Born and raised in San Francisco, CA, Mattie Loyce spent much of her life living nomadically. While growing up she was surrounded by strong art and activist communities, which have come to influence her work. Now, Mattie runs Project Mission Gallery – a traveling art gallery that gives emerging artists who identify as People of Colour (PoC) an essential platform in local communities.
Mattie, where did your career start?
I started my professional career working as a teacher and a community mental health worker; I focused on supporting and advocating for at risk youth and families. From a young age I survived by youth programming and come my working years I continued the trajectory but on the other side of services and programming, by becoming a teacher, mentor, counselor and programmer.
After my Bachelors degree I worked as a ‘Family Support Worker’ and a residential counsellor for about 4 years full time, yet after my day job I always had a creative practice. I’ve always loved organising within activist spaces and creative spaces, and I began to mold the two into what is now Project Mission Gallery (PMG). I left the field of community mental health in 2015 to pursue working with PMG and within the arts full-time, and the overall vision is to create spaces where arts, activism, and community-centred sustainability can grow.
Where did Project Mission Gallery first take off?
I started Project Mission Gallery in 2014 while living in Boston, MA, USA as a way to create a platform for art that I felt was being neither acknowledged nor exhibited. PMG creates pop-up exhibitions in different cities supporting PoC artists locally within each city we visit.
In addition to our exhibitions, we also run interdisciplinary community programming like workshops and discussion sessions to increase the levels of access and purpose to our shows. When curating exhibitions we often also include social justice oriented themes as well, drawing out and using our platform for artists and communities to think about and reflect on different themes internal and external to the art.
What exhibitions have you got coming up?
Our next exhibition opens Thursday May 25th, 2017 titled ‘FEM: playful manipulations’ in Peckham, South London. This exhibition is the first solo show for artist Nicole Chui – a mixed media fibre artist. We will be presenting a collection of her most recent abstract embroidery work and a brand new collection of zines she has produced called Fem Zine, highlighting international fem contributors within the subcultures of surf, skate, and hip-hop.
And how can artists get involved?
They can contact us via email (email@example.com) or Instagram. Alternatively, come to a show or event and introduce yourself! We are always interested in meeting new people from both nearby and afar. It is great to connect with new artists locally and build on our network and community. Since we travel, we’re always looking forward to making connections with people and places to travel and put together new shows!
Has it always been your ambition to head up a pop up gallery?
No it has not actually; the concept and then reality of PMG honestly came out of the life I was living – in beautiful and odd serendipity.
What’s your biggest achievement in your work?
I think so far it’s taking the risk of moving the project internationally to London, and being met with so much support. Every city has its new challenges and benefits, but I was somewhat nervous moving to London because of its sheer size and clout and not having launched international programming before. But just I as believe in the work, I have been met by communities of people and artists who share the same vision and values. It has been amazing.
What challenges have you had to face in work?
The main challenges I face are finding spaces, and finding funding for the work. Space is always the key with PMG because we are a pop-up, so a lot of my work is scoping spaces and meeting people or businesses that may want to host a show. I say it’s a challenge because I often have months worth of plans and visions for exhibitions but they cannot come to fruition without the space to hold it. Luckily we have had continued success in finding spaces that share and work with our goals.
The other challenge, now that I have taken this on full-time, is finding funding to support my work and the collaborators I work with. Historically I have had other full time work to supplement my living expenses but I am now in the transition of trying to find out how to make PMG truly sustainable where it can pay some income to its employees at least and provide more support to artists.
Is there equal representation in the creative sector currently?
I would say there are definitely fewer women in the creative sector overall, but the sector includes a lot of different industries. There are moments in some industries where women have larger numbers, but these will often not be high income or leadership positions.
How do you find a diverse range artists, or do they approach you?
Part of my practice and espoused mission is to support emerging PoC artists so I am very conscious about how and who I approach for exhibitions. That said, I am constantly doing research on different cultural producers and artists in different cities, but I am approached by artists as well – both are nice.
Do you have to contend with stress in your job, and if so how do you manage it?
Stress will always be there (for me at least), sometimes it creeps up more unexpectedly and intensely. I try to recognise it and be attentive to scheduling breaks, whether big or small, when I can. Sometimes even two minutes of deep breathing can help a lot just to get me to the end of a working day, then I plan when I can take a more significant break later on. You can’t work your best when you don’t take care of yourself, and I try to remember that.
What inspires your work?
People. People working hard to live their truth, and people working hard to support a better world where more of our voices and lives are valued, respected, and seen as important.
Any shout outs – who’s on fire right now?
Two London friends of mine; Imani Robinson – activist, writer and curator who is part of Sorry You Feel Uncomfortable Collective, and Ama Josephine Budge writer, artist and programmer, currently organising I/Mages of Tomorrow anti-conference to be at Goldsmiths, University of London in June!
What are you currently…. reading?
Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y Davis