On Thursday 16 April we hosted our first fortnightly virtual Project Night. KWMC has been running Project Nights for almost a year – these events provide a space for artists and makers creating work in community contexts to share ideas, get feedback on projects and meet each other. Virtual Project Nights are a little bit different in that they have a theme and include a different guest speaker each time, to help give focus in the virtual space.
The theme of this session was: ‘Ways to keep connected with communities during COVID-19 lockdown’.
We were joined by a group of artists and creatives who work with communities across the South West and guest speaker Kim Wide from Take A Part. Kim shared a presentation about Take A Part, an organisation based in Plymouth who ‘use creativity as a catalyst for social justice and community cohesion’ and talked more about their live Coxside Carnival artist commission . The deadline for expressions of interest for the carnival is Friday 1 May. You can watch Kim’s presentation below.
This was followed by an open conversation, with everyone sharing ideas for staying connected and telling us more about projects they are working on.
Here are some of the comments, ideas and project updates people shared:
– Megan Clark-Bagnall, inspirational socially engaged artist based in Knowle West, shared that her approach to engagement often springs from her personal passions and never assuming what people will be interested in. She explained:
“I don’t make serious art but I am very serious about making silly art” – I start at a point of silly because that’s what I’m into, and I make it clear, I’m not being silly or childish because I’m patronising the community or because I think that’s the right approach for YOU, it’s just because silliness is what I enjoy. It’s what I like so it’s what I’m bringing. So I start with that because that’s what I know and enjoy and it helps my own wellbeing to be silly and laugh. Then I usually ask a group to share with me the things they enjoy, and the collaboration begins that way…’’ She also shared that she has started a postcard pen pal exchange with another artist in her neighbourhood that she is really enjoying.
– Alison Neighbour‘s work is always beautifully tactile and about connecting people who aren’t online. Lately she has been creating paper zines to help people stay connected. The zines are designed to be posted with an invitation for people to fill in a part and then pass them on. The latest themes have been: ‘ritual’ and ‘moments of joy’. You can download a zine template HERE. Alison freely shares these for anyone who wants to do this on in their own community. ‘The more the merrier!’ she says.
– Maker and artist Ramona Bigwood shared that she has been taking friends who can’t go out for virtual walks using her phone. She also highlighted the creativity you can already find on the streets – for example the bin men wearing fancy dress costumes!
– Amy shared the great tip that the Children’s Scrapstore in Bristol have a ‘pay it forward’ scheme where you can pay £6 ahead for others who can’t afford to buy creative materials.
– Knowle West residents and members of the KWMC: The Factory Megan, Lucy and Hayley have been creating digital designs using the free software, Inkscape, which they can make when The Factory’s making space re-opens.
– Wisterlitz artists shared a sneak preview of a newly commissioned project, ‘Knitwitter’, where they will be working with people to encode messages into knitting during lockdown. They also explained that they’ve been sharing creative provocations with each other and playing with physical maps as a way of journeying without leaving your home. As well as noting how frustrating and tricky it is to play musical instruments over video calls!
– Natasha Watson, who creates community murals and is currently working on one for Filwood Community Centre, is starting to use Adobe tools as lots have been released for free for students during lockdown, as well as painting designs directly onto scanned images of buildings to make future mural proposals. She also commented that there don’t seem to be enough paid opportunities for emerging artists at the moment – mainly large commissions, which can feel daunting.
– Georgia, who works for In Between Time, shared that she has been working with artists to explore if and how research and development can be possible at the moment – asking the question: how can we do the initial groundwork of a project with people when not everyone has access to the digital world and inequalities feel increased?
Some people expressed a feeling of overwhelm about the amount of new cultural digital content being generated, feeling sick of the screen and frustrated with the digital tools at hand not being good enough.
There was a clear appetite for non-digital forms of connection and a renewed joy in the old-fashioned post! Everyone agreed the need to be sensitive to the amount of things people are juggling, to increase our compassion and patience and to take time to work out what we need and want. It was highlighted that now feels like a good time for reflection, research and to focus on health and wellbeing: a time to really see our neighbourhoods more and take time to notice.
People shared an excitement in discovering creative interventions in the landscape, whilst on daily walks, such as poems on trees or QR codes as a way for people to get a bit more creative and connected.
The Take A Part newsletter is jam packed with information and they have just created an open source document for people to share ‘NON-digital ways of engaging creatively in a COVID world‘ – including a few ideas from this Project Night conversation. Take A Part are also doing virtual studio visits and offering one-to-one producer support in exchange – find out more on their website.
The next Project Night will take place on Thursday 30 April from 6.30pm with the theme of: ‘Creative Digital Tools’. Our special guest Lily Green from No Bindings will share how she uses digital tools through her practice to creatively connect with communities.
If you would like to join the night, have any ideas of themes, would like to be a guest or have any other questions please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Night is part of the National Social Art Network: www.socialartnetwork.org