Over the past few months I’ve been working on finishing up a really special project, working alongside students from Furness Academy and the team at Art Gene as part of a wider research programme led by the University of Central Lancashire. Delayed and postponed on a variety of occasions since 2020, it’s felt wonderful to finally get this one out in the world.
As part of the project’s delivery which has included numerous workshops hosted in person, online, out in situ on Walney and back in the art centre before making a final procession through the town centre and arriving at Barrow’s absolutely magnificent Town Hall, the conclusion of the project is now being marked as part of a group touring exhibition, visiting sites and community spaces connected to the various projects across the North West of England.
The overall programme of artist-led projects looked to explore the impact of creative workshops working with young people, and the ability to affect local decision making in relation to their local environment, more about each of the art projects involved available on their website here
Specifically, my work with Furness Academy was a journey where we set off to learn together, exploring the gaps in our knowledge and experiences, celebrating the voices and opinions of the participants, and supporting them to experiment and grow their confidence. Inspired by local environments and landscapes, we developed a shared visual language through collage, typography and printmaking techniques – and the final artwork took the form of a collective action, as the group helped to carry the banner I had constructed from all of their works through the centre of Barrow alongside members of the local council.
I’m incredibly proud of the work put in by the group – they all had to grow out of their comfort zones, test their knowledge, confidence and skills and re-learn where the edges of art and creative activity might be. Inspiring confidence, encouraging opinions and individual development, over the course of a few short sessions together.
The project was only possible thanks to the support of the Art Gene team, members of staff at Furness Academy for championing the project and supporting all the logistics required (and on top of that, all out the back of a world-changing pandemic), the wonderful guys at Theatre Factory for sharing some of the learning with us, members of Barrow Town Council for welcoming us and of course the good folk at the University of Central Lancashire. All images with thanks and credit to Kirstin McEwan.
The exhibition contents will vary from site to site depending on space availability at each venue, but wonderful that the works can continue to visit, and hopefully influence, communities and decision makers. Alongside the exhibition, we’ve also created worksheets that people can download and take part in as part of the programme. You can have a go at mine by downloading a copy here and if you do, drop me a line letting me know how you got on?