Artist Residencies

Artist Residencies

Every year professional artists with exceptional creative and community engagement skills are chosen to develop projects that encourage people, who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity, to take part in high-quality creative activities that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the city.  The residencies enable artists to share their skills with local people and to create a rich and diverse range of art by and for the local community. 

Artist residencies 2019 to 2020 

All our artist residencies take place in community settings and 2019 - 2020 was no exception.  Four individual projects were delivered in partnership with local groups and communities in Cruddas Park, Fenham, Lemington and the West End of Newcastle.

Due to COVID-19 we were unable to celebrate their achievements with the wider public until now. 

Newcastle Arts Team commissioned local writer and successful So Sally Plays blogger to use her passion for writing to review a series of films created by Northern Stars, Tyneside Cinema that captured participants journeys and progress beautifully during the residency programme. 

You can contact Beverley Knight through her website at sosallyplays.com or by following her on Twitter @bevnightsally or on Instagram @bbeverley_sosallyplays

Introducing artist residencies 

With encouragement, all of us possess the potential to express ourselves creatively, if only we let ourselves believe. Newcastle City Council's Arts Team have held this wisdom for many moons: not only the relief of being able to have a voice without using words to communicate prevalent issues but the opportunity to build communities, build relationships, build confidence. 

Each year the team, armed with passion, construct up to five residencies for five months to proudly rejoice in the cultural heritage of our city's diverse makeup. Venturesome, professional artists with a broad array of practices are chosen with care for each locality to commence their project, linking with community-based partners and residents who may not have access to exceptional artistic opportunities. 

Using the lead's expertise, the art produced holds aesthetic appeal with integrity, but that is merely the sail that tops a boat of newfound skills, friendship and purpose. A legacy shines through as, after the celebratory events, participants often continue their cultural voyage when the project has formally ended. But when all is said and done, heart is at the core, along with a nice cup of tea. 

Northern Stars filmmaker Alex Ayre captured the projects visually for others to understand the cause. Loyal to the industry, he trained at Tyneside Cinema as a young man, leading to the reputation he earned that gleams with professionalism and flair. Alex is blessed with a quality that puts participants at ease and proclaims that documentary is his favoured genre, so, was an expert match for the job. 

The areas covered change with each fresh cycle to spread a blanket of imagination to all corners. 2019/2020's round saw four individual projects completed in Fenham, Lemington, Cruddas Park and the West End. 

Belonging in Fenham

Plants are synonymous with new beginnings. In the right conditions underpinned with nurturing and attention, a luscious new can life grow and feel at one with our planet. This guidance can be applied to human beings. Fenham's offering was named Belonging, where Newcastle Treatment and Recovery Team and Newcastle Library Service partnered with Change Grow Live: a service that provides support and treatment for adults with drug and alcohol problems. If they wished, users of the service could participate as part of their recovery journey alongside folk in the community where CGL is based. 

Like a great many things, the creative process is just as valuable, if not more. Multi-talented artist Nicola Lynch- inventor of the famous Rye Hill Wallpaper - appreciated the freedom to explore the growth of self, development and the ability and faith that change can happen. An element that stoked her imaginative fires was having the chance to encourage tolerance and acceptance from others and the understanding that belonging can be achieved when all seems lost. 

Knowing how to build trust, Nicola and her student Jade Booth Malone organised drop-in sessions on Fridays, where everyone enjoyed a variety of craft. The footage then reveals several frames featuring an allotment that the ingenious creator was not aware of when she applied for the role. Although it was in a tired state, it soon became the focus of the work. The purpose was to transform it into a peaceful, meditative space, where one could take a deep breath with nature to aid healing. The group carefully considered what would be needed to achieve this, producing insect boxes, wind-chimes and mosaics. 

The focal point became a seating structure which they designed and made, with their geometric artwork entwined; meetings at the centre will be held there in fair weather. A tender moment is recorded when a gentleman discusses a painted container in the garden, another commanding highlight of the sanctuary, full of colour. A member of the group reveals that, along with new skills, the importance of teamwork is crucial. 

CGL key worker Wendy about summarises her overall experience: "Our allotment project has that sense of wellbeing but also physical activity as well. Being part of something that other people understand, and that's the whole point of the allotment, it's therapy really with a little bit of growing and physical, hard labour thrown in."

Fiona Hill, a service delivery specialist in Reading and Health evaluated: "The library team were delighted to be part of the Belonging Residency. The film captures perfectly the creativity of everyone taking part. This project is a great example of people connecting and bringing a community together. A remarkable achievement, well done to everyone involved."

There's no doubt that the garden will be used to it's full potential in the future, especially with the ownership felt by it's inventors, who leave the project with pride and self-worth.  As the closing shot showcases sunshine that warms the face before dusk, the art is there to acknowledge in plain site.  The start chair crafted glows, but knowing the story behind it makes its, and its producers' futures brighter.

Viva Las Cruddas

Here's the thing: there is simply no age limit on fun, enjoyment and a jolly good laugh; nourishment for the soul. And there is not a logical reason why art needs to be earnest at all times. Organisation Search declared their 40th anniversary of becoming a constituted charity in the west of Newcastle two years ago. They work tirelessly to decrease social isolation and loneliness through numerous inviting activities and offer a listening ear and individual support.

A new friendship group formed that enjoy each other's company at the socially conscious hub, Oasis Cafe. From consultation, it was recognised that this older generation desired new opportunities - particularly photography and music - to diversify into new territories. From the core collective fondly naming themselves the Rat Pack, this developed into the project's working title of The Flat Pack: breathing new life into locations. 

Visual and performance artist Karen Underhill is a storyteller at heart who created the thoughtful piece Wings of the Community, where many a selfie seeker has posed within. The video reveals that the members favoured the classic track Viva Las Vegas. It made sense for this to transpire into the theme of Viva Las Cruddas. Karen and student Merlyn Bradshaw facilitated sessions where the crafting of stars, mosaics, plant plots and neon signage occurred. The inviting environment marked the beginning of their tale. 

With the near-deserted shopping centre as their blank canvas, it was calling out for animation and vitality; it had lost its pizazz and needed the gang to help find it again. So, following this, the creation of Vegas-style masks topped the jazzy garments of spangled spectacles and neon wigs for pop-up photo shoots. 

A turn in the footage introduces local star Tony: an Elvis fanatic who accepted the duty of performing a reworded Viva Las Cruddas. By now, the wider community were on board, aided by Tony's promotion in the area. As the merry bunch twirl, prance and sing, the joy on their faces add colour to the surroundings. 

"If you go and mix with some people, even if it's just for half an hour, a cup of tea and a chat, it makes you feel good rather than isolation on your own, which is bad for your health and bad for your mental health,” Tony says succinctly.

Near the end, the group selected positive affirmations, such as I am a thing of beauty and Stardust is within us, that they displayed in all their glory around Cruddas Park in the hope that the vinyl words on walls spread their newfound confidence. Again, these brightly coloured wonders have lit a match of pride in the area. Karen thinks affectionately of her time and concludes,

"This residency has shown what is possible and what can be developed in a forgotten space. We were able to nurture talented locals and grow skills. We made a positive impact on the local community. They are keen to develop this creative hub and have expressed an interest to continue with future sessions and events."

We are Lemington

As part of a local social media campaign, #YourCityYourHome strives to spread awareness of caring for the city by tending to your roots. This residency asked for engagement with ages young and old, and a range of groups that enhance the community, in tandem with the Environmental Engagement and Educational Team. Recycling is a reoccurring and indispensable theme, and if you scratch the surface, there is scope to reuse items, with a touch of inventiveness, to create a brand new object, free from waste, and quite possibly, noble art. 

Sculptural artist Cath Campbell is practised in projects of grandeur - if you cast your eyes to the top of Northern Stage, you will note her handiwork - but also working with a wide variety of individuals on a smaller scale. As the footage commences, she reveals that she is interested in repurposing materials and endeavouring to use recyclable elements in a new and ambitious way. This is not the first time the residencies marked this topic - through music-making digital arts, mosaics and more - so Cath decided to highlight a material high in danger to landscapes yet extremely accessible: plastic. 

Lemington Riverside Primary School took your average pop bottles and transformed them into playful flowers showing that you can find the beauty in anything, with school worker Craig Heely proclaiming that the children were gaining knowledge: "It was fantastic for the children to learn more about recycling and how they can be creative with recycled products too." 

To Coffee on the Corner next, where delicious tea and cake was enhanced by a craft club. Studying the knotting technique of Macrame, a close-up shot reveals that the group weaved disused bags while savouring a much needed moment of rest from busy lives. 

Lucinda Thompson from the cafe comments, "It was great to be involved in the community art project; hosting some of the workshops meant that I could meet residents and see their skills improve week on week. There were some fabulous ideas put forward at the annual ward meeting of ways we could continue the project to brighten up the village. Unfortunately, the pandemic put these plans on hold - but I'm hoping we can put these ideas to use in the not too distant future!"

Over at Wansbeck House, the accessible activities forged a feeling of togetherness, and a resident informs the camera, "Everybody's friendly and mixes in."  At the destination of St Georges Primary School, pupils constructed large scale, brightly coloured models and trees using disused materials. Again, their impressionable minds absorbed the relevance of their actions from the lesson that our conscious artist and student Izzy Carpenter delivered.

The sculptures produced were going to feature in a transformation of a small picnic site on Hadrian's Way that is popular but a tad shabby to spotlight their goal. All participants were going to input their creations to add to the scene of hope. In a poignant section of the film, we learn that the force of COVID put a stop to this plan. Celebrations halted, Cath seeks the positives of the project by reflecting on the time spent with the people involved who not only discovered imaginative pursuits but the contentment felt when caring for their neighbourhood and looking after our precious planet.

West End Music - Over the Rainbow

Comfort, frivolity, profoundness; music weaves through our lives, enriching our soul, bringing the exact thing we need at the exact time, sometimes more than any other art form available; it is a thing of splendour. Another string to its bow, so to speak, is its capacity to transcend language and communication barriers to build cross-cultural bridges. Musical residences in the past have captivated youngsters from the new East European community, gave voice to women through the SHE Choir and offered common ground to children with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. 

Music is also the mirror of society, showcasing all the vibrant cultural mixes the West End of Newcastle contains. Often referred to as Newcastle's rainbow neighbourhood, Over the Rainbow aimed to honour diversity, question perceptions and involve BAME families to produce a song of integration. The scope was great with Greening Wingrove and Arthurs Hill CIC, Elswick Ward, Nunsmoor Centre Trust, Riverside Community Health Project, Angelou Centre, West End Women and Girls Centre and Children North East Young People's Service all responding and enthused about the proposal. 

Three effervesce, sonically skilled artists led the way: Nicolas Lewis, Georgia May Turnbull and Patrick Villiers-Stuart. The brief to make something fun, original and unique was a draw for the bunch as Nicolas tells the camera, "The idea of working with all those different groups in the West End and piecing something together and getting them all to collaborate; I really like that. I love a good collaboration, and this seemed like, potentially, a mega collaboration!"

Centres in the locality became hosting spaces where mini music-making workshops tested the water and ignited curiosity about the cause. The video questions young people, with that refreshing honesty that children possess, they claim that they were not quite sure what to make of it at first, but as they found their groove, the sound kept flowing. It proved to be a safe place where they could write down feelings of not always fitting in and how to treat others kindly; they were expressing; they were heard. 

A renowned relaxing technique helped the ladies at The Angelou Centre to feel calm. Student Valerria Savina and Georgia provided plasticine to play with as it frees the mind from a daunted state, letting people sing freely. Slowly but surely, the West End Anthem was taking shape and metamorphosed to Just Be You. All groups inputted their share, rendering the composition a truly cooperative effort. In a warming evening light that the footage catches, a sharing session brought different religions and ages together in harmony, the joy on their faces clear to see.  

A young participant thinks of progress: "Before I was not really a good person; I was naughty and not good. But I come to these sessions and learnt all this stuff about people then I am a good person, I think." 

Often, the media tends to highlight the locality only when there are negative stories to report. However, the entire video here can be viewed as up-lifting evidence of how, when we all pull together creatively, we enable social stability and unity and fuel ambition. It is crystal clear: a little bit of music, kindness and love goes a long, long way.  

More information

Newcastle's Arts Development Team have ran an artist residency programme for several years.  In 2020 an independent evaluation of the programme asked the question, "Is the artist in residence programme the most effective way to use resources?"  It considered a range of criteria including quality, approach, engagement and outcomes as well as funding and future planning.  If you would like a copy of the evaluation please email us.

For more information on Artist Residencies in Newcastle please contact Alison Flanagan Wood by emailing alison.flanaganwood@newcastle.gov.uk.

 

 

Did you know?

The areas covered change each year to allow more people to develop new skills and friendships and many participants continue their cultural and creative journey even after their project has come to an end.  The legacy of the projects shines through in the work created through our artist residencies.

Video premieres 

We premiere videos of some of the work completed through the Artist Residencies programme on our Facebook page.  The most recent premiers were:

Monday 22 March 2021, 12 noon - Just Be You: An anthem for the West End

Thursday 25 March 2021, 12 noon - Viva Las Cruddas: Hips, quiffs and lips

 

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