The Romani Cultural and Arts Company’s groundbreaking Gypsy Maker project employs artistic excellence and experimentation to challenge racism and discrimination. The project began in 2014 in response to the lack of any significant programme of support for GRT artists throughout Wales and the UK. Gypsy Maker’s main objective continues to be the development of innovative work by GRT artists to stimulate dialogue across communities about GRT lives and the importance of art in affecting change. The high quality work of the RCAC is well documented and is continued in the pioneering Gypsy Maker programme.
The much acclaimed Gypsy Maker project has seen the creation of thought-provoking works that challenge pre-conceptions regarding Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, their past, their present and their future. The value of this unique and innovative project is that it creates a space of reflection for GRT artists to utilise their individual skills and expertise to produce artworks that draw upon the contemporary GRT experience in order to illuminate common societal concerns thereby constituting a valuable asset for both the international Roma community and wider society.
Gypsy Maker, with the support of Arts Council Wales, has over the past five years staged a total of nine exhibitions comprising 247 exhibition days with visitor numbers at 15,790. 27 workshops have taken place plus eight talks with at total of 550 persons in attendance. The venues cover the whole of Wales and include The Riverfront in Newport, Art Central in Barry, Taliesin in Swansea, g39 and Cardiff Story in Cardiff and Ty Pawb in Wrexham. The Arts Council Wales Quality Appraisal carried out in 2017 stated: ‘… these artists’ works present a compelling way to create an insight and understanding of these GRT communities through art and culture.’
Gypsy Maker continues to stimulate audiences to engage with the vibrancy, depth and quality of artistic practice within GRT communities. This benefit has increased with each incarnation of the Gypsy Maker programme allowing greater access to new knowledge and objects created by the Gypsy Maker artists—some of which have entered the RCAC’s own art collection to establish a tangible and permanent representation of work by GRT artists that continues to be built upon to create a legacy for future generations.
A number of artists from the Gypsy Maker programme are currently appearing in FUTUROMA at the world’s most prestigious contemporary art event—the 58th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. By facilitating and showcasing GRT artistic excellence Gypsy Maker opens up GRT culture to ever wider audiences through contemporary art—its ambitious vision and wide reach continuing to impact upon the contemporary art world and international cultural discourse as a marker of its growing success.
“This review has uncovered nothing but praise for Isaac Blake—his work is universally acknowledged by academics, Gypsies, Travellers, politicians, public bodies and international organisations. This is a unique Welsh-based company that should be supported in every possible way.” (Beyond the Stereotypes: A review of Gypsies/Roma/Travellers and the Arts in Wales, p77, ACW, Yvonne Cheal August 2012, http://romaniarts.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Beyond-the-Stereotypes.pdf)