Raw Arts Festival

This is the story of the Raw Arts Festival and my interests.

Between September 1989 and July 1993, I was a student at City and Guilds of London Art School. Whilst there, I was shown an early copy of “Raw Vision” magazine. Instantly, I knew where my interests lay and I quickly became interested in Dubuffet, Art Brut, Raw Art, and Outsider Art, etc. I visited the Art Brut Museum in Lausanne in 1992 after winning the travel prize. I had also visited Monika Kinleys Outsider archive on a few occasions and became friends with Monika. She attended my private view in 1993.

I quickly realized that I wasn’t just outside the “Outsiders”, I was simply a free spirit that didn’t care to be pigeon-holed. So if I wanted something, I would have to get it myself. I signed up to do a degree at Middlesex University. This time, I studied ICT, Education, and Community Art. As part of my community art studies, I was keen to work with non-mainstream artists and organizations/charities that supported them. I thus worked with organizations in London, teaching art and helping them promote what they do, etc. In essence, I was using my ICT skills to promote art, fundraise, mount exhibitions of art, and teach, etc. A fuller description of my time with Hoffmann de Visme is detailed in a separate post. Please click here to read it. As a result of my efforts, I was awarded the University prize and realized that by combining art and ICT, I could do something that very few people could.

After finishing University, I continued to paint and began to network with other like-minded artists. I created a website called Raw Art Link (which now doesn’t exist). It was a directory of raw artists and organizations that I had come to know, etc. I became involved in an ‘Outsider art’ chat forums and was quickly promoted to being a co-moderator. I was thus in a good position to mount the Raw Arts Festival. I contacted the Candid Arts Trust in Angel, Central London with the idea of hiring their massive two-floor space to mount an exhibition of non-mainstream art. They loved the idea and gave me a special discount, so I could mount it relatively cheap. I used the Candid Arts Trust for both the 2004 and 2005 Festivals.

So why did I create the Raw Arts Festival?

In terms of art, non-mainstream artists don’t have many options. The Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy Summer show, tend to serve artists that are usually well connected, and/or resourced. How on earth does a homeless artist get to exhibit artworks? Think about it! So, it is much harder for non-mainstream artists to exhibit their creations.

The press doesn’t usually help much. Journalists probably don’t have the time to find non-mainstream artists. So they will probably feature an artist they know or have been introduced to. The non-mainstream artists tend to focus on individuals that tend to fit their “Outsider” definitions. Who helps everyone else? What happens if an artist simply doesn’t care for classification? Do they simply get ignored?

I thus set about bringing together a wider array of non-mainstream artists together under one roof. The first two Raw Arts Festivals in London thus exhibited artworks by Austitic adults, Homosexuals, Transexuals, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Homeless artists, mentally unstable people, artists with epilepsy, artists from different ethnographic groups, and professional types, etc. The festival thus aimed to prove that all kinds of people regardless of their class, status, wealth, religion, sexuality, and race, etc. are capable of producing truly great art and can come together under one roof to celebrate our common humanity. They did come together and the private views were extraordinary. To me, it felt very spiritual – almost electric in its atmosphere. The Raw Arts Festival is probably the best idea I have ever had. The Raw Arts Festival thus aimed to fill a hole that is sorely missing in the British Art world and one that gets very little publicity – hence, this webpage.

With COVID-19 and Brexit reducing people’s freedoms in a vast number of ways, I suspect an increasing number of people will want to look for a way to express their freedom and humanity. This website proves that it can be done. I think that COVID-19 could well force many people (not just artists) to increase their digital footprint. If this website becomes popular, I will consider mounting another exhibition – probably online. My role would be curatorial. If you are interested, please contact me…

The Festivals

August 2004 saw the birth of the first ‘Raw Arts Festival’. It included Folk/Intuitive/Marginalised/Self-taught/Visionary art etc. The exhibition featured at least 65 artists’ works from nine different countries. Furthermore, at least 46 artists and 4 representatives were physically present on the private view night. The festival exhibited artworks by Dover Abrams (U.S.A), Lorenzo Belenguer (U.K), Claude Bolduc (Switzerland), Lyle Carbajal (USA), Valeria Dimitrova (Israel), Nathan Eley (U.K), Artur Golacki (Poland), Ann Koi (U.S.A), Oleg Korolev (Ukraine), Klaus Lange (U.S.A), Andrew Lewandowski (U.S.A), Jay Marvin (U.S.A), Piers Midwinter (U.K), Kelly Moore (U.S.A), Karl Mullen (U.S.A), Tony O’Brien (U.K), Clifton Reddie (U.K), Ody Saban (France), Jason Soles (U.S.A), Paula Sousa (U.K), Brian Steimel (U.S.A), Tom Willer (U.K), Ben Young (U.K), and Mary Zeman. (U.S.A). Organizations involved included Catalyst Studios (U.S.A), St. John-at-Hackney Community Space Centre (U.K), and Hoffmann de Visme(U.K)

As you can see many of these artists are both well-known and respected Outsider artists. They came from France, Israel, Poland, Switzerland, U.K, Ukraine, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S.A, etc. This made the festival a truly international event. The quality of art shown was truly amazing. The Festival garnered a lot of media coverage and I was contacted by the New York Arts Magazine. So began a fruitful relationship…

The 2005 Raw Arts Festival exhibited at least 85 artists’ works. The artists live in at least 12 different countries and virtually all of them (at least 60) were physically present at the festival for at least the ‘private view’. This festival displayed many well-known/established Raw (Self-taught / Outsider / Visionary etc) artists’ works. There were at least 4 representatives from organizations too. The Festival featured artworks by Dover Abrams (U.S.A), Philippe Aini (France), Jenik (U.S.A), Pauline Jones (U.K), Ewan McDougall (New Zealand), Piers Midwinter (UK), Kelly Moore (U.S.A), Nemo (U.S.A), Liz Parkinson (Australia), Sue Kreitzman (UK), and many others. Hoffmann de Visme was also represented

The London festivals succeeded in bringing together many different people from vastly different backgrounds and cultures as detailed earlier. The 2005 Raw Arts Festival is probably the most successful exhibition of self-taught/raw art ever to be mounted in London.

By this time, I had created another website called the Raw Arts Collective and featured 5 artist’s work on it, including Sue Kreitzman, and Steve Wright. I contacted the New York Arts Magazine with a view to co-organizing Festivals elsewhere (especially in New York). The 2006 Festival was thus held at the Color Elefante Gallery in Valencia in Spain. It featured artworks by Dover Abrams (U.S.A), Jack Angelo (U.K), Jenik (U.S.A), Akiko Kitami (U.S.A), Sue Kreitzman (U.K), Ewan McDougall (New Zealand), Piers Midwinter (U.K), Franco Meloni (Italy), Renate Seffer (Grand Cayman), Maureen Simpson (South Africa), and Karin Van Der Plas (U.K)

The 2007 Festival was held at the Carrozzini von Buhler Gallery in New York. It featured artworks by Maggie Campbell (UK), Franco Meloni (Italy), Joe Moorman (U.S.A), Joel Pinkerton (U.S.A), Piers Midwinter (U.K), Julia Sisi (Canary Islands), Josh Slavin (U.S.A), Elizabeth Turnbull (Australia), and Lori Vynalek (U.S.A).

By this time, I was receiving applications from artists seeking fame, etc. This was not what the Festival was about and so shortly after the 2008 Festival at the Infusion Gallery in Los Angeles, I closed it down.

I think the Raw Arts Festival was a piece of art in its own right.

Since 2007

My interests have shifted. I need a “blank canvas” to work on both literally and metaphorically. I lived in Poland for ten years and had my own company. I then closed that in 2019 and now live in Vietnam. I am happily married, working as a Cambridge ICT Teacher, and working on my Gent’s Club website.

COVID-19 has changed the way in which we all do business. I think it is now highly unlikely that a large-scale festival like the one I created will be mounted for a very long time. The Political atmosphere has also changed and in the UK, citizens’ rights are being removed. I certainly won’t be doing another large-scale festival. So small-scale exhibitions or going online are simply the next logical steps. Technology has also moved on and it is now possible to do some interesting things online and that is my new focus. I have thus created a dedicated online Raw Arts Festival website.

Key dates…

  • 1968 – Birth
  • 1989-1993 – Art College
  • 1993-1996 – University
  • 1999-2000 – Teaching postgraduate
  • 2000-2011 – ICT Teacher in the UK & Poland
  • 2004-2008 – Raw Arts Festival Director
  • 2011-2019 – ESL Teacher and Entrepreneur in Poland
  • 2019-present – ICT Teacher in Vietnam. Piers Midwinter website. Got married.
  • 2021-present – Gents Club (ICT online) and Raw Arts Festival Online websites.

For more information, please do contact me

Please watch this space!

Last edited by Piers on April 8th, 2021.

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