Its mission being Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments, SPACES is a non-profit organization, founded in 1978 by Seymour Rosen (1935-2006), a US west coast photographer who was one of the first to document and raise interest in creative expressions outside the institutional framework of mainstream art ¹.
Fascinated by the "magical world created from what most other people would consider junk", as Rosen said, he spent some fifty years in documenting and photographing environmental and other creations with a folk character, organising expositions, writing, campaigning.
He took part in the committee that in the late fifties succesfully opposed the demolition of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers, as proposed by Los Angeles authorities ².
Seymour Rosen's legacy of documents and pictures is at the core of the SPACES archive, that in the course of the years considerably has grown in size. Directed by Jo Farb Hernandez, the organisation nowadays can be seen as the leading one in documenting and otherwise supporting the field.
With the recent publication of the renewed version of its website, SPACES demonstrates not just its potential of making information about art environments availabe to a large public in a contemporary, interactive way, it also -in accordance with Seymour Rosen's view- expresses its commitment to support an international approach.
I wholeheartedly endorse such an international approach, and I am honored I could cooperate in delivering material on art environments in Europe, in favor as I am of approaching these phenomena not just on a national, but also on a european and an international level.
In Europe various initiatives indicate a growing interest in a systematic documentation and study of art environments - for example in Italy the Costruttori di Babele project and the Osservatorio Outsider Art (Palermo University), in Spain the Bric-à-Brac/Revista Sans Soleil, in France the Patrimoines Irréguliers de France, in Finland the Union for Rural Culture and Education.
A nice task for the European Outsider Art Association to unite these -and comparable- projects into a european platform?
¹ When Rosen in 1988 visited France, he was interviewed by french art writer Laurent Danchin. The text of this interview (in french) is on his Mycelium website.
² Rosen's pictures for a 1962 exposition in Los Angeles about the towers are on line