasting and truly impactful presented itself. The following months spent refurbishing the jacuzzi room with Dan and Charmaine were eye-opening, challenging and a lot of fun. The hundreds of people who attended the opening night of Salon 63 were testament to the energy and enthusiasm that had been generated through the conversations and collaborations that had been happened across many different communities as part of Salon 63. And this was in no small part down to the generosity, attention and energy that Sasha had given to the participating artists and the proprietors of the salons.
One of the things that first struck me when as soon as I started working on Salon 63 was the genuine and passionate engagement with the communities it sought to engage with. This wasn’t a trickle down kind of engagement that seems to come with a certain amount of apathy from institutions who might be doing it because it’s fashionable or because they have quotas. It grew within the community and individuals who Sasha got to know very well. This wasn’t a means to an end but a genuine end in itself. It was through this intimate, gentle, slow pace of getting to know the people that she could share ideas and artists who they might want to work with. I felt immediately welcomed into this group of collaborating artists, salon owners and volunteers. One of the things I helped out on, was a children’s workshop conceived by Ellen Gallagher, the kids loved the workshop and wanted there to be another one every month! It was such a rewarding process to meet all these fantastic people, organise and realise the projects and see that they fitted perfectly and beautifully into the nail salon or Health club that they were made for. It was no wonder all the owners and people who worked there loved them, enjoyed them and many of the art works are still in place as part of the functioning salon.
I have now worked with Sasha Galitzine on two projects: Pompe and Salon 63. Both projects were great fun to be involved with and incredibly rewarding for their meaningful engagement with the local communities. Sasha is a joy to work with and on both occasions I felt incredibly well supported and encouraged by her. She gave me the confidence to test out completely new aspects of my practice. It has been amazing to see how meaningfully she engages and mobilises local communities in her projects. Her seemingly endless supply of energy and enthusiasm for her work is infectious and the friendships that she inevitably develops through her projects - both with the artists she works with as well as the communities her projects touch - are testament to her spirited approach, extraordinary dedication and the kindness she shows to each and every person she works with. I am not remotely surprised that she had such a great gang of volunteers wanting gain experience with her. I very much hope to have the opportunity to work with Sasha again and look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.
With ‘Salon 63’ Sasha Galitzine has most effectively trod the line between art and community based practices. Her intervention was subtle, but effective. The venues chosen for the project were unlikely places for art and yet ‘Salon 63’ proved that art can engage previously unfamiliar audiences. I took a group of undergraduate Museum Studies and Curating students to visit ‘Salon 63’ and they were all impressed by how impactful and far reaching an art project like this could be. More so, the degree to which the local community had made ‘Salon 63’ their own was most impressive and is testament to Sasha Galitzine’s skill in setting the project up.
It was great to have participated for the Salon 63! I and my bandmates from Batuke were pleased to have participated in the event and saw many happy people in the rounds of the shopping mall at Elephant and Castle and the participation of the artist and volunteers. This was an event that will always be remembered, many thanks to Sasha for inviting us.
It was such an inspiring and uplifting experience to be part of Sasha and Andrew’s Salon 63 procession. To share and spread pure joy and vibrant colour for no reason other than to celebrate life and community was more powerful as a statement than any performance I’ve ever been a part of.
We really enjoyed having the Salon 63 experience in the barber shop. Our existing customers loved the piece and were happy to have some interaction with the art while they waited for their cuts. It was great to introduce some new faces to the shop too, who had come for the work but stayed for the experience. Being part of the Salon 63 event made us feel part of the wonderful community that Sasha discovered nestled along the 63 bus route. Also I would still be really interested in keeping Hans’ piece alive in the shop in some format.
Alexander Glass Farm Hands (On A Hot Day) on Sally and Mike's Plot
Closer to the Veg was probably the best thing that ever happened at Fitzroy Park Allotments.It brought nearly everyone together and gave us a new look at ourselves, the site and how we reflect into the slightly wider world outside. For me it opened up a new way of looking at the space, our work and how we relate within and without of the allotment environment. For others I think it was surprising and enlightening and delightful. For once we were not just there to tend the vegetables but interacting with the fantastic young artists who worked with so many of us in so many different ways. The diversity of work and ways of making work was quite astonishing and it all came together on an opening day and night that brought friends, families local residents and other artists together to showcase what we all love and do best. The artists were totally open to collaboration, sensitive to the needs of the space, its function as a working and growing environment and were really keen to engage with all of us. Olga and Sasha are amazing networkers and organisers, genuinely warm and interested in working out what makes things and people tick, connecting people, ideas and places in ways that throw open new possibilities, visual and emotional experience, and relationships. I still feel a warm glow thinking about it.
Pompe was inspirational! We were led on a journey of surprise, awakening, beauty and humour. It was immersive and inclusive and full of wonder. I can’t wait to see more. It was a wonderful community led project within the boating community close to Regents Park. While just under a mile away the barriers and divides were succinctly in place in Frieze, Pompe provided a place for each and everyone.