Monday, March 25, 2013

Paper Thoughts

Back in the summer, while doing my residency in Japan, I was really interested to hear about the trajectory of Paper gallery in Manchester. They seemed to explode onto the North West's art scene, immediately getting a lot of attention by doing really well at Manchester Contemporary. I really like the simplicity of their idea for an artist led space, and so responded to the call that was out in the summer. Each show is called Paper: _____ the one on at the moment is Paper: Copy and includes artists working with photocopiers, to produce multiples from an original.
After I sent in my expression of interest in the summer Nicola Smith, one of the co-founders of the gallery got in touch about an exhibition that she is working on, Paper: Perform, which will look at the currency of performance art, and documentation.
I went to Manchester this weekend to meet Nicola, have a look at the gallery, and see what might be of interest in the local area to work with.
I am still thinking a lot about using flowers and ikebana to talk about space, and how it is governed and developed in cities, and so went along with that in mind.
Nicola took me around the local area, pointing out the beautiful red brick building opposite, which used to be the sorting art springs to mind. We met Christine Lawley who has a studios in the building, she had grown up in the area and said that it's a fantastic part of Manchester, she said they had not realised that the sorting office was such a fantastic colour, as it had been black with pollution. She also said her school had been nearby, but that it's a car park now. She also pointed out how close we were to Strangeways.
Paper and Mirabel studios (where paper is located) are new to the area, but since they opened, a sushi bar has opened around the corner...gentrification is already beginning. I am keen to pick up on the way that this works. The Mirabel building is just off Deansgate really, so why has it taken so long for development to begin. I want to express the way that an art space affects is locality. I suddenly realised while I was there that there is a real correlation between the way that invasive weeds like buddleia find thetiny gaps and bits of overlooked fertile ground and grow there, and that this is exactly what artists do too. We operate in the forgotten places, and demonstrate value, we make something out of nothing, and slowly views change of an area.
I began to think that for Paper: Perform, I should do something that leaks out of the gallery, into the nooks and crevices of the streets outside of paper, populating the gaps, and letting people know that paper is there.
I am thinking of making a kit, so that people can make their own paper buddleia, to put on the streets outside of the gallery. I am also thinking of a walk from Manchester Piccadilly to Paper, noticing all of the evidence of weeds on the way. I would like to do something involving an ikebana demonstration, but I am not sure how it fits with the other ideas. I have also found myself buying a load of wild flower cigarette cards since getting back from Manchester, not sure why, but I am sure it will all make sense by June.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

WEA Health Leaflets

Just before Christmas I had a phone call from Janet Henson from the Worker's Education Authority. The WEA was set up in 1903 to support the educational needs of working men and women, and since then has been committed to providing lifelong learning. I really support what they do, and think they provide fantastic and important opportunities for people of all ages in the UK.
I noticed that with the cuts happening across the city of Stoke-on-Trent, with quite a lot of public service buildings closing, the WEA's classes and reach had been affected.
Janet was ringing up with a query about finding an artist to work with the WEA to create leaflets for their classes, as during these times of swingeing cuts, having good attendance numbers is more important than ever. Janet said that the Bentilee group had been fundraising, and had managed to raise £160 to pay someone to make them a advertising poster, but that this would also need to pay for the printing costs. I said I would be happy to work with the learners to design their own poster, as I didn't think they would be able to afford to pay a designer and afford printing costs: and so I went along to their Christmas party to meet them, and discuss initial ideas. Then just after Christmas I went along to their class.
We started by looking at some other gym posters for ideas and then answering questions about what attracts each of them to come to the class, and what benefits they could identify from being there. They then each had to come up with possible slogans for the poster.
After that we got up and did some light exercise, as an opportunity to take some photographs of the group. Over the two meetings I got a good idea of what the group wanted, and then went away to put it all together.
Once complete the poster went back to them for feedback, and final alterations were made.
They were really pleased with it, as were the WEA.
Later Janet got back in touch to say one of the other groups had seen the poster, and one of their learners had been inspired to make their own version, based on the Bentilee group's design. Here is what Janet said:
'Hi Anna, please have a look at the attachment . One of our WEA volunteers has made a flyer, for the YMCA class,modelled on your flyer. She took her own photo's and put it together. I think she has done a wonderful job. You have inspired learners to have a go.'
Janet then asked if the design made for Bentilee could be rolled out across the 20 classes in the area - which it will be. 
I was really pleased to work with the WEA gym Bentilee on this. I don't often offer my skills for free, but for something like this I was really happy to.