106/365: future transport hub

We’ve been busy in the Atelier again today! To see the future “airport” in colour and to read the description, click on my Flickr link here.

Heart of Glass

This month I was invited to develop and lead a session for Heart of Glass which has been programmed by artist and creative producer Claire Weetman and funded by ACE's Creative People and Places. Heart of Glass is a programme of creative activities in St Helens, Merseyside, which takes place in public spaces and community venues across the town. Claire has invited artists to respond to the locality, based on their own practice and interests.

I initially met Claire in St Mary's Market, in the local shopping centre in St Helens, where Heart of Glass have set up a creative base below Platform Studios, who occupy the former market offices. We spent some time talking about the programme, walking through the markets and also popped into St Helen's World of Glass museum.

I was immediately struck by the huge market windows overlooking the glass museum and, following my interest in colour, light and transparency, I decided to develop a session that would encourage participants and passers-by to respond to the window space.

As part of the session for young people and also a fortnightly family art club, participants were invited to work with a range of materials to create artworks that could be added to the windows or taken away. The installation grew as I worked alongside artist/producer Jacqui, assistant and promoter Ant, and some very enthusiastic children and young people who took a roll of electrical tape for a walk along the windows. It was lovely to see the layers of colours and lines appearing on the glass over the the outside views. We had a range of colourful, semi-transparent images, abstract designs, 3D forms (including post boxes!), paths, lines and kaleidoscopic images produced. Such a lovely venue and great people to work with.

Check out their flickr feed here!  

Summer in the City

It may be September tomorrow and also the end of another non-existent summer but, despite the rain, overcast skies and waterproof clothing, there were some non-weather-related things worth hanging around for this summer!
 

Here are my Top 5 magic summer workshop moments:

 

1. Watching this boy, his Mum and little brother spend hours in the Atelier at the Whitworth, as they played and constructed with paper together. They made sculptures, drawings, body armour, headwear, paper cuts and then finally a kite which was flown in the Art Garden outside the studio. 

 

2. Observing young children and their adults as they took the time to simply stop and enjoy the views out of the window overlooking the Calder weir, outside the Hepworth Wakefield.

 

3. Dreaming up ideas, setting up for and watching my summer 'takeover' unfold at Manchester Art Gallery as participants responded to Kandinsky's colour-shape theory and immersed themselves in some proper primary colour magic. It was lovely to work with such an ace, supportive team too. Please read the previous blogpost for more details!

 

4. Watching Toby and his Nan bond with lots of fun and laughter as they explored the concept of balance in numerous ways, as part of the Hepworth Wakefield's Toddler Tuesday session.

 

5. Welcoming children of all ages into the Atelier every Monday to vote for their favourite artworks and work in their own unique ways as they formed connections with themes like the Possibility of Paper and Printed Patterns.

 

6. Ok, I know I said Top 5 but I can't resist adding the classic boy-with-a-colander-on-his-head photo. He walked around the studio for 10 minutes shouting, "Mummy, I'm here. Look!" as he hid behind the colander after having clanged it around on the stone floor for a further 10 minutes to explore what noises he could make. The colander revealed a lovely, cheeky face complete with a fully-fledged charcoal beard.

Reflektor

It's reflection time! Here are some pictures from my July and August sessions in the Clore Art Studio. They show some crafty ways we've been working with small geometric-shaped mirrors in addition to the coloured paper shapes and plinths in the Clore!

Tate: Mondrian Mohamedi Online Resource

I've just created a fun online resource for children and families to use together as a way to understand and interpret the abstract artworks of Piet Mondrian and Nasreen Mohamedi. The Mondrian / Mohamedi exhibition is on at Tate Liverpool until the 5th October. 

The activity pack is now available from the Tate website. To view and download a copy, click here

A Space for Curiosity and Free Play

After a long period of planning, research, studio time, workshops, material sourcing, installation, documentation, delivery and reflection (phew!), I am uploading my experience of working on the new Clore Art Studio at Manchester Art Gallery. Working in collaboration with fellow artists (and partners in crime) Sarah Marsh, Katy McCall and Family Learning Manager Alex Thorp, we created and produced the Clore Art Studio, a playful, interactive space which took initial inspiration from Grayson Perry's current exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences. For more information about the exhibition click here. The process behind Grayson Perry's work can also be viewed in his Channel 4 documentary In the Best Possible Taste (still available online on 4OD). 

Our brief was not to develop a direct interpretation or response to Grayson Perry's tapestries. Nor was it about creating a learning experience that attempted to 'educate others' and explain the concepts, processes and ideas behind Grayson Perry's work. It was more significant for us to respond as individual artists, distilling visual or aesthetic elements of Perry's work which related to our own practice and interests.

In addition, the intention was to create a space that would provide opportunities for free play, open-ended interaction, conversation and inter-generational activity, whilst at the same time making connections to Grayson Perry's exhibition in the neighbouring gallery . 

To develop this space, Sarah and I initially tested out our creative ideas and activities on a class of 5-6 year olds from St Augustine's Primary School, Monsall, Manchester. Workshops took place over one week, allowing us to develop themes, processes and a wish list of materials, resources and structures. Sarah was interested in 'lines' and I focused on the interplay of objects, colour and sorting. These themes were all pulled out as conceptual strands from Grayson Perry's tapestries, during our initial planning meetings.

As the week of research progressed, we began to understand the ways children could totally pull apart, deconstruct and re-figure a theme or idea! With this in mind, we needed to create a space that could provide endless opportunities for interaction with a number of robust, appealing objects and materials within an equally engaging, unbreakable installation framework. At this point, Katy came on board to lend her wisdom to the positioning and installation of tables, storage, furniture and objects. 

The end result was a deconstructed version of Perry's world of furniture and colourful, domestic objects in a vibrant, quirky installation. In his work, Perry suggests that different household objects and interiors are indicators of a particular class taste and identity, but what happens when children are placed into such a space? At what age does a child begin to demonstrate a sense of taste and a preference for one item over another?  And why? Would children even place such meanings and values over a particular object or would their response be completely 'innocent' and untainted in relation to adult-oriented notions of class taste and identity? 

In the Clore, a storage unit fashioned out of reclaimed deep, blue crates displayed an arrangement of enticing, colourful, domestic, pound shop items, textiles and ribbons laid out ready for play. White, deconstructed furniture provided a framework for play and interaction within the space. Opposite, a drawing table was laden with silverware and looping lines of words, which encouraged people to look at and choose objects to draw in a continuous line. Meanwhile, key words were positioned around the space, prompting action: wrap, stack, sort, shadows, line, patterns, twist, weave, hide, same, different, etc. Meanwhile, on the side walls, photographs of children from St Augustines were displayed, facing old TV monitors with films of children playing within the studio space.

To follow-up on the installation of the space, we were invited to facilitate artist-led interventions within the studio during the weekends, while a team of volunteers were trained to maintain and run the space throughout the week. The studio became a lively, popular place for visitors of all ages and many observations were kept of the variety of weird and wonderful interactions and happenings witnessed over the four months! All in all, it was a rather, wacky, ambitious and fun project to be involved with, once the inital stress of rushed installation deadlines was out of the way!! 

For more information, see Manchester Art Gallery's Studio Sketchbook blog. Click here for a write-up by Alex Thorp and also click here for my Top 10 observations working in the Clore!

Our Exhibition, Tate Liverpool

Working as Early Years and Families Learning Curator at Tate Liverpool alongside my job-share Katy McCall, I have been involved in developing an Early Years partnership project with two local children's centre community groups in Liverpool. After a year of the project, we hosted an exhibition which showcased the different ways we have so far worked with young children, their adults and artists at Tate Liverpool. Our research question is 'how do we make visible children's learning at Tate Liverpool'?

The exhibition took place in the Art Dock studio and was open to the public for a week in June. It featured artworks made by the children, insightful quotes, documentation of the project and interactive, playful exhibits that visitors could engage with. The event was opened as a celebration day for all the children, staff and parents who participated in the project. 

Here's a glimpse of the exhibition during a quiet interval after the crowd of children and parents had left...

To see a video that show what I've been up to working both as Artist-Educator and EYF Learning Curator, click here and scroll down to Tate Liverpool's video!  

Mini Art Club at 60

Mini Art Club at Manchester Art Gallery is still going strong at 60! Well, it's probably a lot more than 60 as we actually run the same session twice every second Friday of the month. The session has certainly evolved and progressed since I first started running the session in June 2008 ... that's five years ago!

Here are a selection of pictures taken from Mini Art Club over the past few months. Sessions responded to Cyprien Gaillard's video The Smithsons, Kelley Walker's Dreams Without Frontiers exhibition, Paul Nash's Nocturnal Landscape and Marion Adnan's The Living Tree. We incorporated themes such as 'cityscapes', grids, musical dimensions and surrealist landscapes and dream spaces. 

Many thanks to everyone who helped support and run each large-scale installation and session.

Click here for the latest on Manchester Art Gallery Family workshops.

'What is Home?' Installation at the Avents Factory

Here are some lovely pictures taken of an installation space produced with young people from Crewe YMCA at the Avents Factory, Axis Centre, MMU Crewe last Saturday. Our installation responded to the question 'What is Home?' and took plenty of hard work to fill a large drama studio space at the Axis Centre.

The project aimed to invite people to participate in a workshop led by Crewe YMCA, asking participants to think about different aspects of 'home' and what it means to them.

Groups of up to 20 participants entered the workshop space and after the last workshop, we had just under two hours to turn the space into an installation complete with a film of the day by Mark Haig. The installation featured a 'shadow wall' entrance into our space, a comfy living room area complete with sound recordings, smells and people's memories, a 'dream couch' area filled with origami, a candle-lit washing line with life tips and advice, a large painting of people's ideas about where they see their future home, and a life-size shelter in which people had answered the question 'what is home?'

Despite the long days and sleepless nights thinking about what I needed to do and waking up early to write lists, I really enjoyed working on the project. I think we really managed to pull the installation together through good ideas and team work, even though we had very little time to get things done!

Here's a big, homely thank you to the young people, Chad Healey and Rachel Miller at Crewe YMCA for all their great ideas and hard work. Thanks also to Mark Haig for creating the film and making and manning a Punch & Judy set last minute! Also thanks to the technicians for helping us sort out the space and finally many thanks to Paul Hine for inviting me to be part of his Avents Factory.

Links:

http://www.theaventsfactory.org/index.html

http://www.creweymca.com/

http://www.axisartscentre.org.uk/home/

http://www.myspace.com/video/mark/mark-haig-applied-visual-artists-showreel/17902148