During the year of 2021, Halton was 'Borough of Culture' which is a Liverpool City Region initiative. Our studio artist and director Claire Pitt was the project coordinator and curator for the Culture HQ pop art space and gallery.
From March 2021 to March 2022, Claire was able to work with local artists and organisations, enabling them to showcase their work to a larger audience, even during the very difficult setting of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. One of those groups was 'Weaver Community Arts Group' who met at Culture HQ on a weekly basis from September 2021 to March 2022 (whilst their usual meeting place was being used as a Covid testing centre). During this time Claire and the group talked at length about various project and ideas that could lead to exhibitions.
A bit about Weaver Community Arts Group:
The group is a self help art group for adults with mental ill health. It was founded in 2009 by John Hyland and was originally based at the Brooker Centre at Halton Hospital. It is now based in the Grangeway Community Centre.
The group has been successful in promoting wellbeing to its members and some have gone on to higher education and employment. They hang work in local public places and take part in community art projects. They have also worked with local professional artists.
Due to the pandemic, there wasn't enough time to plan and create an exhibition centred around a new body of work with Weaver Community Arts Group, so their exhibition at Culture HQ was a showcase of previous work. This led to lots of conversations about what a future exhibition would or could look like. Mental Health was the topic that kept recurring, not just because it's the reason why the group exists, but also the effect that the pandemic was continuing to have on everyone's mental health.
The group was inspired by the size and scope of Culture HQ, wondering if they could play with ideas around sound and colour to represent different states of mental health. Although Culture HQ was extended till March 2022 (after originally being set to close in October 2021, then December 2021) - there wasn't the time or budget to create a project that matched the initial ambitions. There was however some funding left that would allow them to create a prototype project, that would enable the group to explore their thoughts and hopefully lead to further funding to expand the reach of the project.
In a further blog post, we will talk about how the group came up with the 'Train of Thought' concept in more detail.
Who was going to bring this prototype project to life?
Gail Coxon is a local artist and maker, who Claire had commissioned to run some workshops at Culture HQ, as well as create an inspired response to the Museum of the Moon which was on display at Norton Priory. It also turned out that Gail was very adept at bringing ideas to life, from her beautiful jewellery to copper forming to creating small fantastical dioramas.
It was the dioramas that struck a cord with Claire, if the 'Train of Thought' project had to be small and 'just' a prototype, Gail seemed like the perfect person to work on this. After some discussions between Gail and Claire, they settled on an idea of a pop up exhibition piece, that could be easily transported. Once the scale was decided on, it was back to the group to see what would work within in this scale.
Here is a peek at what they decided on.
Train of Thought:
Above is the highlight reel of how the project is developing so far, there are some finishing touches to add and then 'Train of Thought' will be showcased at a few pop up events - with more blog posts to follow!
This has been brought to life thanks to funding from Halton Borough Council