Mosaics, fruit trees, storytelling and films…

By on 31/03/2010 in Culture, News

The “In Our Backyard” artist-in residence programme reaches out to four of Birmingham's inner-city communities.

“In our Backyard” is a major new exhibition running from April 10th - July 4th 2010 at the Community Gallery at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, following an innovative artist-in-residence project in Erdington, Perry Barr, Hodge Hill and Ladywood, designed to increase participation in the arts - one of the central themes of Birmingham's bid to be the first UK City of Culture in 2013. 

The project, by Birmingham City Council's Community Arts team, selected artists from a range of arts disciplines and placed them into a variety of local venues within each constituency so that they could engage different communities in art making as well as developing their own work.

Hundreds of local people were involved in the projects which ran for a year.

The opportunity was offered to artists who had a proven interest and passion in creating art work with community engagement. Each was offered a studio, a workshop space or access to a performance space so that the artists could develop and showcase their work.

The artists who took part were Mohsen Keiany – an internationally recognised painter and illustrator;  video and film makers Reel Access (George Fleming and Laura Breakwell); Eleanor Hoad – a cultural eco-artist with a keen interest in permaculture and issues of sustainability and storytellers Annamation (Anna Conomos and Susanna Willetts).

Works produced by the artists and local communities include a large scale mosaic informed by Islamic calligraphy, created by family groups in Ladywood; a filming and photography project made by under 5s and their parents showing community perspectives of Hodge Hill; the planting of fruit trees in Erdington High Street town centre arcade and creation of a map of fruit trees in the area and a story telling project in Perry Barr which worked with community elders to learn their tales and then helped young people to learn and re-tell them.

The project is a key part of the city's Cultural Strategy which is seeking to drive up participation in culture by creating cultural opportunities in local neighbourhoods. It also underpins the city's bid for UK City of Culture status by showcasing the talent of communities across the city and the potential for developing a programme for 2013 that reflects the diverse nature and potential of Birmingham.

Annamation (Anna Conomos and Susanna Willetts) said of their project: “The residency has provided an amazing opportunity for us to develop a long-term relationship with the students and staff of Rookery School, Handsworth and members of the local community. We were able to witness the children’s responses and the progress in their work through storytelling. By working with the children to find and perform stories from their cultural heritage it gave them a platform where they could appreciate their own background and increase awareness and respect for the ‘other’.

“Our work also involved an Intergenerational Project between elders from the ‘Golden Age Forum’, Handsworth and some Year 6 pupils from the school. The aim of this project was to bridge the generational gap and to cultivate the age-old tradition of passing down stories, wisdom and anecdotes from the wiser and more experienced members of the community to the young leaders of tomorrow.”

Cllr Martin Mullaney, Cabinet Member for Arts and Culture added: “The works of art produced by the local communities is inspiring. Not only does it showcase the talent of the city's residents, but it also helps to tell the story of Birmingham's diverse communities. For me it is a wonderful illustration of what Birmingham has to offer as a UK City of Culture candidate city.

“I am delighted that we have been able to take arts and culture out of the city centre and into local neighbourhoods, but equally pleased that the works will now be on display at the Community Gallery so that thousands of local people and visitors can enjoy them.”
A programme of events held every weekend at The Community Gallery from April 10th  -May 15th 2010 will also give many more local people a chance to get involved in the programme.

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Media Contact:

Jason Lewis 0121 303 4266

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