Monday, January 20, 2014

The Great War Inspires

This year Wakefield Museums were successful in securing funding from Arts Council England to deliver a two year development project to build stronger museums. As part of this we have commissioned Faceless Company to deliver a project using museum collections to inspire an artwork and exhibition to commemorate 100 years since the outbreak of World War One.

Faceless Company have written this guest blog about the community workshops they have delivered as part of this project:

With work almost complete on The Great War Inspires artwork, it’s time to reflect on the participation and engagement in the project so far.
We contacted a range of groups about the project, including the 2460 (Pontefract) Squadron of the Air Cadets; the Army Cadets, Pontefract Detachment; the Royal Air Force Association, Pontefract Branch; the Pontefract Branch of the British Legion, Pontefract Library and the Pontefract Live at Home Scheme. All of them were interested to hear about how we were working with Pontefract Museum to commemorate the First World War, and to remember those who had fallen and agreed to take part in a variety of ways, including advertising workshops to their members, sharing their memories, providing space for sessions or visiting the exhibition.
The Pontefract Air Cadets were keen to take part in a creative workshop, and Helen and Stephanie joined over 30 of them, on parade, to create individual silk paintings for the project. The paintings were inspired by photographs of Pontefract buildings during the war, images of local soldiers and associated regimental paraphernalia, and imagery of the battlefields of the Great War

Our silk painting sessions allow participants to create something beautiful within a relatively short space of time, even if they have never experienced this kind of art work before. Each participant approached the task differently and as a result we have an array of beautiful silks, some have used vibrant colours to depict their chosen image, and others have chosen muted, sepia or grayscale style paintings, such as the one shown. All the participants have received a printed copy of their artwork to keep and we have records of them all on file.

As well as photographs from World War 1, our artists also took along images of World War 1 objects such as medals and the handkerchiefs that have inspired the artwork. Along with World War 1 paintings, these images provided colour references for the participants, as the majority of photographs from the Great War are black and white due to the technology of the time. The reason we chose to use images of buildings from the Pontefract area as they were in 1914-1918, alongside the more obvious wartime imagery, was to give the piece a sense of place, we did not want to forget those at home, or the impact that war has on a community such as Pontefract.

During the workshops participants also have the opportunity to look at 1st World War poetry and to see other more personal artefacts such as letters home from soldiers, to give them some insight into life as a soldier during the Great War.
We approached Pontefract Library about hosting a few sessions in their space for local families to access, in part so we could widen the reach of the project to the Pontefract Community and to increase the trans-generational nature of the project, but we also wanted to encourage families to think about this anniversary and what it means to us, together. We also used this as an opportunity for the British Legion and the Royal Air Force Association to invite their members’ families to enjoy a creative activity together as part of the project.
During this session, as well as individual pieces, we created a large communal silk painting which made the session accessible to those with very young children. Our youngest participant was 2 years old and the oldest was a participant who recorded a letter written by his Uncle for us. Aged 91, he is a veteran of the 2nd World War, where he served in the Navy.

In total we worked with around 60 participants on the participation elements of the project. Their silk paintings and recorded poetry and memories are now being worked into the artwork for the exhibition which will be unveiled shortly. As the work begins to take shape, I can feel the excitement building amongst artists, staff and participants alike. Final artistic and technical details are being ironed out in preparation for The Great War Inspires which opens next Saturday 25th January at Pontefract Museum.

The Great War Inspires exhibition opens Saturday 25 January at Pontefract Museum and runs until 30 August 2014. Free admission.
Pontefract Museum, Salter Row, Pontefract, WF8 1BA

Opening Times: Monday to Friday 10.00am - 4.30pm, saturday 1030am - 4.30pm

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