The Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art Limited (ACAVA) grew out of initiatives started in the early 1970’s to provide facilities for the support of the visual arts in the Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush areas of West London.
In 1973 artists, politicians, local authority officers and the visual art officer of the Greater London Arts Association met in the first public consultation in Britain on artists’ needs, it was called “The Hammersmith Art Experiment”.
“This experiment in Hammersmith is, as far as I know, the first of its kind in Britain, and there is a great deal of ground to cover. It is particularly important to get it right as, ideally, Hammersmith will serve as a model for the rest of London.... The Hammersmith experiment is an attempt to move towards the responsible use of artists within the community and obtaining for them a measure of justice and recognition.” Alistair Mackintosh, GLAA, 1973.
“...there are many other opportunities...which can lead to the wider and more active involvement of artists in the life of the local communities which form the Borough of Hammersmith.” Nick Raynsford, LBHF, 1973. Subsequently Minister for local government and the regions, and London.
ACAVA is the eventual outcome of this vision. In 1976 23-29 Faroe Road and 62 Hetley Road were set up as studios managed by the already established studio provider ACME. Twenty artists had workspace, and by 1977 Central Space at Faroe Road had become a major venue for performance art.
Political change at the beginning of the 1980s brought about the next stage in ACAVA’s development. The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham give planning permission for the redevelopment of both sites and served notice on the artists. They responded with a three year campaign to retain the buildings for use by local artists and the community. This lead in 1983 to the Greater London Council purchasing the buildings and in 1984 selling them to ACAVA, incorporated as a company in the previous year. The organisation set about major building repairs with funding provided by the GLC and registered as a charity.
Over the following ten years Central Space gallery showed work by international, national and local artists and provided a unique opportunity for many of the pioneers of performance and installation art. At the same time ACAVA was pioneering art based community and educational initiatives in our studios, in schools and community halls, and at festivals and events. The revenue funding which had supported this development and had come successively from the Greater London Council, the London Borough Grants scheme, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Greater London Arts and London Arts Board, was finally withdrawn in 1994. ACAVA expanded, setting up new studios and by creating a wider base, established financial independence over its core costs.
From this base it has continued to develop its public benefit programme with project funding from a succession of sources. From the outset ACAVA has worked to develop new opportunities for collaboration between artists and their communities. It has sought to provide public benefits in exchange for public support for artists. It recognises the complexity of the relations between culture, society, education and health, and enables artists to make important contributions in all of these fields. When founded ACAVA had 20 members, there are now over 500 and demand for its services continues to grow.