We are thrilled to announce our series of commissioned walking artworks as part of the research we are undertaking into walking, wellbeing & community under COVID-19.
Each project will use creative walking to connect with participants in a particular location, working with a range of themes and formats that address the project challenges emerging from our research:
- mitigating isolation and anxiety
- maintaining health and wellbeing
- sustaining/enhancing social connectivity
- facilitating cultural empowerment
- enabling access/countering exclusion
Four of the commissions were made through an open call, four are collaborations with project partners and associates. Information about each commission and the artists involved can be found below.
Open Call Commissions:
Kate Green’s Finding a Way is a collaboration with the members of Leominster Meeting Centre, Herefordshire, to develop a ‘non-linear heritage trail’ around the town, with, and for, people who live with dementia. The aim of the work is to celebrate, rather than interpret as a failing, changes that occur in cognitive orientational and navigational skills when living with dementia. By investigating the potential of ‘non-linear’ pathways Kate will explore the relationship between the changes that happen as a result of dementia and the effect these changes have on an individual’s experience of walking a route around their local town. A key objective is to imbue the unpredictability of this experience into a walk so that other walkers are encouraged to understand the challenges people with dementia face. The work will suggest ways that people with dementia may be supported in continuing to enjoy walking and exploring.
Kate is passionate about introducing new audiences to creative walking as a way to better understand our complex relationship with the rural landscape. Kate favours non-gallery and outdoor venues using film, song, food, humour, and livestreaming to share ideas. Mindwalks (2018) explored how an artist might adapt their landscape painting practice when living with a progressive neurological condition. Walking the Pipe (2019) celebrated the Elan Valley Aqueduct, a Victorian feat of engineering that carries water from Mid Wales to Birmingham. Watershed Line (2021) saw Kate circumnavigate the seventy-square-mile Welsh watershed claimed by Birmingham in 1892, suggesting microcosmic parallels with our current global crisis.
Laura Bradshaw and Steven Anderson
Laura Bradshaw and Steven Anderson will work with people receiving end of life care in Glasgow to create a guided audio walk for hospice environments, indoors and out. The audio walk will draw on a range of people’s stories, embodied experiences and detailed descriptions of the sites, co-creating the work with staff, patients and family members. The sensory and descriptive invitations aim to invite presence and mindfulness in the listener. The sharing of story and memory is a window into what these spaces hold and has the potential for the listener to make links to their own life, countering isolation and generating feelings of connection.
Laura Bradshaw is a mother-artist working within performance, movement and dance under the name Scrimshaw Projects. Working with the autobiography of the body, intuitive movement and practices of embodiment Laura makes performance works for theatre and dance spaces, galleries, healthcare contexts and outdoor spaces. She develops creative movement processes which invite a connection to the living, present body in relationship with other and environment.
Steven Anderson makes site specific collaborative art projects that bring together visual art and performance approaches within gallery and healthcare contexts. Exploring the potential of idiosyncratic behaviours within institutional environments, he has developed projects with organisations including the Anatomical Museum Edinburgh, Talbot Rice Gallery, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Arbuthnot Museum Peterhead and Peacock Arts Aberdeen.
Shonagh Short’s project To the Moon and Back looks at the walk to and from school as a journey of care, both in practical terms – caring for children, keeping them safe day after day – but also as a space of transition, an unburdening of responsibilities, a shift in identity. Shonagh’s project is inspired by the 2021 space race between white, male billionaires and the realisation that the daily walking of a diverse school community in a low-income area clocked up more miles per day than the journey to space. As Shonagh writes, “We love our children to the moon and back, and this simple act of daily care is in itself a grand gesture. We make discoveries that won’t be found on any map because they can only be revealed by walking the same route hundreds of times.” Shonagh will work with a group of parents/carers to document and share widely their daily walking practices, acts of care and transitions.
Shonagh Short is a socially engaged artist based in Bolton, Greater Manchester. “I make art with and for working class communities like my own. I’m interested in care and connection, in rituals and resistance, in the stories we tell about ourselves and the language that others us to describe us.” Shonagh has been making site specific work with marginalised communities since 2014. She has been artist in residence on the Limehurst estate in Oldham since 2016. She has recently completed commissions for FACT Liverpool, Manchester International Festival, Pink Collar Gallery and Quiet Down There Brighton.
Henna Asikainen’s project is a collaboration with refugees and asylum seekers in Newcastle, and aims to challenge exclusionary cultural practices that impress a sense of homelessness and not belonging. Using thematic walks, the group will explore the city together, ranging from public sculptures to urban plant life, with a special focus on trees that are migrants themselves. The final walk and the project’s lasting artwork will be decided by the participants. Important to this exploration of Newcastle is the diverse knowledges the participants carry with them. All of the walks will end with a communal meal in a different location in the city.
Dr Henna Asikainen is a Finnish artist based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Her practice explores humans’ complex relationship with nature and its intersections with social justice, climate justice, migration and notions of belonging. Her work is often made with the participation of people who have a lived experience of displacement and of seeking sanctuary. These participatory projects explore ecological and social issues through communal experiences within rural landscapes and examine issues such the importance of access to nature and green spaces and how a sense of homelessness – of not belonging – is produced through exclusion.
Maxwell Ayamba (SEM), Jenson Grant and Roshni Asian Women’s Group
Sheffield Environmental Movement (SEM)’s Maxwell Ayamba and artist Jenson Grant will collaborate with Roshni Asian Women’s group on a sci-art project investigating air pollution in Sheffield. Using walking, photography, and field tools they will explore, discover and record bio-indicators of air pollution creating a map of hot zones. SEM’s active participatory research approach will support the co-production of knowledge, building skills and expertise with participants in relation to their local environment, as a form of empowerment. These walking workshops will be combined with Jenson Grant’s extensive experience of using digital technologies and traditional art-forms to engage communities creatively.
SEM’s ethos is to work with Black Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugees (BAMER) communities and environmental organisations to ensure everyone has a clean healthy environment and access to open green spaces such as parks that would promote a good quality of life. To ensure a ‘fair green deal’ for individuals to help them develop resilient and prosperous communities by ensuring the environmental sector listens to and is guided by all parts of society including people who feel ‘invisible’ and marginalised.
Jenson Grant is a digital media artist based in Sheffield. His work combines academic research, drama, and digital artforms to connect with communities. He has worked extensively with artists, organisations and communities across South Yorkshire including, residents in social housing, people with mental health issues, BME communities and homeless young people.
Open Clasp and West End Women & Girls Centre
Open Clasp’s WalkCreate commission will see a writer and facilitator duo working with Gender Equality Young Campaigners, based at West End Women & Girls Centre in Newcastle. This commission will look at the issue of safer streets, informed by the lived experiences, the walking and (not walking) of women and girls. The work they produce will be a pilot for a larger project later in the year to Reclaim the Night. This commission sits alongside 3 others which Open Clasp will produce in 2022 designed to invest in and support new artists into the company to Change the World, One Play at a Time.
Founded in 1998, Open Clasp, make space for debate, encouraging audiences to walk in the shoes of the most disempowered women in society. Their work is performed, and shared digitally, in theatres, prisons, village halls, schools, conferences, and community centres. It resonates deep into the communities where it is created and outside ensures the under-represented are seen in a new light by both women and men, and those who can make a difference.
Arts Canteen and Areej Kaoud
Arts Canteen’s Arab Women Artists Now project (AWAN) will work with Palestinian artist Areej Kaoud exploring diaspora, longing, and notions of home in North West London. Intimate Distance will reflect on the experiences of time and isolation during the pandemic with a focus on creating imaginative and playful connections for the body. Areej’s work draws on the newly forbidden, or frowned upon, physicality of human connections (like hugging and kissing and closeness) conjuring fantastical encounters with far away loved ones that envision the desire to be very close again.
Established in 2010, Arts Canteen is an arts organisation that empowers artists from the Arab world and beyond to tell their own stories, change perceptions, and tackle the big issues in the world. They generate opportunities for Arab artists through professional development and community programmes, live performances and digital media, working with leading cultural, educational and social organisations to reach and inspire diverse audiences across the UK.
Areej Kaoud is a Palestinian visual artist raised in Gaza, Palestine and Montreal, Canada. Her practice draws on her interest in a variety of narratives and disastrous scenarios. Kaoud’s practice incorporates text, sound, performance and installation to comment on emergency provisions and their enactment. Kaoud’s projects articulate the distance between anxiety, vigilance and even humour which are all a part of the preparations undertaken for non-immediate threats.
Elspeth Penfold and MoLA
In ‘Intertidal’ artist Elspeth Penfold will collaborate with the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN), at the Museum of London Archaeology, to lead poetry walks along Whitstable’s Heritage Trail.
Working with participants from East Kent MENCAP, Penfold will use creative writing and rope knotting techniques to explore the liminal landscapes of the tidal shore. The resulting verse, co-created by Penfold and participants, will add a new layer of embodied parallel interpretation to the existing archaeological information points on the heritage trail.
Elspeth Penfold is a Bolivian/Argentinian artist who has lived and worked in the UK since the 1970s. Her multi-disciplinary practice incorporates spinning and weaving, painting and drawing, walking and writing. She leads the Thread and Word group, a participatory project that brings together weaving, walking and storytelling with artists and community members. Penfold’s spinning and knotting work draws on the Incan history and technique of ‘Quipu’ (knot work) and the Quecha language of the native Andean people.