Friday, 5 August 2016

Workshops, Artist Projects, and Outreach Help Build Community Engagement

By Rachel Moss, Head of Education (Maternity) at the South London Gallery

“I learnt about the correlation between art and freedom of expression.”
(parent at a family workshop)

As part of the opening weekend of Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today at the South London Gallery (SLG) in early June 2016, Argentinean artist Amalia Pica’s performance Asamble (2015) took place in Peckham Square, featuring participants invited from the local area. The performers brought their own chairs along, processed with them from the gallery to the square, and then congregated in a choreographed circle that never closed. This formation of circles was repeated several times. Ahead of the event we worked closely with Amalia to connect with a wide range of participants from different cultures, interests, backgrounds and ages, and that are representative of the community local to the South London Gallery. Some of them were already regular visitors and others were new audience members, having heard about the opportunity to work with Amalia by word of mouth. Amalia’s practice is about communication and collaboration, and for me Asamble epitomises the way the education team at the SLG works with its local residents.

Amalia Pica, Asamble, Peckham Square. Photo Mark Blower

Hosting the exhibition Under the Same Sun, the second exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS Map Global Art Initiative, has enabled us to open up the former Peckham Road Fire Station for the first time giving a taste of what will be possible when we expand into the renovated fire station in 2018. This building is the earliest surviving example of a purpose-built fire station in London, dating from 1867, and was gifted to the SLG by an anonymous donor. During January to March this year we carried out a community consultation for the building which generated lots of local interest from existing and potential audiences, some of who took part in the performance of Asamble.
Under the Same Sun has also enabled us to create an expanded education programme. The exhibition was initiated at the Guggenheim in New York, travelling then to the Museo Jumex in Mexico, and then finally here to the South London Gallery. Members of the SLG education team have been in regular dialogue with education staff at the Guggenheim and a travel exchange was also set up between staff here and in Mexico. This has enabled us to learn from their experiences of hosting the exhibition and their community engagement, leading to us focusing on the Latin American community located in the nearby Elephant and Castle area.
In particular we have been supported by Latin Elephant in our community outreach. They are a charity that promotes alternative and innovative ways of engaging and incorporating migrant and ethnic groups in urban regeneration processes in London, particularly relevant at present with the redevelopment of the shopping centre at Elephant and Castle. One example of working with the local Latin American community was at Plaza Latina, a Latin American festival based in Nursery Row Park near Elephant and Castle. Here we worked with Argentinean artist Laura X Carle and over 100 participants, to create a wooden structure covered in brightly coloured tissue paper and culminating in a grand finale where the families burst through the paper, representing the breaking down of borders.

 Plaza Latina 2016, Zoe Tynan-Campbell

Other highlights of our education work taking place during the exhibition include Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero’s residency on Pelican housing estate, Peruvian artist Andrea Frank working with the Art Assassins (a group of young people aged 14-20), Spanish language tours of the exhibition, projects with Comber Grove and Oliver Goldsmith’s Primary Schools, weekly Sunday Spot workshops for families featuring artists such as Jose Campos from El Salvador, and Play Day on Sceaux Gardens estate, as a national celebration of children’s right to play and the importance of play in children’s lives.

The exhibition has been an interesting way to engage with people within the local Latin American community, including new families who now attend our Shop of Possibilities (the SLG’s social space for play for residents on nearby Sceaux Gardens estate) and an elderly person who has lived in a street nearby who has visited the SLG for the first time in 53 years! Under the Same Sun has been a fantastic opportunity to build on relationships with existing and new audiences at the SLG, which we plan to develop further moving forward towards opening our Fire Station Annexe in 2018 when partnership working will be at the heart of our approach to programming, underpinned by a commitment to working with local residents.

 Sunday Spot. Photo Jose Campos


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  2. Community Engagement is about inspiring people with a common bond, driving the launch & evolution of ideas, and building relationships though collaboration and knowledge sharing.
    Community Engagement Research