Art Paths empowers diverse visual artists with an aim of making the art world more accessible

Founded by James Childs in January this year, Art Paths' mission is to break down the historically elitist and exclusive art industry through a series of events and artist representation.

3 June 2021

A New Angle is an editorial series that aims to give a platform to creative industry changemakers who make it their mission to disrupt the status quo. Each week we’ll chat to a person or team doing important work in the sector, making it a fairer place, championing vital causes, supporting underrepresented groups and tackling pertinent issues facing creatives everywhere.

This week we hear from James Childs, the founder of Art Paths – a progressive agency that supports artists and strives to make the art world more accessible. Founded in January this year, Art Paths hosts a series of events like the art and music party Art Jam, hosted at Boxpark in London’s Shoreditch, as well as a quarterly event Art Box. Alongside this, it also represents nine artists and offers branding and marketing, cover art, editorial illustrations, murals and more. Above all, Art Paths aims to support and empower ethnically and socio-economically diverse visual artists, helping them gain recognition and financial reward for their work. Below, we chat with James to hear more about his inspiring work with Art Paths and what’s in store for the future, such as the upcoming Art Jam on 8 June at Boxpark, featuring a paint party, music and plenty of creativity.

It’s Nice That: What about the creative industry are you hoping to change and why does it need changing?

James Childs: The art world has historically had a reputation for being very exclusive, and elitist, where if you don't look the part you can feel unwelcome. I’d like to challenge this by empowering young, ethnically diverse visual artists, so that they are financially rewarded while they are alive and recognised for their brilliant work. I'd also like to raise the appreciation of art among everyday people; we see art every day, from our favourite album covers, book covers, billboards, in restaurants (like Nando's) and all of these encounters unconsciously play a role in enjoying our everyday lives a bit more by having something beautiful to look at and think about. Essentially, I'm here to empower artists and make the art world more accessible. 

INT: What have you built, and how does it tackle these industry issues?

JC: In January, I created the art agency Art Paths. We tackle the industry issues in three ways, through our events, Art Box and agency. We have our signature sip ’n’ paint event called Art Jam at Boxpark Shoreditch coming up on 8 June, where guests can paint, drink, listen to good music and overall have a fun time. In February, we launched our first and quarterly Art Box, designed by an artist we represent called TheRageArt and featuring art materials from art supplier GreatArt. Through our agency, we also represent a range of talented artists and offer services such as art for branding and marketing material, cover art for music, books, editorial illustrations and murals. We'll also be showcasing these artists in our end of year exhibition. Overall our events allow people to come and engage in the arts in a fun and social way. Our Art Box allows art to enter people's homes, creating a personal connection where they learn about art and our agency; we work on art projects that will have a larger impact in which communities, society and eventually the world can see and engage with. 

INT: What other organisations are out there like yours, and what sets yours apart?

JC: There are a few organisations looking to change the industry, but what sets us apart is that we take a holistic and progressive approach. A lot of organisations, such as galleries and universities, take a very traditional approach, which focuses a lot on selling artwork. This is good, however it ignores the wider audience of people who like art but may not regularly attend galleries, or they will attend a painting event or an exhibition featuring artists or art they can relate to. A lot of organisations don't build relationships with businesses that will commission artists for different art-based services. Other organisations we see making a difference is blankspace and Black Blossoms

INT: What are the major challenges you’re facing?

JC: As Art Paths launched this year, it is really new. As it is run by a small team, we're at the stage of getting our name out there, finding funding and building relationships, so our biggest challenge is the one any new business faces. Thankfully, we have a small name and have built some great relationships, so over time the more strategic we are with moving forward the more success we will see. 

INT: What can the creative industry do to support your mission?

JC: It's great that big platforms like It's Nice That have been showcasing opportunities such as A New Angle, as presenting the work of young and hungry new businesses is definitely a start. I also think there's value in supporting young diverse talent with a lot of potential, because many businesses in the creative industry want to go with what's safe – especially with commissioning work and collaborations. I understand that way of thinking but it takes away opportunities from those that need it the most, where the impact can be the biggest. Lastly, recognising that supporting and empowering Black artists or queer artists and fundamentally diverse artists shouldn't be limited to just one month or one occasion. I think the creative industry can work on eliminating tokenism and actually making a real long-term effort to support and empower diverse artists. 

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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