Samuel O’Donnell: “It really means a lot for someone to take interest in your work.”
Sam O'Donnell is a painter and part-time church leader in Glasgow. He approached us with a promising community project: opening a gallery space in the city centre, to exhibit local painters.
Wed 06 Sep, 2023
Thanks to Sputnik Patrons, we’ve given a grant to painter Sam O’Donnell. Alongside pursuing his own craft, Sam is a part-time church leader in Glasgow, and he approached us with a promising community project: opening a gallery space in the city centre, to exhibit local painters. We’re supporting the launch exhibition, ‘Opening’, which runs from 15th to 29th September. We asked our friend Katrina Moss—who runs the Chaiya Arts Award—to speak to Sam about how this project came about.
We love the idea of Adelaide Place church giving part of their building over to the broader creative community. As Sam says, getting exhibited in a professional gallery space means a lot to an artist, and the spirit of generosity here exemplifies what Sputnik is about. If that inspires you too, why not join Patrons scheme for as little as £5/month.. and we can give out more micro-grants to artists like Sam, who are busy blessing the place they live.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi, I’m Sam O’Donnell, I live up in Glasgow. I’ve been here for about 10 years now; I’m from Manchester originally, and I moved here to study at Glasgow School of Art. I’m a painter, but I’m also on staff here at a city centre church called Adelaide Place Baptist Church. So I paint part-time and work for the church part-time.
So tell us a bit more about the project that Sputnik is helping to fund.
So, I’m going to be launching a new gallery space, here in the church building. It’s going to be called ‘A Place’ gallery. Sputnik is helping with the launch exhibition, the first exhibition of the gallery, from the 15th to the 29th of September.
It’s coinciding with the Doors Open Days festival that happens in the city, where lots of buildings in the city are open to the public to explore. The exhibition has about 15 painters in it, who are based in Scotland or have significant ties to Glasgow.
The 15 artists that are taking part, are they artists that share your faith, or otherwise?
All the artists—they’re not people from the church, they’re all practising artists of varying degrees, people from all walks of life.
Are the exhibitions going to be based around a theme? And what was the catalyst behind the idea?
There’s no particular theme; this first exhibition is a group exhibition, just to get more people in the room, and get the gallery on the map a little. The idea in the future will be solo shows, with some of the artists I’ve already been talking to.
The impetus behind the galleries—it’s been a long road, an idea I’ve had for maybe 6 or 7 years. It’s coincided a little bit with what’s going on at the church, where we’ve recently completed some renovation works. So basically we have this room that’s off to the side of the church building, that’s not a liturgical space or a ‘worship’ space.
Like many artists I’m sure, straight after graduation I experienced very few opportunities. When things did finally come around, an exhibition or show I could be part of, it really meant a lot. It really means a lot to be approached, for someone to take interest in your work.
So I felt the church has the opportunity to do that, to offer something that’s generous to artists: to take interest in their work on their terms. And to do that with a gallery space that would be professional, that would make sense in the contemporary artist environment. To do that generously.
Everybody I’ve spoken to is so honoured and thrilled to be involved, so it’s been a really meaningful process.
I know from talking to artists that’s one of the hardest things—how you get connected to a gallery space, and get your work seen by a wider audience. I wondered how the church felt when you approached them about taking this space?
I’m lucky and privileged to be in a church that already values creativity and what creatives bring. I’ve been part of the church community about 10 years, and on staff for about 7 of those. My role has always been in the creative arts. So the church has already had an investment in that. And there’s always been an entrepreneurial spirit, to want to bless the city we’re part of.
So you do a mix of different styles in your own painting. What inspires your own personal creativity?
It maybe sounds strange to frame it this way, but one of the most important things for me is to make a commitment, and follow it through. When I was studying I felt like I had to make a decision to become a painter. Today there’s so many ways to be an artist, so many mediums you can work with. To make a decision to stick to one medium, and go the long distance in that art form – it’s quite a decision to make.
And so for me that’s then what inspires the creative field I’m in; I suppose I know what I’m there to do even when I’m not quite feeling it or if I don’t have any ideas. I know what I’m committed to, and that helps me to build the long distance.
In terms of my Christian faith as well, to make a lifelong step in faith is to make a decision in that way. So the things go hand in hand.