COMMUNITY AND PARTICIPATORY ARTIST, PROJECT PRODUCER
Artworks Alliance & Burnley Creative Alliance Member, Social Art Network GMcr Co-Host & Co-Convener
I aim to produce, deliver or contribute to socially engaged art projects which explore socio-political issues specific to a place and these can broadly relate to health, heritage, culture and nature. I am equally concerned with the ethos of ‘art for all’, engaging people who have no arts background to effect change in a community – large or small for the greater good.
I encourage appreciation and exploration of contemporary and participatory art techniques ranging from drawing and painting to photography and performance whilst incorporating approaches and strategies from ‘everyday’ life whilst simultaneously facilitating the exploration of creative potential and enhancing well-being through the art-making process.
Embedded within my practice are the principles of equality and advocacy; giving a voice to the unheard; illuminating the grassroots experiences of everyday people; providing a creative platform for people to explore, expose and challenge hierarchal and political structures, systems and policies.
I graduated from Staffordshire University with a degree in Fine Art in 1999, and pursued my goal to ‘take art to the people’ through a self- initiated voluntary placement of running a weekly art group for adults in alcohol & drug rehabilitation and as a volunteer for ‘Mind’. An initial pursuit of ‘Art Therapy’ as a career led me to complete a Foundation Course at Sheffield University. I then took up a number of positions in mental health, residential care and therapeutic support work before deciding to train as an Art Tutor in Further, Higher & Adult Education at Bolton University in 2003. This resulted in the delivery of a number of art courses for both young people with learning difficulties and physical disabilities at Tameside College and adult learners with varying needs in the community for The WEA and Bury Adult Education Service.
In an attempt to keep my art practice going, I rented a space at Bankley Studios, Manchester from 2003-2009. This was when the feeling I had first experienced at University, that I was never going to be an artist in the traditional ‘creating work in a solitary studio capacity ’was cemented.
Although I did exhibit work in each annual Open Studio Event, it was being a member of the core team who coordinated/delivered the annual community events that really got the fire in my belly burning! My time at Bankley firmly asserted that my creativity is ignited by people and that from now on my practice/work would always be in partnership with and for people. It also provided the opportunity to co-curate a number of exhibitions featuring internal and external artists.
From 2007 – 2018, I worked as a Community Arts Manager for a LEA where I built up a level of expertise in intergenerational arts provision, the delivery of primary school art projects, delivering presentations at conferences and specialist training for educational colleagues. Since then, I’ve been on an inspiring journey researching Social Practice Theory, attending conferences, events and tapping into relevant arts organisations to develop as a socially engaged practitioner.
I’ve started 3 initiatives in my local town which responded to the sober findings of a Research Report produced by Lancaster University in 2018. The first was an intergenerational workshop in May 2019 (as part of Get Creative and Age of Creativity Festivals) to begin the creation of ‘Haslingden – The Great Townscape‘, followed by a 2nd workshop at the annual street fair in September, a 3rd in February half term and the 4th originally scheduled for the VE Day Street Party which was cancelled due to lockdown.
The 2nd ‘Your Words, Your Portrait, Your Vision’ was started in Sept. 2019 and invites local residents to sit and read through the council’s 2040 vision plan to re-vamp Haslingden before voicing their opinions on the content and what their own vision would be, whilst I draw their portrait.
The 3rd ‘Haslingden – Looking Out, Looking Good’ was a creative reaction against being confined due to COVID-19 and invited local residents to up-cycle their non-recyclable plastic into art by drawing the views from their windows with the aim to create multiple viewpoints of the town we inhabit.
I have delivered art workshops for Active Streets, Burnley in 2019 and 2020, delivered the 150th Anniversary Project for The Together Trust as 1 of 7 Lead Artists in 2020, initiated my own inter-generational project ‘Artful Generation’ and was invited to work on the ‘Together An Active Pendle’ Project at In-Situ, Brierfield in 2020 which is currently ongoing.
I have also received a Micro-Commission from Heart of Glass, St. Helens which explored the concept of care during the Coronavirus Pandemic. In Nov. 2019, I became a Part-time Tutor in ‘Art for Wellbeing’ for Lancashire Adult Learning.
As Autumn 2020 approaches, the next project in the pipeline is a ‘Pilot’ Youth Art Collective for young people aged 14-19 living in Haslingden. I have also been invited to deliver the community workshops component of The National Lottery Heritage Project ‘Shining a Light on Haslingden’s Heritage’.
Thanks for reading and watch this space!