It’s been over a month since the fruit factory trip to Sheffield, and in the intervening weeks I’ve had time to reflect on many aspects of resilience in my own life and arts practice, not to mention assimilate the learning from the various encounters we made in the city…
“What does it mean to be resilient? This is not just a philosophical question or ethical call to reflect upon our own individual strengths and weaknesses. It is a deeply political question being asked by ideologues and policy makers who want us to abandon the dream of ever achieving security and embrace danger as a condition of life.” (Smizz, writing in YVAN & Corridor8 (ed.), 2019, Resilience is Futile)
The above quote comes from a YVAN publication Resilience is Futile, that I picked up whilst at Bloc Projects, Sheffield with Fruit Factory Network in August. Bloc was established in 2002, and combines a gallery, studio complex and multi-stranded educational/public engagement activities. What impressed me about Bloc was that they knew what they were offering and to whom, and did it well. I particularly enjoyed chatting with artist Bryan Eccleshall, (Drawing Tutor at OCA), painting in his bloc studio – thanks for sharing your time, work in progress, and professional experience with us Bryan!
Do what you can, not what you can’t…
Whist in Sheffield, we also visited S1 Art Space, a converted carpark, housing Artists’ studios and a gallery / workshop space on the Grade II listed Park Hill Estate. Fraught with social politics, the Brutalist architecture of the Park Hill Estate provoked mixed feelings, and pertinent questions amongst many in the Fruit Factory group when we visited. Although S1 had welcomed the challenges of involving the new estate communities in their art provision, their exhibitions and workshops took the approach of archiving the history and experiences of the community, rather than a more overt socially engaged arts agenda. My activist side couldn’t help but wonder if the arts could offer more than archiving the nature of a community. However, it became clear during our visit that the focus of S1 on artist led studio spaces put the public facing side of their work into better perspective.
Providing studio space for over 20 early career creatives and the Sheffield Hallam Fine Art PhD studios, S1’s studio provision revealed a well thought through progression for emerging artists providing subsidised spaces, opportunities and supportive networks. In their informative talk S1 were clear about their reasons for relocating to the Park Hill site, and had set realistic, achievable goals for community involvement, outreach and artist provision. In the increasing complexity of all of our networks and communities, where inequalities, injustices and complexities co-exist with pockets of good provision, this skill of identifying what you, your art practice (socially-engaged or otherwise) or your collective can do in a setting and doing it well seems a timely reminder.
The encounters and conversations facilitated through the Fruit Factory visit to Sheffield helped me realise the importance of identifying what it is I can do, and what changes and resources I need to make that happen well. It also demonstrated that whilst, in many ways the resilience required of so many in today’s society (artists and creatives included) may indeed in some ways be futile, artist led communities can play a vital role in mutual support, shared resources and peer encouragement to effect not just survival, but also, gradual, positive change.
For more information:
- For more on Brutalist Archetecture
- Creative Conversations – Bryan Eccleshall
- To read the full text of YVAN’s Resilience is Futile
- Bloc Projects Website
- S1 ArtSpace
- Artist Mandy Payne spent many years painting the Park Hill Estate, Sheffield, see some of her work here: https://mandypayneart.co.uk