Weathering the blitz | Alexandra Pace

Having established itself as a go-to creative space for artists of all stripes, Valletta’s BLITZ is now seeking to make good on its mission to provide a long-term functioning exhibition and performance space, by means of a crowdfunding campaign, ‘Make Us Count’. We speak to Alexandra Pace, the driving force behind BLITZ, about why she turned to crowdfunding and what lies ahead for the venue

Alexandra Pace:
Alexandra Pace:
Pace: "BLITZ has established itself as the major player in the local contemporary art scene, and actively built relationships at an international level"

In a nutshell, how would you describe Blitz to somebody who hasn’t had a chance to step into it yet, and what would you say is its most important to contribution to the Maltese arts scene?

Blitz is an independent contemporary art space which supports experimental and radical arts practice in all its forms. BLITZ is a space to develop ideas, build relationships and nurture talent. BLITZ is a non-profit organisation and Malta’s only independent, artist-run contemporary art space.

In a period of just under two years, BLITZ has established itself as the major player in the local contemporary art scene, at an accelerated rate, and actively built relationships at an international level. Audience and community response to BLITZ has been overwhelmingly positive, and attendance at BLITZ events always far exceeding expectations, giving a clear indication of the desire for a space of this type in Malta and the role it can play in stemming the tide of Malta’s creative drain.

What are some of the improvements you hope to make with this crowdfunding campaign, and what led you to turn to crowdfunding in the first place?

The BLITZ organisation needs increased human and financial resources to continue operating at a sustainable level. The building itself requires ongoing maintenance and over the years BLITZ has seen more and more of the space come alive through an ongoing restoration programme. Also, the organisation is nothing without its people. I have founded and run BLITZ single-handedly over the past two years, from overviewing the restoration to founding the non-profit organisation, curation, design and perhaps even the occasional handiwork. I have also had invaluable help from the numerous interns that have participated in the BLITZ internship programme.

This crowdfunding campaign will give BLITZ the financial injection needed to continue and work with the momentum already gathered. For this BLITZ campaign, our backers are rewarded with exceptional art, made in limited editions and exclusive to BLITZ.

Can you give us more detail as to what ‘Project Space’ and ‘Reside’ will entail?

The new BLITZ Project Space will be a dedicated space for a high-turnaround exhibition programme. It will provide a much-needed local platform for emerging experimental practitioners who are challenging what it means to make art nowadays.

Occupying approximately 60 square metres, the Project Space will be located on the ground floor of the BLITZ building. The Project Space programme will invite artists and innovators to engage with space through commissions and open calls. The installations will change frequently to keep the space fluid and alive, and give as many artists as possible the opportunity to showcase their work.

When it comes to ‘Reside’, we need to finish what we’ve started. Designed and constructed by students from the The Department of Architecture and Urban Design in the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta, and supported by 808 Foundation, sitting inside BLITZ is a half-finished, self-contained apartment, waiting to bring international talent to Malta for engagement with the local scene. The implementation so far has extended to the building of the basic structure. The next phase to completion is electrical and plumbing, installation of bathroom sanitary ware and bed, plus finishes.

The BLITZ artist-in-residency programme will invite foreign artists, thinkers, curators, academics, authors, and more, to live and work within the space.

Do you think crowdfunding for cultural projects of this kind is viable in Malta? How do you hope to drum up enthusiasm for your campaign?

We have already seen some success stories with local organisations and creators tapping into the international phenomenon of crowdfunding. I think the local cultural scene is still experimenting with crowdfunding but realistically, an exciting and well-presented project can be successful irrespective of where it is located.

I hope this campaign will set the bar high and provide a framework for others in the local art scene considering using a crowdfunding platform. Putting any project on a larger, international, competitive platform, inevitably means we must step-up and raise our game. If we want to attract international support then we must begin challenging ourselves and our audiences more.

For the Make Us Count campaign we have collaborated with a number of artists, makers and professionals who have come on board as supporters in various capacities. There will be a launch party on May 30 to celebrate the campaign going live. This will be an opportunity to acknowledge all of the incredibly generous people who have helped bring this campaign together, and it will serve to encourage our supporters to spread the word as we raise a glass to the future, and the hard work that has brought BLITZ this far.

Would you say that Maltese artists and other local creatives are well served by the funding options available here?

I think it is neither possible, nor is it sensible or viable to survive entirely on public funding. On whether there is enough support in terms of quantity, I suspect local artists and creatives will never feel satisfied. I believe that comes more from a general feeling of entitlement; the belief we should be supported irrespective of what it is that we are creating. I personally disagree with this.

Making do with what we have does not mean that our limited resources should be distributed for everyone to get a chance, but rather it should be invested in those who are innovative and producing projects and ideas that are radical and experimental, engaging audiences with a strong public programme. In the longer term I believe that this will improve education through exposure to high calibre projects, in turn raising the standard of projects both large and small.

BLITZ is located at 28 St Lucia Street Valletta. For more information log on to BLITZ is supported by the Malta Arts Fund