with the art walk now complete and my emotional calm about recovered, i feel the need to reflect about the process and the outcome.
the work was the final leftover creation of a grand and ambitious idea that began about 18 months ago. the journey to realising the work was no where near as straight forward as i imagined it to be. in the really difficult times the experience gained from the go and see bursary from a n certainly kept me going.
the work set out to be an art walk in belper parks. the intention of mounting it was to act as a reason for people to go into the parks. they’re called the parks as the area was originally three separate parks that over time became one and can be traced back to the thirteenth century.
the idea for an art walk came from an episode of revenge, possibly series 2. when i researched art walk i saw the american model is self directed and this particularly appealed as we’d done a map based trail before and in my personal practice i like the notion of ‘to discover’.
i’ve written at length about our go and see bursary visit to grizedale and in some way i wanted our art walk to begin to evoke the kind of response i’d had at grizedale. this was going to be very subjective and difficult to measure but i felt it was a way of approaching what the art walk might be.
reflecting now about how we approached the project i can see the path we went along and wonder if another might have been better?
knowing how big the area in the parks was i knew we needed help with placing a meaningful amount of work there for visitors to walk around. in 2013 we produced an art trail in belper and for it we made a call out and charged a small admin fee. exactly the same approach was adopted for the art walk.
in derbyshire for the last 10 years, the last bank holiday in may has seen the derbyshire open arts. the event is well established and has a resonable advertising and marketing campaign. in mid 2014 when putting together the public event licence application it seemed to be a clever idea to enter the work into open arts weekend to get publicity throughtout derbyshire and offer artists a unique way of displaying their work.
it came as quite a surprise in october last year to read that due to lack of members on the organising committee, derbyhire open arts would be taking a break in 2015.
when we heard the news there might have been a moment of considering pulling the art walk. i’m glad we didn’t as the visitor numbers were good and if we had of pulled it we wouldn’t have got to see what the idea looked like.
as the year turned into 2015 we had an artist call out prepared. on my personal practice blog i’ve already reflected a little about that process. reflecting on the duration i can say that it ran for too long and i’d managed to forget some of the things i’d learnt from doing the 2013 art trail project. my vision for the art walk was to work with a group of artists working out with them where their works would go and how the art walk as a whole would be.
possibly before we had the call out fully circulated, some unexpected propositions appeared to the project.
through our peer to peer meetings we’d met a lady living locally who was a keen knitter and in 2012 had yarn bombed in derby. she came to our january 2015 meeting and proposed she added some yarn bombing to the art walk as the dates coinsided with the voluntary arts woollen woods fortnight. after further discussions there were no objections to having works inspired by woollen woods in the art walk.
i’ve blogged about my involvement with the big lunch extras (ble) programme before and part of the follow up process is an occassional visit from our regional catalyst. as i sat with her in january updating her with what we were doing, little did i suspect that she would suggest she brought the regional roadshow to belper. she presented the opportunity as one we would be foolish not to go with, so we went with it.
both ble and the art walk were done voluntarily by me. it’s good to demonstrate what one can do however there comes a point where voluntary burnout occurs. if you decide to volunteer in your community, becareful of burning out, it’s easy to do.
we publised “open” times for the art walk. i’d done this so that if anyone needed to remove works they could as the site is unsecure at night. the work i made utilised bobbins and i chose to remove them each evening as i felt they might have value to individuals away from them being part of an art installation.
this idea of value was part of the critical under pining of the art walk. i became interested in how artists might react and respond to an opportunity to work in a beautiful woodland setting knowing that their work was vunerable to the risk of being taken away. almost like an informal investigation of value, property and ownership.
the three artists and 18-25 knitters who donated work all knew about the known risk of implied ownership by others. experience working in belper made me confident that implied ownership would not be a big issue. i was correct about this until the afternoon of the third day. returning after lunch i noticed a couple of knitted creatures were missing and one of chris’ sculptures had been repositioned probably of a result of the work being pulled and the supporting branch snapping. what i cannot yet resolve in my own thinking is why do woollen creations in a wood qualify as being free to be taken if desired?
on the morning of the installation i helped chris by installing her work as she too had agreed to do things to help the ble event. looking back on that morning i managed to install chris’ work my own work and be at the opening of the ble event in between. i need to thank chris for her support throughout the process and also for her work nesting.
one aspect of the installation process i that could have done better was the placing of the woollen creations. they were being installed by a team of volunteers and i’d been careful to explain my vision for how i saw them being installed prior to installation. i remember thinking on the saturday evening walk round how densely they were positioned on the trees and if the packing had been less dense we could have covered more of the art walk area.
on the subsequent days i watched people of all ages have moments of awe and wonder as they discovered the next thing on the tree. it’s difficult to say for certain but maybe they were expeirencing the condensed version of my finding the works in grizedale. so i conceded that the packing was ok for the woollen creations and any subsequent attempts to fill out the art walk area with woollen creations would need 3 or possibly 4 times as many works to take the walk onto all 4 sides of the square.
when we were in grizedale chatting with the couple who ran the b&b, they told us how when grizedale began the works on display portryed things they knew and recognised. as the place got more popular and the works became more abstract and conceptual they told us that the locals grew less fond of walking around the works. in the art walk the woollen creations were easily recognised.
the works of art had appeal to those who chose to engage, look and consider. with just three artists we had room to let our ideas expand. when the artist callout failed to attract anything like the numbers i’d hoped for i invited julian woodcock to take part and he was really pleased to be involved.
his work was in response to his experiences of seeing filled dog poo bags hanging on trees while out walking his own dog. with julian i got to have my walk around the space and to talk about ideas and concepts and he eventually found somewhere he wanted to work. being a curator must be a fantastically rewarding job.
of my own work i was relaxed about talking about it honestly … i don’t really know yet what it’s about … for now i like the way it looks.
while documenting the work i spoke to lots of people and got to hear what they to say. here’s some of my favourite things that were said to me:
“We” re really enjoying this”
“Very trusting …. Wonderful ”
“It”s made our day.”
“I’ve come back out to take photos ”
“I love the way it connects everything”
“It”s such a great idea and such a success”
“It’s interesting for children … well actually it’s interesting for anybody”
“This should be done with in every park”
“I’ve come back to have a second look.”
“This is worthy if a 2 minute slot on east Midlands news”
for me the best thing about the work is that i’m writing about it meaning that it’s been done. i’ve been feeling a huge sense of relief that we did it and we can lay to rest the idea begun 18 months ago. we achived the intention of giving a reason for someone to visit the parks for the first time. we achieved moments of awe and excitement for people and estimate between 300 and 600 people visted the work. attracting local knitter and crochetters to participate was relativley easy. inviting artists to take part was more succesful than having a call out. reflecting about my original vision for the project, i think that funding would be needed to achieve it.
the work evolved through the involvement of the two other people and the two other ideas. i didn’t realise it at the time but in accepting their propositions my own ownership of the work was compromised. i now understand why during the lead into the project i felt so uncomfortable with my own vision as in practice it had become much smaller than the two other visions. how do i feel about that now ?
taking the wider view for a moment, the art walk provided enjoyment for all those i spoke to who visited it but how do i feel ?
the ble project is about doing things to strengthen community by shared experience. the ble involvement challenged my rythymn of working and placed a faster pace within the project. the ble involvement set the art walk as an idea for building community and i saw how participants got that.
the lady who got all the knitter and crochetters together has demonstrated a sense of ownership and this is important to community projects and from all the excitement on site it looks like the plans for something next year have already begun.
in summary … we’ve made a work outdoors and it was well attended. our connections brought to the project aspects we wouldn’t have expected and these allowed the idea to grow outide of the original boundaries of itself. in time we’ll see how making an art walk in belper parks goes onto inspire others to do something similar where they live.