Wednesday, 8 April 2015

OVERGROUND is a12 month programme of arts activities involving 5 schools in Barrow In Furness and South Cumbria and 4 professional artists, introducing schoolchildren to the work of Kurt Schwitters and to assemblage, sound arts and site-specific outdoor arts practice. The practical research element will include visits to the Schwitters Merzbarn in rural Cumbria, creative examinations and interpretations of locale and cross disciplinary arts workshops with sound artists, outdoor education specialists, designer/makers / puppeteers and visual artists . The project will culminate in a real-world design brief for a mixed media art installation within the wild garden of Bram Longstaffe Nursery school in Barrow.

This is the second residency project from ARTSPACE.
 ARTSPACE is a constituted professional Arts organisation led by artists and educators devising and delivering schools residencies for artists from Cumbria, and arts activities for the benefit of the wider community. The current project is led by a professional artist with a background in art education ( John Hall, Visual /Sound Arts). The group Friends of Artspace was formed in 2011 to develop this and other projects in Barrow, to seek and encourage partnerships between artists , local schools and our local authority, and to raise public and private support for the arts in our community. Artspace draws on a shared belief in the arts as a vehicle for expression,self esteem and identity in individuals and as a means of autonomous regeneration in communities.

In 2013 we delivered our first project, which placed 4 professional artists in Barrow schools, resulting in a popular exhibition at Barrow Dock Museum. We produced animations, puppetry, Sound pieces a Text-based interactive game and a wide array of supporting material, and established new relationships with artists, museums,and the education community. This led to one further appointment for one of our artists as After-School Art Club leader and a shared desire between the schools and ourselves to develop and expand the programme. In 2014 we have presented a number of successful and separately funded days at Bram Longstaffe Nursery with our project partner Playful Nature, in order to introduce ourselves to the children and staff and establish a set of common aims.

" Overground" has placed 4  professional artists in South Cumbrian schools, where they are working with staff and children  to increase their mutual  awareness of techniques and contexts for art through an introduction to the work and legacy of Kurt Schwitters. The project will develop new partnerships with schools. local authorities, arts organisations and museums and expand our artist's collaborative practice. Initially "Overground"  introduced the schoolchildren to the work of Schwitters by means of a short project using assemblage and collage to interpret the childrens' locale. 

Then, supported by lead artist John Hall, the artists ( Amy Boud, musician / Forest Schools practitioner , Ellie Chaney, puppetmaker, Karen Whatley ,Textile artist)  are exploring principles of assemblage, performance ,collage and montage in relation to their own discipline. Each is delivering a short project on the themes of mapping and exploration before joining the children on a visit to the Merzbarn in Elterwater, for a day of activities in and around the Merzbarn including exploring an outdoor art-trail designed (with support from our Lead Artist) by the children of nearby Langdale school.

On returning to Barrow, the children will work with their appointed artists on their contribution to an outdoor mixed-media installation trail in the wild garden at the fourth Barrow school. The trail will be designed for children and families and will be in place over a three day period.The wider public will engage with the project through an exhibition and documentation at Barrow Dock Museum.

Artspace's wider aims are to introduce young people to artists and techniques that are rarely covered by curriculum , expanding their knowledge of what art can encompass by providing a broad range of skills and innovative cross-disciplinary projects, and to provide opportunities for sustained engagement between schools and emerging artists. "Overground" builds on our successful research project of 2012-13 , and extends our scope to include: performance; greater active collaboration between artists; real-world outdoor design and installation projects; site visits to the Merzbarn providing insights into the working methods and day to day life of an important artist who worked in our region, and an improved standard of documentation and exhibition of project work.

Significant developments from the last project include (1)a cross disciplinary approach to the residencies, and a unified end product. During the process each school will be aware of each others progress and will respond to it in their own work. (2) the involvement of the Outdoor Education company Playful Nature, specialists in Forest Schools practice and John Muir Award delivery agents . (3) The involvement of Langdale School as host and active participants, providing new experiences of creativity within rural and urban environments for the children (4)The developing relationship with Littoral, and the potential for further work involving the Schwitters legacy. Each of our artists welcomes a fresh challenge to their specialist skills, and the chance to extend their practice through collaboration and in response to the unique focus of the project.

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