Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison, founder of Croydon’s RISEgallery, has played a key role in the area’s creative and cultural landscape. More than just an art gallery, RISEgallery is committed to pioneering projects where the art is used as a catalyst for positive change. Kevin has put Croydon on the map as ‘the new capital of street art’ as hailed in a recent article in the Evening Standard. He has featured recently in the BBC Breakfast show with Vanessa Feltz and the Evening Standard’s spotlight on Croydon. In 2015 RISEgallery won Business of the Year in the Croydon Excellence Awards. We stopped in at RISEgallery last week to catch up with him.
Tell us a bit about the idea behind RISEgallery and why this is important to you?
With RISEgallery being a multi-faceted organisation we wanted to do something really different. We were fascinated with the concept that art can be a catalyst for change, both in an area and for individuals. The idea to take art out of the gallery to the streets stemmed from the desire to make my hometown better and bring it to life by engaging with people who weren’t necessarily being engaged with before. Art and culture transcend age, creed, gender, race and is very important for any area to thrive. I hope RISEgallery helps to inspire and spur new projects. It has been an incredible journey so far and we are just getting started.
Tell us about Croydon’s transformation and how art has contributed to this change?
The regeneration means there are lots of new people moving in – contributing to what is already a great vibe here in Croydon. There were already lots of great places to eat and drink; now art and culture is a big pull for Croydon too. We are opening a new 30,000sqft gallery soon, which will be a great addition to the community. To be on the front line and to see this transformation happening has been an amazing experience. From nowhere, it has snowballed – more people are getting involved and our collective voices are getting louder.
You have been quoted as attributing the success of RISE to ‘ignoring your accountant’. What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs today?
Firstly, don’t ignore your accountant. It’s important to take his advice… if he’s a good accountant. Basically, what I was getting at is don’t always look at something in black and white. If you have to do something then absolutely drive to it. And if you fail, that’s not a problem. Failure is actually a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to learn where you have failed, make the adjustments, and try again. If you truly believe that you can change something for the better, you just have to go for it.
Are there any projects that really get you excited?
I really enjoy working with diversity, being involved in different communities and facing new challenges. We are working with refugees in Lebanon, which is a massive project to be involved with. We have Andy Warhol month coming up, which is a cultural milestone for Croydon and one of the biggest cultural draws in London in 2017. It involves so many elements that celebrate the life and works of Andy Warhol. It’s definitely going to be an exciting vibrant month; there will be something for everyone to get involved with. We now also have a ‘Fellowship’ – a community fund where the public decides what art activity to bring here and what will best engage with local people. It will be interesting to see what the public are going to choose.
What made you want to work in Croydon?
When Nestle vacated the tower, it left St George’s Walk unoccupied, which I knew was going to have a detrimental effect on surrounding businesses. St George’s Walk is a one-of-a-kind place with its brutalist Sixties architecture. It is so unique and I thought I would love to get involved here, bring something special to Croydon and change people’s perceptions.
Which artists, either dead or alive, would you like to bring to Croydon?
We have some high profile artists that we are in talks with, but we can’t speak too much about that at the moment. It is very exciting and we will be making an announcement in due course. As for artists who aren’t alive, I would love to have done something with Basquiat –the energy in his work and life was just amazing. A bit of Keith Haring’s work would look great on the walls of Croydon. Possibly Caravaggio going back to the old-school days. He was a real character; he would have been a good laugh on a night out… or a total nightmare – one of the two.
How can local people engage with RISEgallery?
We would love to hear from anyone and everyone. If they go to www.rise-gallery.co.uk, there is lots of information about the projects we are working on and our contact details. Look out for Andy Warhol month in June; we would love to see people get involved! As always you can follow us on our social media platforms which we update regularly.