How did you first get involved with Community Arts Partnership?
I applied to become a CAP artist some years ago. I saw an advertisement and applied, and then I went to Belfast to do the training. I met up with Conor Shields and I already knew Tracey McVerry (Landmarks Project Coordinator) and had worked with her on a few projects. I worked with Tracey on a wood carving project in Eglinton, so it was pretty easy for me to connect with the organisation.
Did you have a community arts background?
Yes I did. A few years ago I worked on a major project with the Health Service working with people with physical disabilities. They had certain experiences and we worked together to create an art installation which would express those experiences. We used digital technology and we also organised a Facebook presentation and a video as part of that project.
I also worked in the Recovery Café in Loughbrickland, with people experiencing difficulties with alcohol and drugs addiction as well as individuals experiencing mental health issues because of bereavement.
What did you do before that?
I worked as an educator in further education until I decided to work full time as an artist.
Which group did you work with on this latest project?
I worked in Portglenone with the Monday Club which was part of the Landmarks Project. Tracey McVerry introduced me to Anne Bell, the coordinator of the Monday Club, who was brilliant to work with.
I have done a lot of research on Project Based Learning and Teaching and I apply that to how I work with participants in community arts projects. One of the crucial things is to have a collaborative approach so that it isn’t me taking people’s ideas and then applying my style to those ideas, rather, we work together where I will help with technical issues, but the key ideas and processes come from the participants.
Did you have to do the work remotely?
Initially, during Lockdown, I would do a Zoom presentation which would show a group how I worked and what might be possible when we worked together. That’s how I worked with this group.
The restrictions would not allow us to meet face to face and the group was quite small because of the Covid situation so most of what we did was through digital communication.
What was the theme?
The central themes were about regeneration particularly regarding Portglenone and the vitality of the community. We used a map of Portglenone and the idea was to use 3 panels, each containing 9 squares which would form a larger piece.
Elements of the town were contained within each panel and I worked on helping produce a digital print of that idea with the map of the town as part of the central theme. There were 27 panels altogether, the participants created the imagery and I then worked to pull those images together in a drawing package.
The final artwork has a sense of quilting about it, where sections and ideas are all coming together. The composition and the content was provided in consultation with the participants.
The final artwork is very colourful?
Yes, the Monday Club wanted to further enhance the look of their new community centre which has very much a white and grey colour scheme. We have produced something which mirrors the map of Portglenone and have made it a very colourful piece of art.
In the final piece we were able to print out the digital images on card so that we could have the images and a physical product. That means it can be used in different ways, whether to brighten up the community centre, to show in presentations or to make into postcards.
Those multiple uses allow the participants to show people the nature of the art that the group has been involved in as well as having a piece of art to install somewhere. In my view, despite the situation with Covid, the project worked really well and was extremely rewarding. It has a feel of positivity and vitality!