We Face Forward - 'Rags to Riches' @Manchester Art Gallery, Part 1

Phew... I'm on a roll! Here's a selection of images taken in the 'Rags to Riches' summer family workshops at Manchester Art Gallery as part of the We Face Forward festival across Manchester.

Inspired by Nnenna Okore's artwork 'When the Heavens Meet the Earth', we have been challenging ourselves to transform waste materials into wondrous works of art. Okore uses a range of natural materials which she deconstructs, decays, dyes, reforms, etc. She works with natural materials such as paper, clay, burlap and natural dyes.

Over the past couple of weeks in the gallery, we have been focusing on line and form, producing drawings and experimenting with newspaper in the gallery in front of the artwork. Downstairs we've been working with a range of waste materials to create colliograph prints. We also had a lot of fun exploring different ways to shape clay using key words as prompts... what fun!







We Face Forward: Magic Materials - 'Mini Junk Palace'

It's been a long and colourful week working on our Junk Palace project at Manchester Art Gallery!

Drawing inspiration from We Face Forward artist Pascale Marthine Tayou's 'Poupées Pascales' - 16 unique dolls hidden all around the art gallery for this summer's 'We Face Forward'- we created two exciting studio spaces for participants to explore the world of found objects and materials in novel and interesting ways. I worked alongside visual artist Sarah Marsh and fashion designer Mary Ononokpono of Mononoko fashion to develop the concept for the workshop. We came up with some excellent ways of fashioning plastic bags, newspaper, old electronic parts and west african fabrics into chunky accessories, jewellery and other such wonderful forms!

I also tailored the session to create today's Mini Art Club - Mini Junk Palace for little ones aged 0-5 years, to explore a beautiful, colourful, tactile environment. A big thanks to artist & filmmaker Jess Wild for supporting today's session along with volunteers Liz and Sabeena. Also thank you to Jali Nyonkoling Kuyateh for playing the Kora and lending us one of his CDs to fill the Junk Palace with beautiful music!









Mini Art Club April - 'Shadow Land' (Inspired by Roger Ballen)

After 2 weeks of 'Colour Pop' workshops (see previous post), colourful prints were stripped off the studio walls and replaced with clean layers of black & white paper for Mini Art Club - how different it looked!

Families followed a trail up to Roger Ballen's beautifully rich black & white square-formatted photographs in the current 'Shadow Land' exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. Despite the slightly dark, adult-themed nature of Roger Ballen's work, families with young children responded well to his photographs - making simple connections with textures, lines and imagery in photos in certain areas of the exhibition. Children particularly loved feeling feathers, twigs, drawing with wire and finding animals hidden in the photographs as well as in toy form on the gallery floor.

Downstairs, two studios were set up to recreate the rich aesthetic of Roger Ballen's photos as children were invited to explore textures of key materials and, also, shadow and light on a large scale.






Colour Pop at the Royal Children's Hospital Manchester - Culture Shots week

I've had a great day playing with colour in the atrium of the Children's Hospital Manchester, as part of the +Culture Shots week!

Working with artist and Culture Shots volunteer Louisa Hammond, on behalf of Manchester Art Gallery, we invited people to have a go at playing with coloured acetate on the windows in the main entrance of the hospital. The idea behind Colour Pop comes from previous workshops, playing with acetate on windows as part of the 'Interactive Laboratory' and 'Imagine' - Anish Kapoor weekend sessions at the gallery (to see examples, click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michikofujii/5525858773/in/photostream ).

The idea behind Colour Pop was simply to use the amazingly tall hospital windows, as a natural light box, upon which to place the acetate colours. As the sun began to move around the building in the afternoon, the most amazing colourful glow began to stream through into the waiting area, bathing visitors and patients in colourful light and projections. The acetate could be cut up and used as a way of creating colourful lines, images or abstract compositions. All ages took part, including a group of 30 children and their carers from the hospital nursery. We had quite a few compliments from staff, visitors and parents who enjoyed looking at and through the colourful windows... we also had a request to leave it up for the whole week!

Click here to listen to the Colour Pop audioboo: http://audioboo.fm/boos/658728-colour-pop


+Culture Shots is an innovative initiative of creative activities run by different cultural institutions across Manchester, taking place in all of the 5 Manchester Hospitals this week. Click here for more info:


Culture Shot blog: http://www.healthandculture.org.uk

Twitter (for audio boos): http://twitter.com/health_culture

'The Guardian':  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/feb/08/art-hospital-trust-culture-wellbeing

Manchester Art Gallery: http://www.manchestergalleries.org/whats-on/culture-shots/

Manchester Art Gallery Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150831844424128.511346.68496394127&type=1

Louisa Hammond: http://louisahammond.tumblr.com/

Lime Art: http://www.limeart.org/


'Light Trails' - Mini Art Club, Manchester Art Gallery

Mini Art Club is a monthly session for children aged 0-5 and their parents / carers at Manchester Art Gallery. It runs as 2 sessions from 10.15am - 11.15am and 11.30am - 12.30pm every 2nd Friday of the month. The aim of the club is to encourage young children and their adults to creatively explore and respond to artworks, spaces and materials both in the gallery and in the learning studio. Mini Art Club has really grown as a project space for working creatively with young children and their adults, mainly through:

good team work, careful planning, time and space to set things up, making observations, documenting sessions, reflection, evaluation, paying attention to details and maintaining a desire to keep things fun, child-led, family-friendly and innovative (phew!)

We've also tried to develop new ways to engage with artworks and gallery spaces, so that families/carers with young children can feel comfortable visiting the gallery. The aim is not to simply make and take something home, it's all about having the time and space to play, explore, encounter, discover, engage the senses, get messy, have fun and develop new expressive vocabulary.

Looking through my photos, I realised I have been developing and delivering Mini Art Club since 2008. This month it'll be our 43rd club! I was going to wait until the 50th club to blog about it but I'm a little impatient so I thought I'd make a start now!

Please click on the link (below) to see the wonderful Mini Art Club film created by filmmaker and fabulous Mini Art Club Assistant, Jessica Wild (Wild Bees Production). Jess filmed our recent 'Light Trails' Mini Art Club session and created this wonderful video clip. Also here are some stills from the session:

In this session we asked families to explore the light and dark spaces of the Craft & Design Gallery, using torches and coloured acetate to find objects, shadows and different light features on the top floor of the Art Gallery. We then invited everyone to explore a specially created light laboratory in Studio 1, where there were a number of materials to explore (touch, crawl into, shine torches through, hide behind, etc). In Studio 2, we also played music in a fairly dark, empty space with a small blue-light projection screen, which provided the opportunity for families to interact with each other, move around, dance with torches, listen, look and just enjoy spending time together relaxing:

Please click here for the Mini Art Club film: http://vimeo.com/30916255

For Mini Art Club 'Light Trails' stills, please see the pictures below!

Related links:








http://www.earlyarts.co.uk/ http://culturebaby.co.uk/


Pre-Raphaelite Experiment Project videos - currently being exhibited at Manchester Art Gallery

Just a quickie... To see the video for the Pre-Raphaelite Experiment project, worked on with Crumpsall Sure Start Children's Centre and Manasamitra, click here:


It's currently being exhibited in Gallery 6, First Floor of Manchester Art Gallery, along with other project work!


Also, please click on this link to see this lovely video of work carried out in the Far, Far Away story world / exhibition space during the summer:



The Pre-Raphaelite Experiment - Beginnings of a Visual Arts & Dance Project, Manchester Art Gallery

Playing with Paper

Playing with Paper

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working alongside dancer Shrikant Subramaniam from the Yorkshire-based artist-led organisation Manasamitra, to develop and deliver a project at Manchester Art Gallery. Combining my passion for exploring, manipulating and playing with paper and Shrikant's exploration of dance, we aim to work with a group of young children (0-2 years) and their parents and carers, to develop and perform a visual story in response to a selected Pre-Raphaelite painting.

Currently showing at Manchester Art Gallery, The Pre-Raphaelite Experiment is an evolving exhibition project space, which aims to re-interpret key Pre-Raphaelite paintings from the gallery's permanent collection, through the eyes of Manchester residents. It seeks to question whether paintings such as William Holman Hunt's 'The Hireling Shepherd' (1851), James Collinson's 'Anwering the Emigrant's Letter' (1850),  John Everett Millais' 'Autumn Leaves' (1856) and Dante Gabriel Rosseti's 'Bower Meadow' (1850-72) are still relevant to today's audiences. It also attempts to focus on the radical spirit of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings and examine their concerns in relation to modern society, depicting landscapes and remaining true to nature. To visit the gallery page click here: http://www.manchestergalleries.org/the-collections/the-pre-raphaelite-experiment/

During our first meeting with the group of parents and children at Crumpsall Children's Centre, we introduced different visual art and movement activities. We also introduced the gallery and the Pre-Raphaelite paintings we would see through photographs and a short game. The following week the group visited the gallery for the first time and we were able to get a sense of their interests as they looked at different artworks. We were also able to gauge the young children's initial responses to the gallery spaces and artworks.

It was clear that Holman Hunt's 'The Hireling Shepherd' was a painting that the group found easiest to engage with, particularly as it is full of details and symbolism and was the most colourful and bright in the gallery space. The painting itself shows a young shepherd, perhaps hired help, who has abandoned his flock of sheep as he seems to flirt with a young maiden in a meadow. Perhaps he tells a superstitious tale, whilst holding a Death's-head moth close to the maiden. On one hand the young woman seems passive, on the other sceptical or suspicious. Meanwhile a lamb sits on her lap munching an apple, whilst the rest of the flock wander off into a corn field.

When stepping up close to the painting, we can see that Hunt wanted to idealise the English rural setting as the attention to details in nature are astonishing. Grass, plants, trees and flowers are painstakingly painted and the different animals (sheep, lambs, birds, insects) are as much part of the English countryside, as they are part of Hunt's symbolic criticism of the English church at that time. The scene itself seems rather chaotic and ambiguous as the sheep appear windswept and neglected and the relationship between the shepherd and the dishevelled maiden is unclear. What will the visiting group make of the story in the painting and how will this be interpreted by children of such a young age?

Shadows on the Run at The Bridgewater Hall

Urban Symphonies is a project led by Manchester Camerata at the Bridgewater Hall. Over the current season, Manchester Camerata worked with children and young people from across Greater Manchester to create an Urban Symphony inspired by the city's architecture. Different musicians and visual artists were asked to lead projects with local community groups, to create individual responses to the city's architecture.  The fifth and final movement used The Bridgewater Hall as its starting point, as each group was asked to respond to a different space within the Hall.

Working with a group of young people from Positive Moves, Irlam & Cadishead Youth Project and artist-teacher Jocelyn Arschavir, we created their response to the Undercroft – a dark and mysterious space hidden deep below the Bridgewater Hall auditorium.

Upon visiting the Undercroft, the group immediately noticed the contrast between this space and other parts of the building. The Undercroft provoked sensory and imaginary responses as the young people observed the contrast in light, sound, texture, temperature, surfaces and interiors to that of spaces upstairs. Thoughts of other worlds, science fiction, films, computer games and ghost stories were discussed and it was this rich imaginary response from the young people that we wanted to develop.

An Undercroft-inspired installation space was created back at the centre in Irlam, where the young people composed, performed and recorded their story. The aim was to playfully reveal a glimpse of imaginary stories and secrets from the hidden Undercroft space downstairs, as mischievous shadowy forms creep upstairs to capture the attention of visitors.

Photos were later printed onto acetate and exhibited in windows at the Bridgewater Hall. A silent movie created by the young people, called 'The Escapees', was also screened at the Hall as part of  a series of tours of the Final Movement 5 of Urban Symphonies.