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Salad Days Inc. serves up fresh art to Adelaide

This has been one of my favourite articles so far for XXIV. The Salad Days crew are fantastic, with an infectiously optimistic outlook on Adelaide’s artistic potential. It was an absolute pleasure to interview them, and I’m looking forward to see what fresh events they bring to the arts scene in the coming months.

There seems to be a new café, bar or venue popping up in Adelaide’s laneways every week now, but multi-disciplinary space Salad Days Inc. brings fresh perspectives and an unbridled enthusiasm for all kinds of art.

While the venue may be relatively green, they’ve received a fantastic response from local artists and the community alike. Calling themselves an ‘artistic tasting plate’, they provide a space for emerging and established artists (drawing big names like Vans the Omega) to exhibit and perform, as well as a vegan café (yes, they do serve salad) and gift shop selling vintage threads and handmade goodies. It’s safe to say they’ve got you covered for entertainment.

Founders Nicole Wenn, Nick Yap and Alyshia Mckinnon are as varied as the exhibitions that fill the ivory walls of the Gilbert Place space. Bringing backgrounds in photography, graphic design and dance to the table, the multi-disciplinary arts venue is a haven away from the fast food joints and clubs of  adjacent Hindley Street.

Bonding over a shared interest in art and a vision for filling a void in Adelaide’s cultural landscape, the trio hope to “liven up the west end”.

“Nick and I had a small dream involving art and a café – but it was always just a dream,” Nicole says. “We would talk about it and say ‘one day’ and it wasn’t until we sat down and talked to Alyshia that it happened. She pushed for it – she said ‘Let’s just do it’.”

The name is a hark to youthful enthusiasm, idealism and a touch of inexperience, an ethos which the team embody thoroughly.

“Because ‘salad days’ essentially means your heyday – I wanted this to be my salad days,” says Nicole. “I wanted this to be a time in my life where I reminisced as the highest potential in my life.”

“Also having kind of a light name is really good for the space,” Alyshia adds. “We want everyone to be welcome and then also to allow multi-disciplinary art – and we want to represent everyone from everything. We don’t care about your background or what group you’re from – it doesn’t matter. ”

“We’re not just artists running an artist space,” Nicole believes.

“We’ve got connections from completely different art worlds, so we can pool that together and do something different here. We’re not just focusing on art, we want to have entertainment too – we’re basically a community space. We want people to come and say ‘Hey, I want to do this’, and we want to always say yes.”

“We’re just really encouraging of anything,” she continues. “We want to constantly see different kinds of art.”

“We do it through selfish motives,” Alyshia laughs. “We just want art to come to us.”

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The trio emphasise that they don’t want to pigeonhole themselves as a venue.

“We want to be accessible to everyone, we want to appeal to everyone. That’s why we have constantly rotating exhibitions, so we can reach as many people as possible.”

When asked if there’s anything they don’t do, Nicole laughs.

“That’s what I mean – we don’t want to say no!”

“I want to be the space where someone who doesn’t really have the confidence to put their hand up and do a solo exhibition.”

“We really want to be the beginning ground,” says Alyshia. ”We want to combine emerging artists with people that are more established.”

Phebe Rendulic, professional photographer and founding member of all-female arts collectiveMidnight Snack Committee, emphasises the can-do attitude of the Salad Days team.

“The support that Salad Days give to artists is really quite special,” Phebe agrees.  ”You really feel like you’re in a welcome environment that will understand and encourage you.”

A multi-disciplinary artist herself, Phebe has been part of two Salad Days exhibitions so far – with photography and embroidery for the ’90s inspired ‘Teen Dreemz’ and snaps for ‘Disposable’, plus a prom-themed closing party – and says part of the reason she keeps returning  is they’re always open to exploring new ideas.

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They encouraged thinking ‘outside of the box’ and offered support and help in any way they could, to ensure we achieved our visions of what we were hoping to do.”

Artwork by Phebe Rendulic in current exhibition 'Disposable'.

There’s a perception that Adelaide is the ‘boring’ capital, but Nicole believes all of the new spaces cropping up around town are helping to make the city more interesting.

“So many people are leaving because it’s ‘not exciting’,” she says.

“I have a friend who moved to Melbourne, but he’s moving back to Adelaide because there’s so much stuff going on at the moment,” Nick comments.

“I think where Peel Street’s going, and Leigh Street, the bar culture that’s starting, that’s really good,” Nicole says. “I think that’s really encouraging, and it’s going to start taking over a bit more.”

“I love how it’s more than just a cold white room,” Phebe agrees. “There are a lot of exciting art spaces popping up around town and Salad Days is such a welcome addition.”

The artistic potential for the space is almost tangible, so it’s no surprise the trio say they’re looking at getting involved with the 2014 Fringe, as well as finding a warehouse to house bigger shows that can’t be represented in the current space.

“We  also want to have art exhibitions on as well as live performances so there’s this kind of constant stimulus,” adds Alyshia. “Because multi-disciplinary arts is the way of the future. What happens at the time is beautiful and we just love whoever applies.”

“A lot of people are telling us that it’s about time that we did it,” Nicole says. “That something like this needed to happen. Which means the world really.”

And – speaking on behalf of Adelaide – we’re damn glad it did.

You can find Salad Days Inc. at 21 Gilbert Place, Adelaide (just by The Pancake Kitchen), or track them down on Facebook here.

Published at XXIV Magazine.

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