In November 2012 I secured funding through the Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts scheme to deliver a pilot touring exhibition into three venues across Fenland and Ely over the course of twelve months. As the projects has progressed, two more venues have expressed an interest in taking the exhibition (Kings Lynn Arts Centre and Welney Wildlife Wetlands Trust) and I have been offered the use of an empty shop in central Ely. I am continuing to apply for funding from other sources in order to develop this project further and take it to more venues.
This is a fundamentally collaborative project between myself as curator/coordinator; a photographer, a writer, and a painter. It is an exciting challenge for us to respond to each venue appropriately and sensitively, while retaining the core ‘essence’ of the exhibition. The selected venues are deliberately not conventional art gallery spaces, (with the exception of the Babylon Gallery), in order to engage a wide range of audiences, many of whom do not view art or creative practice as relevant to their lives. However, through open workshops led by the team of artists, we have encouraged a deeper engagement and interaction with both the subject matter and the creative process. The outcome is a growing body of art work created by the public which will be incorporated into the exhibition. It is a symbiotic process which is proving richly rewarding for both the artists and workshop participants.
I believe we are beginning to build a model for regional public arts practice which has genuine potential to enrich lives, and deepen (or inspire for the first time) an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art. At its core is a requirement to understand and explore the culturally attuned pathways through which such experiences may be offered, and select the right combination of professional artists who can respond sensitively and swiftly to the challenges of creating a coherent body of work which must, nonetheless, be able to adapt to a wide range of potential venues and audiences.