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Discovering Beauty In The Unseen

I came on board as the lead artist for the ‘Our Place’ project as it really appealed to me. I was invited for an interview. Crisis Members were on the panel as well which was interesting, and actually the hardest part of the interviewing process. I think, by involving them it gave an opportunity to ask the questions that mattered to them and they could find out what it was that they felt they would gain themselves by employing the person. It felt like a really crucial part of that process, that they’d put something into the process too, and made it part of their decision not just that of the management.

The project title was, ‘Our Place’ and It was about an exploration of what this building means to people. Quite a lot of people showed interest to begin with and in the classes, we just started going through ideas and thinking through possibilities. As it went on it became clear who was really engaged.

Crisis needed someone to cover for two of the other art classes, so I started coming in for those too and that meant that I could continue to have those conversations whilst doing the project. I’m still here doing two classes so it’s been really good for that, learning and meeting people while being part of the Art Room. Doing that has been a significant part in adding to the process of the project, and I think if I’d just been coming in for Our Place I think I wouldn’t have seen such a broad story.

Being part of the Art Room as well as coming in and doing the teaching has opened my mind to homelessness and what that broad term means. I think before I thought it was probably just simply being on the street which is part of it but it’s by no means the whole story.

One of the difficulties for somebody coming in suddenly to do an art project like this is that I think it takes a little time for certain people to get used to new people and new ways of working. It was probably the hardest part for me in the project, coming into the Art Room from not having worked in this sort of environment before.

I had a passionate want to be in this kind of environment from my past experiences, I had two alcoholic parents and had a pretty hard time with all of that, and I think having that sort of experience meant that I was coming at it from a certain level of understanding.

My own art work very much explores the underrepresented person. Including themes exploring mass atrocity and war, genocide and mass graves and that sort of thing. It’s underrepresentation, that unknown person, the overall personal story that I think has always interested me. The bigger stories that condense into something visual and not just a sort of representation of something. I think that’s what one member certainly picked up on in my work, and that led to them exploring conceptual ideas in their own work.

I started off with researching ideas, I looked through historical newspaper archives and printed off things like that just as a starting point for discussion between people. It was those sorts of conversations that started discussions about the building and then that led us to look at my own use of unusual materials in my work. I never really use materials in the way they were meant to be used, so I think it was that sort of thinking that led to one artist to use the dirt in the corners of the room as the basic material in their work.

Another of the participants was doing her own painting in one of the workshops, and just happened to be watching the paint that’d run down the sink, when she was cleaning off brushes or a palette. She got her phone and took some photographs of the paint running down the sink, and then printed it on the Crisis printers but sent it to a wrong printer so it wasn’t in colour, it was a black and white picture of paint running down a sink, but it dawned on us it didn’t look like paint running down a sink, it could have been anything, it could have been an aerial photograph of a dessert, it could be a landscape from space or it could be microscopic– you know there was no way of finding out – because there was no plughole, no edge it was just, dollops of paint.

That idea of the space and the place and you not necessarily knowing what it is or where it was even from, but the beauty in that, discovering beauty in the unseen. I think that’s a lovely representation of the people that are in the building. It’s those sorts of deeper ideas about looking a bit deeper, looking a bit harder and not dismissing something because of its label.

I can totally see how vital this space is for so many people. I think the Art Room and being in The Old Fire Station is a really wonderful place to be because you see such a broad spectrum of people and have amazing conversations with people that you know you wouldn’t get together in any other context. To be a safe place to just come, do whatever you want to do, explore, and walk out of your head for just, two hours and to use the room without being given any kind of labels.

It’s been a great experience for me, it’s something that I would certainly look at doing again for sure. There’s something very special in installing the work members did, more special even than doing your own exhibitions. Seeing the exhibition up, and just how proud the artists are of their work is so rewarding and the panel discussion on the opening night was really special, because that was when everybody said how they felt and you realise just how much it meant to everybody.

It really was powerful seeing how important art is I think art on any level can be really vital, and at a time when people are cutting the arts, it becomes more powerful still.

I’m over the moon and I think the artists are all completely over the moon too. I think it was a great opportunity for both myself and for them and I think the more people or more businesses like Crisis and The Old Fire Station recognise the benefits of these sorts of activities the better the world would be.


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