Photo credit: Kieran Gibson Photography
It seems that everywhere you turn, there’s buzz about Hot Soup! We sat down with Ellen, co-runner and curator of Hot Soup! to find out why.
What’s the idea behind Hot Soup? When did it come to exist?
HotSoup is a café, exhibition & event space, soup kitchen, place to buy second hand clothing, read graphic novels and spin your vinyl. My business partners Sam and Kate have been running artist studios on the third floor of the old Queensgate building in Fremantle since February 2015. It’s a nice big open plan space with 35 or so visual artists, music producers, architects, writers and uni students. Great space for incubating ideas. Lots of collaborations and creative dreams have been realized because of that space.
The café on the ground floor of Queensgate came up for rent 6 months ago and Tim took it on as a soup kitchen/café and asked me to fill the rest of the space with art. I was part way through my second year of Fine Art at Curtin so it was an exciting prospect but A LOT of work for a broke uni student.
A couple of months ago Sam and Kate took over from Tim and HotSoup has become an extension of the studio and a space to showcase our talents to the public.
What’s this “pay-it-forward” program that we have heard murmurings of?
The funding situation for shelters in Fremantle is not ideal and there are a lot of homeless and disadvantaged in the area at the moment. Our customers can donate $2 on top of their food order, allowing us to give a meal away for free to anyone who needs it. We cook large pots of beef & barley, pea & ham, chicken & vegetable soups which we serve with a phat slice of buttered bread, alternatively we can give away roast vegie or meat based toasted sandwiches. We have a lot of regulars that come in for this, and we have a lot of fun with them. It’s an insane and enriching experience getting to know these people. We want them to feel comfortable enough to hang in the space for a few hours and shoot the bull with the studio kids who are always around. A lot the pay-it-forward customers have said that keeping themselves in the shop and out of the town square for just an hour or so vastly improves their day as they are not forced to associate with people who can negatively influence or threaten them. Several are creatively inclined and have felt inspired by our community to get back into making and creating. In return we are constantly reminded to stay humble, appreciative, keep perspective and make the most of the opportunities that we were lucky enough to have.
It’s also an easy way for the community to make a donation that will go to the right resources without having to commit to anything long term.
As an artist in your own right, how does that change the way you run the space?
I know how hard it is to get into galleries or book solo shows that don’t leave you in debt. I also know how hard it is to find an unpretentious and experimental space to show in, if that’s the vibe you are after. I had a really bad experience as a customer at a leading Perth art space earlier in the year, where I was snubbed by staff for asking questions about the show. I am lucky enough to be educated in the art department however if I was a less confident member of the public (in relation to the arts), who was curious of the exhibition, I may have been scared away. I would rather show my art at a space that welcomes people and wants them to feel comfortable enough to ask questions. This is how we run HotSoup. The space is lent at a cheap price and we help the artist as much as possible.
Emerging artist and uni students often have super weird dreams that have not yet been crushed by the reality of the world. We want to see these in and around our space. I want the artist to feel as though the space is malleable to their desires.
I am very critical of art though. My own practice is usually shaped by what I don’t like rather then what I do, and there is still a level of concept and quality that we strive for.
What sort of work do you represent? How do you find the artists?
We want weird young things that aren’t as comfortable in the white cube. In saying that, no idiots. Clever, educated kids who want to explore. I have no time for ill-thought out, crass or lazy projects.
A lot of the artists come from our studio or friendship group. Lately we’ve had more people approaching us. I’d like to see more of that.
What can we expect from Hot Soup in the future?
Lots, hopefully. If all goes well and our lease is renewed then 2016 will be full of events. There’s a pop up cinema in the works, I also want to start a book club. Book launches, as many art exhibitions as possible. Live music, performance art. We hope to structure ourselves as a brand or collective and involve many creative people. We hope to help to facilitate other projects that are more removed from us and may not use this venue. Album releases and things like that. Our studio has recording and jam spaces as well as other facilities so hopefully we will be involved in and help to realize other people’s ideas too.
If there are problems with our lease then we may let go of the shop front and run events at other venues. This would give us more time and money for the events. We have run house exhibitions with live music and bedroom installations. They are so much fun, I would love to spend more time doing things like that.
How can everyone get involved with Hot Soup?
Coming in and having a chat is great otherwise send us a message on facebook. We are all very friendly and down to earth. Catering to broke young artists and the homeless doesn’t generate much of an income so we are always on the hunt for volunteers! We’ll have a kickstarter going soon with a big list of things that we need and awesome rewards for anyone who can help. Keeping an eye on our facebook is the best way to stay in the loop.