The Coloured Cube (TheCC), a private company, specialises in exhibitions and the curating and manufacturing of artworks. TheCC describes itself as a maker on a mission to create new makerspaces, methods to engage with art and ways to partner and connect with others.
Having participated in BASA’s Education Programme during 2014 and 2015, TheCC indicated that the workshops and mentorship helped concretise the concept and strategy for the organisation, and that BASA’s support in this regard has contributed to its success. While TheCC did not source sponsorship or seed funding following the BASA Education Programme, the implementation of its strategic plan saw it generate R1,1 million through creative skills and services offered during 2015. In the same year, TheCC participated in an entrepreneurial competition for start-up businesses less than two years old, The Start Up Edge Traction Bus GP, and claimed second place in the final round.
The company’s Managing Director, Mariapaola McGurk, explained: “I learnt a great deal about the arts sector and how businesses and organisations are working. I also realised that there is a dire need for support and connections, as well as income. TheCC’s ethos and vision is so intertwined in this, and every project we do is impacted by lessons learnt through this training. Key to this is looking for potential clients (not just sponsors) who are not from the creative industries and presenting to them new ways of resolving their problems using the creative sector. I also learnt a great deal from BASA’s training about other creative businesses and, as a result, wherever we can TheCC tries to collaborate with and partner on projects to publicise all organisations and create a network between the small businesses - allowing corporates to receive a range of skills and outputs through using one company.”
TheCC engages in projects embedded in values of partnership and growth for both parties. For instance, in February 2017 a unique partnership was formed between TheCC and The Post Graduate School of Architecture (GSA) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). The GSA was founded in 2015 with a mandate to transform contemporary African architectural education, and has already grown from 12 master students in 2015 to 88 in 2017, and an estimated 110 in 2018. This partnership grew from a small installation job for TheCC in 2015, with the GSA now being TheCC’s only on-going client that covers about 60% of its overheads annually. TheCC’s involvement with the GSA spans multiple engagements:
- The Creative Co-LAB is a makerspace within TheCC’s workshop, based in The Valley (an arts precinct in Ellis Park). The 2017 pilot saw the GSA students have access to this space, its machinery and skilled staff between 08h00 and 17h00 on Mondays to Fridays, as well as tutoring and practical lessons on dedicated days. This enables them to work on their portfolios and learn about making. This pilot year proved very successful, with students pointing out the value of being connected to an arts-based manufacturing business, and the hope is to establish it as the connection between GSA, industry and the public and to create a bridge between industry, students and ‘making’. The relationship has extended into 2018, seeing an expansion of the concept and more industry ties and partnerships, for example, with Autodesk, AMT composites and PPC.
- The Write of Passage Bar sees TheCC assist with manufacturing installations for the GSA students #SocialSpace.
- The Summershow was the GSA Masters students’ final exhibition, hosted at the Museum of African Design. TheCC worked with the students to curate and install the exhibition, manufacture plinths, etc.
- Currently the GSA hosts an international lecture series, and TheCC is creating a sister series of workshops called The Maker Series, which relates to the development of the architect’s design portfolio. Examples of possible workshops in this series include 360 Fusion (Autodesk), cement casting (PPC), resins, silicone and urethane (AMT), sculpture, and silk- screening (Assemblage).
- Our City Our Block is an area located on the east side of the Johannesburg inner city. The entire area, where people are showing interest in connecting with the intention of uplifting this area, runs between New Doornfontein, Troyeville, Lorentzville and Bertrams. It has a range of craftsmen, makers, entrepreneurs, creatives and industry, and is a site where industry meets creativity. The potential to enhance this idea of a “Maker Precinct” is evident, and TheCC’s pursuit of partnerships has already begun. The vision is to enhance the area with internships, skills development, workshops and engagements with both students and the public. It has the potential to become an area where people come to see how things are done and to learn to work with their hands; a precinct focused on ideas, skills and growth through entrepreneurship; a space where creativity meets design, and discussions cross the industry barriers to navigate innovative ways forward within our cities; and a space where internship is promoted and a sense of learning, growing and experimenting is allowed.
Another example is TheCC’s partnership with Flanagan& Gerard Investments (Pty) Ltd (F&G) on the Springs Mall Artwork Project, which began with the property developers contracting TheCC to install artworks throughout the mall. TheCC proposed a novel idea to F&G: instead of TheCC manufacturing all the artworks internally, to rather connect with the arts community of Springs and Ekurhuleni so the mall could be filled with artworks that were either created by Ekurhuleni artists or inspired by Ekurhuleni. The concept was approved and an open call went out to artists and photographers.
Springs Mall now has 55 artworks of a high standard installed for the public to freely enjoy, which have now become a permanent collection on display throughout the corridors and public spaces in the mall. This project connected artists and photographers with one another and highlighted local talent by making it public. People are continually photographing and sharing on social media either their works, their friends and family’s works, or their favourite works from their community, demonstrating the potential of the arts to support domestic tourism.
TheCC intentionally seeks work outside the arts sector with the objective of highlighting the value of the creative industry to society at large, and this initiative was no different. There were many businesses involved in the development of this property – F&G, Springs Mall, MDS Architects, Marketing Concepts, and Elco Steel. TheCC strongly believes in connecting corporates and arts organisations. The main strategic objective of this project was that, through supporting and highlighting local artistic talent both financially and through exposure, the new development would be received positively by the local community, and this would impact the exposure the mall’s PR and marketing would receive, and this was achieved. The success of this pilot project can now be used by TheCC (and potentially other creative businesses) as a case study to prove that it is possible for business, the arts and local communities to work together, benefitting all parties in the process and meeting strategic objectives:
- F&G was able to highlight its commitment to being relevant within the context and connect with the Ekurhuleni community by offering them an opportunity to get involved by using an open call. F&G and the Springs Mall development received PR and marketing as well as word-of-mouth and social media exposure, which also grew sincere community connection and trust. This connection also extended to their marketing company, Marketing Concepts, opening up possible future collaborations within the community and with its artists.
- 25 artists were supported and paid for their skills and art works. They were given exposure by having their works bought for the development and displayed within their local context, and being shared further through social media.
- Taking art out of traditional spaces allowed the broader public to access it and gave them the opportunity to see the talent of Ekurhuleni within their mall.
- TheCC was paid to manage the project, which also supported the employment of seven members of the TheCC who framed and installed these works. Furthermore, this project was very insightful for TheCC, as it demonstrated that if arts organisations present well, with the clients’ objectives in mind, there is the possibility to earn an income and do work that you believe is important within society - as well as connect with a larger pool of artists. It also allowed TheCC to gain credibility within the corporate sector, improving its reputation and enabling an expansion of its business offering.
This project has also had a catalytic effect on future collaborations, connections which were only made possible through this project:
- Activations after the project occurred between the photographers.
- Connections were made between Springs Art Gallery and Springs Mall.
- Continual work and activations by TheCC for Marketing Concepts are in progress/planned at Springs Mall, Ballito Junction, Middelburg Mall, and possibly other malls in Limpopo and Gauteng.
- MDS Architects also expressed interest in working like this on other developments, so the arts community within the area it is developing benefit from the developments.
This initiative clearly proved the value of plugging into the broader community and supporting its artists, and has opened the doors for TheCC to present the concept to other property developers and corporates with the intention of repeating and spreading this model throughout South Africa. These connections are not necessarily sponsorships or funding relationships, but rather mutually beneficial exchange arrangements. The hope is that more businesses start seeing the value of the arts and pay for the services/works they produce, thus creating a synergy between development, community and the arts.