NOVAK from VJs to world class projection design: Bringing light to spaces and places through projections…

I’m currently working on Heart of the House – a joint collaboration commission between The Cultural Spring & The Customs House to celebrate 25yrs of The Customs House. I first put myself forward to work on the project at the beginning of Summer 2019….and I pretty much pestered The Cultural Spring until they gave me the gig. But that’s how excited I was about this happening in the North East.

For those of you, that don’t know – Heart of the House is a FREE outdoor visual spectacle designed by the world-class team at NOVAK that is on across 25th, 26th & 27th October on the side of The Customs House, running continuously from 6pm-10pm. It’s a total must see and experience.

More info on Heart of the House and FAQs can be found HERE.

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NOVAK have designed a 10minute long projection that will be rolling continuously across the night on the outside of the Customs House building celebrating the building’s past and present, and you’ll be taken on an enchanting journey of nostalgia, fun and illusion.

Expect to see everything from ship building and coal mining to music and performance with South Tyneside icons and pantomime characters popping up. The projections will feature the history, cultural rebirth and legacy of one of the most famous buildings in South Tyneside.

Of course, I love the folks at Cultural Spring and all their projects and events are ace – but it was certainly the NOVAK link that really got me excited. I love their work, I love their innovation, I love their humbleness, yep…I’m An unashamed NOVAK super fan……And they are one of MANY North East creative businesses that exist in the region that are absolutely flying and doing work on a global scale.

NOVAK specialise in motion design and create projections, art installations and stage visuals for music artists (Shawn Mendes!) and video for theatre performances. NOVAK has had work featured across the world at some of the most highly regarded arts festivals, including Lumiere and music festivals including Glastonbury and Coachella. NOVAK also created the stunning visuals in The Cultural Spring’s past commissions RUSH and WordPlay.

 

The festival of light - Southampton

Festival of Light – Southampton

I’ve experienced NOVAK at both light festival events, special moments marked with a projection onto a building and of course, stomping and dancing the night away at a festival and yes, Dippy at Great North Museum. At Dippy whilst everyone else, was of course, enamoured with Dippy the main star – I was blown away by NOVAK’s animation and the beauty of the interpretation on the walls. I kept telling random strangers – “now THIS is how you engage families in a museum!”. Their technical brilliance and detail is inspiring….. and you can experience it too at Heart of the House!

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Dippy

I’ve always been fascinated by motion design, digital art and projection….. I think because it’s just not my skill set and beyond me – to me it’s so magical! I remember watching the H&M Amsterdam store opening in 2010 and just being blown away. A building actually brought to life!

Anyway – back to NOVAK – I’ve wanted to interview the NOVAK lads for ages and working on Heart of the House presented such a good opportunity. I even blagged an invitation to their studio – very exciting. In between, their several big commissions alongside Heart of the House, Adam – the studio Director kindly let me interview him.

But before, we go into the interview – you need to watch their show reel which gives you a taster of their work; the quality and ambition of it.

Lumiere London

Lumiere London

Hi Adam, let’s start at the beginning – What is NOVAK?

NOVAK is a creative studio based in Newcastle upon Tyne that specialises in motion design and immersive installations with a big emphasis on projection design.

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How did it all start? What was your journey into creative industries?

It all started in the night clubs of Newcastle. All of the members of NOVAK met through VJing at local clubs and from these encounters we started to gig together which naturally progressed into greater collaborations.

A notable one of these was our AV show, 3D Disco, which we toured the world with for a number of years performing in Australia, Canada, Nigeria, Vietnam and everywhere in between!

During this time we started to develop other creative outputs, including projection mapping which has become a key part of what NOVAK is today. We have created projection mapped artworks at variety of locations, including the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, the Singapore Art Museum, Durham Castle to name but a few.

Brighton festival

Royal Pavilion in Brighton

Wish I’d been around for 3D Disco….I’d have been alllll over that? So you’ve created work for Cultural Spring before with Rush and Word Play; can you tell us a bit about that?

On both of these shows NOVAK, in collaboration with Southpaw Dance Company, designed and produced all of the projection content, which was integral part to both shows.

Rush in South Shields was the first project that we worked on with Southpaw Dance Company and we have since then gone onto collaborate with them on many more projects including shows as part of Hull City Of Culture and Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.

Hideout festival

HideOut Festival

What is Heart of the House (from your perspective!)?

It is a joyful celebration of the many art forms and creative practices that are at the heart of The Customs House.

How did you get involved in Heart of the House?

We were invited to tender for the project.

What can audiences expect from the projection onto the side of The Customs House?

The artwork depicts a variety of art forms and creative practices; each with its own very distinct and colourful look, all of which will transform the facade of the Customs House into a something that has never been seen before!

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Ohhh gosh – the NOVAK superfan within me is already getting excited! So what about the making process and the groups you’ve filmed to create the projection?

Key to the Customs House is the community and the different people and groups that engage with it. To reflect this, we have worked with various groups, including the Youth Theatre, the Indian Classical and Bollywood dancers, the Customs’ Breakers, amongst others, which will all feature in the projection.

When you run with an idea like Heart of the House, projecting onto a building, are there moments when you don’t know how you’re going to realise your vision? Projecting onto a listed functioning building must create some interesting challenges!?

It is always a challenge when creating a work to be projected onto something that was never designed for that purpose, but a combination of experience and some new technologies allows us to understand how things will translate onto the surface of the building.

Newcastle University freshers week

Newcastle University Freshers Week 2014

Well if anyone was going to do it, you folks are certainly the ones to make it happen! What would you like audiences to take away from watching Heart of the House?

A sense of joy and wonder!

Tell me about some other projects you’ve been working on? Enchanted Forest?

Most recently we presented a new work at Leeds Light Night called ‘Pleasance’, which was a 35 meter long ground projection. And presently we have another new work showing at Enchanted Forest called ‘Constellation’ which is a projection onto a water screen located in the loch in Faskally Wood, near Pitlochry.

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Pleasance – Light Night Leeds 19 (Photo: Rooster PR)

Advice for folks wanting to get into the world of digital arts, outdoor arts and animation?

Always strive to do something original and don’t always look in the obvious places for inspiration.

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Flux – Newcastle Central Station (Photo: Rich Kenworthy)

Highlight of 2019 for NOVAK?

Very hard to say, as nearly all of our projects this year have been a lot of fun; they have been varied from presenting a digital artwork in Newcastle Central Station to projection mapping the National Theatre in London. Designing projections as an accompaniment for Dippy’s visit to the Great North Museum was certainly a high point this year as well as being quite a departure from our normal works.  We certainly expect that we will look back at Heart of the House and see that as one of the highlights!

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National Theatre – London

Absolutely! So post Heart of the House….What’s next for NOVAK in 2020?

Before we get to 2020 we have other projects to present after Heart of the House, including a projection on the inside of Doncaster Minster, which we are really excited about! As for 2020, early in the year we are collaborating again with Southpaw Dance Company on a new show in London, which will be really spectacular! Plus lots of others that I can’t talk about just yet!

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Constellation – Enchanted Forest

Well on that note of anticipation – that’s it from Adam and NOVAK. Heart of the House is going to be a beaut of a projection and is your chance to see NOVAK in action doing what they do best  – lighting up a building with a really special and innovative projection whilst capturing the past, present and future of the building.

You can view the projection ANY time 25th, 26th & 27th October between 6pm-10pm. The projection lasts 10minutes and will be continuously rolling so Heart of the House is a drop in. You can also head inside Customs House, see the Customs House Elmer inside and take in celebratory banners co-ordinated by The Creative Seed, made with various South Tyneside community groups and schools.

More info on Heart of the House and FAQs can be found HERE.

I’m now off to plot how I can persuade NOVAK to bring back their 3D Disco…..

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Karen Underhill; Artist of the Month January 2017

For those who work in Arts and Culture, like myself, this is prime programming time – in fact I’ve programmed some of the Gateshead Live up until July 2017 – which is crazy. But also fantastically exciting, to see the projects and events that lie ahead. So what lies ahead in 2017!? – well of course alongside a vibrant cultural programme across the North East with far too many things to list here and the official launch of the Culture Vulture– we have Digital Makings!

One of the artists in residence Karen Underhill is also my January artist of the Month. I was involved in the short listing process for Digital Makings and had the absolute pleasure of being the first to receive the applications and read them. I read Karen’s and loved it – she is a local artist, who I’ve had some engagement with in the past, but only in passing and I haven’t had the opportunity to really get to know her and her practice. And what a perfect time to do it!?

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Karen Underhill

I loved her Digital Makings application; infusing traditional arts practice with digital elements in a very clever way that is not only accessible, but exciting. She also proposed Painting with Light session, which if anyone has been to Glasto or Bestival, you will know this well and it’s mint! Dancing around with lights and lasers, UV and capturing pictures of it in motion, which can create beautiful patterns.

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Karen Underhill – Painting with Light

However, what really speaks to me about Karen and her work is her passion to use creative mediums to ignite positive change in communities which is then driven by the community themselves, uniting and finding an collective identity. Karen takes time to get to know people, the communities in which her project engages, she listens, embraces the diversity and empowers people to find their creative voice. This is not creating Art for arts sake; this is art and a creative practice that has a positive impact on the individual, macro and micro communities and the North East region…….. now how many of us can say, what we do on a day to day basis has that wide of a positive reach!? It’s inspiring…….

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Karen Underhill – Street Party 2015

So who is Karen Underhill…….Karen is a visual and performing artist, originally from the Scottish Borders, working across disciplines that include Fine Art, street theatre, digital art and performance. Karen is also trained in media studies and multi-media and has lectured.

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Karen has worked in the creative industries since 1997 delivering multi-disciplinary workshops within communities. That is what is so brilliant about Karen and her work – it never really feels about “her” – it’s about the people she works with, the communities, the engagement, the opportunities and empowering others to have a sense of ownership of an art work, the project, the place they live etc.

I first heard about Karen when she worked on and facilitated the project that concluded with a giant new artwork for Gateshead Interchange; the peacock! Lisa Johnson’s peacock design was chosen following an appeal by Nexus for a piece of art to liven up the entrance to the interchange, out of 30 Gateshead College student submissions. The peacock image is cleverly made up of the word “hello” in different languages. This project was made possible by Gateshead College’s Digital Academy, which Karen was a part of and evidences her interests in creating a sense of place through her fascination with narrative to tell community stories. But at the heart of the project was empowering the next generation of student artists……. an agenda that I’m really passionate about myself.

Lisa Johnson – Peacock at Gateshead Interchange

I have since gotten to know Karen working on events such as eDay, Anime Attacks as part Juice Festival, Gateshead College careers days and as a regular library user. She is absolutely lush, full of energy and ideas – she is an absolute pleasure to talk to. She also runs her own business, which as a fellow businessy gal, I love. It’s called Blue Meanies, a mobile Arts and Events service. She offers arts and craft workshops, entertainment, performance, stilt walking, face-painting, VJing and creative workshops for private parties, birthday celebrations, corporate events, weddings, large and small scale events. She can also provide bespoke educational packages for schools and community centres and aim to make art and creativity accessible to all with an ethos on creative exploration.

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Karen Underhill during performance

So of course, I was thrilled when she was short listed and then selected as one of three artists in residence for the Digital Makings project. I sat in on a recent planning meeting for DMs and had the opportunity to hear about Karen’s work and historical projects alongside her plans for 2017 in regards to our programme. The benefit of having artists in residence within Arts projects is that, it brings in new ideas, new energy, different diverse perspectives and expertise – a collaborative project really comes into its own. Part of that process is engaging with the artist in residence, seeking out the synergy, learning from their experience and their creative CV.

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Karen Underhill – #wingsofthecommunity

This meeting was for that; her passion for her work was clearly evident and I loved listening to her showcase her work. She told us about a recent 2015 project she worked on an ‘Environmental Artist in Residence’ with photographer Jonathan Bradley called Creative Endeavours. The artists worked with residents and communities across the East and West end of Newcastle empowering people to demonstrate their environmental pride.

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Karen Underhill – Reclaim the lanes

The community-owned projects saw participants of all ages, demographics and culture come up with fun and imaginative ways of illustrating and exploring what they can do to address local priorities like keeping back lanes tidy and litter-free whilst coming together to talk about the places in which they live and work reclaiming them as potential community spaces for vibrant cultural and community activities.

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Karen Underhill – #wingsofthecommunity

This project focused on giving individuals and community a creative voice, a means of expression whilst uniting them to tackle collaborative challenges and communicate environmental messages that affect them in the present and in the future.

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What really stood out to me is the rich diversity of the communities involved, led to a real diverse mix of arts engagement – cultural diversity is a beautiful thing and can lead to really beautiful results. Everything from community murals, to street parties, to music in the streets and even a music video called ‘Respect the Streets’ which also features Karen herself, created by the young people at The CHAT Trust Newcastle’s West End.

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Karen very recently finished a collaborative project called ‘Memory Petals’ with artist Kate Eccles; on December 6th a new permanent artwork went on display at Newburn Library, which was the culmination of three-months work by a collection of local groups from Throckley and Newburn.

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Karen and Kate worked with twenty-four people from the Grange Welfare Centre, Throckley Community Hall and ‘Flowers of Newburn’ community group exploring the themes of memory and discovery, mining the rich historical links of Newburn and Throckley to the River Tyne.

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The words and imagery inspired by these local stories were developed into crafting a circular motif, growing from imagery of a rose engraved military button, the watermill and other beautiful flowers. A variety of different techniques were used in the workshops to help create the heritage imagery, ideas and stories.  The techniques included mark making, painting, digital photography, apps, text, collage and sound recordings and explored the senses of sight, touch, smell and sound; and covered singing, textiles, printing and digital media.

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The project infused quite traditional arts mediums with digital whilst working with older people from local community groups, to try and record their personal memories, reflections and to celebrate the heritage of the area. The groups with encourage to explore their memories and self-expression, using creative means. The final piece was a final large flower artwork is 5ft x 5ft in size and contains 36 kaleidoscope discs, each showing the different mediums used. Each petal representing a person, a medium which is united into a visually impressive collaborative whole. A booklet has also been produced to document the three-month creative journey.

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Karen Underhill and Kate Eccles – Memory Petals

Karen has also recently completed workshop sessions with community groups from Kenton Bar, Northbourne Street Youth Initiative and Chain Reaction. They had a go at playing with scrap materials to form a Fire & Ice themed collars and a bustle, tinkered with UV paint and light, snowflake shapes and twinkly bits and mask making. Some of the results of these sessions appear at New Year’s Eve Carnival in Newcastle City Centre.

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So what about Karen and Digital Makings – well she “hopes to ignite a passion for learning and creativity by using thrifty ways of working, combining low and hi- fi technology and resources”. Karen will be running very diverse activities widely across Gateshead targeting digital inclusion, digital engagement and digital empowerment through creative activities– Voice and singing workshop at St Mary’s Heritage Centre, An alphabet photography workshop at Whickham library, Painting with light workshop, a VJ-ing workshop and Film Director Culture Camp at Gateshead Central Library.

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She will also be working with a wide variety of Gateshead based community groups – on community led creative projects with a digital thread. This will culminate in an exhibition, showcasing the work within The Gallery, at Gateshead Central Library. Knowing how well Karen works with community groups and the innovativeness of her facilitation, I’m extremely excited to see not only the end “thing” but the progression and evolution from initial idea to implementation.

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I’m really excited to work with Karen on Digital Makings and seeing some of these community projects take shape. Obviously, being the little raver I am – I can’t wait for some Painting with Light; I’ve got some great moves to bust out…..

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Enchanted Parks 2016; “Love me or hate me, both are in my favour!”

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I can finally get down to writing a post about my visit to Enchanted Parks. For those of you, that don’t know what Enchanted Parks is, it can be summarised as NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Gateshead Council’s popular after-dark arts adventure in Saltwell Park, Gateshead. This year it made a welcome return from Tuesday 6 – Sunday 11 December.

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The theme and concept behind this year’s installations were inspired by the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, taking visitors and participants on an intriguing journey through Saltwell Park, where a hidden manuscript found inside the Towers unleashed a strange kind of magic, as ‘A Midwinter Night’s Tale’ slowly came to life.

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I visited several times across the week, with very young children, primary school groups, older adult community groups alongside a whole host of groups of friends, so I really experienced Enchanted Parks through the eyes of lots of different demographics of people. This is the first year, I’ve had the opportunity to do this and it really added to my own personal experience, seeing which pieces captivated particular people and the infectious excitement of viewing again and again, with individuals that hadn’t seen it before.

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St Joseph’s Primary viewing The Eternal Debate of the Unconscious Mind – Alise Stopina

Like many social media’aholics, I take an interest in what other people are saying about their cultural experiences, as part of the process of reflecting on my own. I was really shocked but also very interested to read the extent of negativity towards this year’s Enchanted Parks.

The whole reason Enchanted Parks has steadily grown from strength to strength, year after year, is that it’s something different, it invests into student artists alongside National and International artist commissions, it innovates, it takes risks and it creates an experience. It is not a commercial entity or a cash cow lights event; it is an art walk….the art is shockingly, I know…at the heart of that. Each piece has its own story to tell, has been specially commissioned and brought together within a curated experience.

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Enchanted Parks brings people who love art and culture like myself, alongside other people who may not engage as regularly with art, side by side to both enjoy and appreciate a magical experience. Whilst we each may take very different things away from it, for example I look at the glass piece thinking in complete awe knowing the processes behind it, whereas my mum, who is not particularly into art at all, simply thinks she’s had a lush night and thought the glass piece was ‘beautiful’.

One of the brilliant things about art and culture is the fact it provokes a reaction, an opinion. With an event that evolves, changes, transforms year after year, it is expected that certain years are considered “better” or more to a particular taste than others. It is also, perfectly acceptable for people to walk away and think – “that wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be” or “I didn’t really get it”. These opinions are completely valid and interesting in their own right – that’s what the artists want!

I remember having a chat with well-known Sculptor Colin Rose, and he was flicking through gallery book feedback during his exhibition at Gateshead Central Library. As always lots of positive comments, some colourful and several that just said “how is this art?”, “this is rubbish” etc. I obviously, apologised for those types of comment and was a bit embarrassed. However, Colin said it was these comments, he most enjoyed because if he was creating something that everyone thought was “good”, “nice” then what was the point!? It’s like a beige buffet – it’s ok, I’m not excited about it, I wouldn’t complain but I wouldn’t rave about it……..who on earth wants something they’ve created to be a “beige buffet”.

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You want to evoke something in someone and if the reaction you evoke, is that someone wants to express “it’s bad” or “disappointing” then that is great because firstly, it’s a reaction and secondly at the other end of the spectrum, many people will think it’s brilliant…..this year’s Enchanted Parks certainly did that and I think it’s a sign of a job well done. Different people from all walks of life, had entirely individualistic experiences.

This year’s Shakespeare theme was abstract and conceptual which allowed for visitors’ ideas and imaginations to run wild. I really enjoyed the storytelling through Shakespeare’s themes from the stories we all know (some better than others). I thought the thematic approach actually made it far more accessible to all ages and demographics, as you didn’t have to engage or follow a specific story or have a certain level of knowledge about Shakespeare. It wasn’t even linear story telling – again this suited me as I was really able to enjoy and appreciate the pieces for what they were, how they made me feel, making sense of them instead of trying to fit them into a pre-conceived narrative.

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Engagement is a two way process; this means you must be willing to be open minded, fluid in your expectations and interact with the exhibits and pieces. Enchanted Parks is not simply walking through the door with the perception of “right…..entertain me!”….. you have to be willing to create some of the magic yourself, spend some time appreciating the exhibits, buy into it, share your experience around with your party. It’s an immersive experience in which you let go and encourage others to do the same.

The first piece as you walked in, the projection on Saltwell Towers was called A Forgotten Treasure and was by Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle. It’s hard to capture a piece like this on a photo…..but I’ve tried….

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A Forgotten Treasure –  Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle.

A Forgotten Treasure set the scene for your enchanted Midwinter journey through Saltwell Park, starting with the discovery of Shakespeare’s diary, uncovering the existence of a long-lost work. This piece was a very traditional Enchanted Parks piece that we’ve all come to know and love. Lots of colour, 3D projection work and amazingly visuals.

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A Forgotten Treasure –  Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle.

This is unsurprising given that Roma is a Newcastle based composer of music for film, animation, television and theatre. She has a diverse client list including BBC, Sky, EMI, Universal, Unicef, Open Clasp and Tate Britain and has had music performed, recorded and broadcast internationally. Roma is part of 2016’s BAFTA crew. Roma worked with children from St Joseph’s primary school recording their voices and reactions which were layered onto the projection.

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A Forgotten Treasure –  Roma Yagnik and Chris Lavelle.

The second piece was called Ignis Fatuus – Faery Magic and was by ArtAV. This piece represented fairies (think Midsummer Night’s Dream) giggling and whispering in the trees, whilst running amok and mischievously darting from tree to tree, their brightly coloured fairy dust clear for all to see.

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Ignis Fatuus – Faery Magic – ArtAV

ArtAV are digital artists, producing complex multidisciplinary works involving interactive video, lighting and sound. They specialise in the fields of 3D projection mapping and pixel mapped video. This piece was a real crowd favourite, as whilst it was subtle in its appearance, it had the effect of enabling visitors to walk into a fairy world almost accidentally and suddenly being surrounded by the sights and sounds. It was extremely effective.

The third piece was Forever and a Day by Impossible Arts. Impossible Arts are known for creating intriguing digital arts works that capture the imagination with interactive and participatory elements. Their interactive piece at Enchanted enabled individuals to have their faces projected on to big screens whilst mouthing the words of famous Shakespearean lines.

Forever and a Day – Impossible Arts (St Joseph’s Primary School faces)

For most families and groups, this was a highlight – seeing their faces projected led to loads of giggles! The St Joseph’s group that I went with, although nervous at first to have a go, were soon at the front and absolutely howling with laughter at each other contorting their faces for specific vowel sounds and later seeing the finished projection. I thought this piece worked so well, full of interaction and it was lush to hear all the giggling.

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Follow your heart to Saltwell Towers and we did……..with the forth piece The Eternal Debate of the  Unconscious Mind by Alise Stopina. These pieces were subtle and complimented with beating heart sounds. To me, this explored the theme of love in Shakespeare both from a romanticised feeling sense, but also in the brutal, heart break and the realism of the hearts depicted something to me, which spoke of violence and humanism. Love sometimes feels like having your heart ripped out of your chest and exposed for all to see.

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The Eternal Debate of the Unconscious Mind –  Alise Stopina

Alise Stopina is a 2nd year student at the University of Sunderland, the Glass and Ceramics department and I think the quality of this piece, and other student pieces really evidenced loud and proud about creative and art’s students this year standing shoulder to shoulder in concept and visual quality with the National and International Artists. Her pieces were fantastic and the piece was one of my favourites!

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The Eternal Debate of the Unconscious Mind – Alise Stopina

The next piece viewed on the trail was the Enchanted Talking Posts by Shared Space and Light. On all occasions of visiting, I was able to stop off just before this point in the trail and purchase an obscenely big hot chocolate, covered in cream and mallows which made standing and taking in the pieces a little bit more brilliant.

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Amazing hot chocolate

The lamp posts with their discourse, banter and insults were very typical of Shakespearean comedy – frenemies one minute and sworn enemies the next. They evoked lots of giggles from the crowd and I loved their expressive faces – as someone with a very expressive face, I really embrace the inability to hide any sort of emotional feeling because my face contorts and speaks volumes.

The next piece was often I noticed slightly overlooked by passers-by……it wasn’t really hidden, but for whatever reason, people walked passed it. Not sure why – as it really stuck out to me! The piece was called The Song of Time and was by Natsumi Jones, another Sunderland University student.

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The Song of Time – Natsumi Jones

The colourful nightingales danced, twinkled and appeared in like a curtain format. It spoke to me about the fragility of people and love; slightly obscured by the trees made me think of something intangible that is so beautiful, that we can’t really quite understand or touch.

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The Song of Time – Natsumi Jones

Following on to Enchanted Echoes by Stuff and Things; this was an immersive sound scape at the top of the Dene draws audiences in, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue, magic and uncertainty. For some of the adults that I visited with, this was their favourite piece but it was also one of the ones that was quite negatively talked about on social media.

Enchanted Echoes – Stuff and Things

I found it beautiful, entirely innovative and something completely different from previous years. It was the true definition of an immersive, multi-sensory experience. As someone working on a Digital Arts project currently, I’m extremely interested in sound influencing experiences, perceptions and visuals. You can see the exact same images and visuals, but different sounds added can make things feel and seem very different. The soundscape was new to Enchanted Parks and I hope it is something that is weaved into future performances.

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Enchanted Echoes – Stuff and Things

This year Enchanted Parks welcomed back Steve Newby with a new piece Rough Magic under a new professional name Studio Vertigo . These flashes of lightning worked fantastically well alongside the Soundscape, drawing the audience further into the Dene and into a storm. The pieces together made me predominantly think of King Lear and the madness during the storm but also thematically about the conflict and emotional wars in McBeth and Richard III.

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The third piece in this mix was Storm by Output Arts; a collaboration between artists Andy D’Cruz, Jonathan Hogg and Hilary Sleiman who create artworks that are powerful, emotional and memorable working primarily, but not exclusively, with sound and light. This installation was like walking into the eye of the storm, under the storm clouds and then out the other side, with the storm and conflict left behind and dispersing. Again, I was drawn to think of the moment in King Lear where Lear is wandering the heath and the character Edgar who plays a mad man, is his company  – the storm whilst not the beginning or the end of the story, feels like some kind of conclusion so the story can move on and the characters can grown.

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Storm by Output Arts

The next installations were a collection of pieces and sculptures under the collective name These Words Take Wing by Richard Dawson. Lots of papercutting and sculpture was used to bring these magical manuscripts to life.

These Words Take Wing – Richard Dawson

Richard is an artist based in the North of England and works in various mediums especially three dimensional and sculptural pieces often with kinetic elements and created from recycled materials. His pieces were so diverse and different, that I assumed they were actually made by entirely different artists. Each piece was so delicate, beautiful and thematically different. To me, the pieces each spoke of story-telling by very different means; the books, the words, the stories, the characters all were brought to life, very cleverly.

These Words Take Wing – Richard Dawson

Feedback from one of the little boys from St Joseph’s primary was that “the art is good – I like it. But he’s very naughty for cutting up books – what if someone wanted to read that book, they can’t now!”. Hehe – still makes me laugh and is in fact a very good point.

Larger than life, the beautiful red and white roses lined the Cherry Tree Walk; a memory of the bloody battles of the War of the Roses. This installation was called A Rose By Any Other Name by Cristina Ottonello; a designer, educator and public artist, specialising in the construction of large scale and temporary installations for public spaces and events. These oversized flowers were a perfect photo opportunity and looked visually amazing. I read more into the piece, thinking about warring families and how from those troubled factions and difficult times, something beautiful can bloom.

A Rose By Any Other Name by Cristina Ottonello

Love, Rivalry and Magic! by Daniel Rollitt, a University of Sunderland student, was what Mary Berry might call the “showstopper” piece. It depicted a scene from one of Shakespeare’s most popular works, where love, rivalry and magic meet in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The layering of the glass, the colour and the fact that visually as you moved around the piece, it slightly changed and offered a real depth. I loved it.

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A Rose By Any Other Name by Cristina Ottonello

Again, my appreciation for this one, comes more from working with glass artists and knowing how bliddy hard it is to work with glass. I’ve got several coaster attempts on my desk at work which highlights this. I worked really hard on them, but they look like a five year old did them. The time, the skill, the patience behind this piece, is just mesmerising.

A piece I had the privilege of seeing stage by stage before the final installation was The Book of Shadows by Bethan Maddocks . Bethan worked with community arts groups, paper cutters and Oakfield school on elements of this piece.

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The Book of Shadows – Bethan Maddocks

Within the bandstand, sat a giant magical book, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be read. Its large pages were delicate paper-cuts of scenes frozen in time. Participants were encouraged to pick up a torch and shine onto the piece, which projected stories through shadows. There was a lot going on within this piece – hanging witch trials, animals in nature, floral scenes. Fantastic, entirely unique, beautiful and interactive.

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The Book of Shadows – Bethan Maddocks

The final piece, was also the last student piece; ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ by Jonny Michie, University of Sunderland. Take your leave exit stage right as directed by Shakespeare himself, pursued by a bear – a giant, glass bear. I wasn’t 100% sure of this pieces’ connection to the Shakespeare theme – but it was still one of my favourites and a warm way to end the show.

Exit, pursued by a bear – Jonny Michie

A roving piece was Nyx by Gijs van Bon. If you don’t know which piece this was – it was the robot writing glow in the dark quotes. Letter after letter the glowing text poured slowly out of the machine and made its way slowly around the park.

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Nyx – Gijs van Bon

Audiences were both transfixed on the quotes themselves, but also the robot and how it was operating. I could have happily watched it all day. Again, another really innovative, exciting and unexpected piece!

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Nyx – Gijs van Bon

So Enchanted Parks 2016 – you were a beauty and a really different experience. Please continue innovating, doing something different and creating a magical, unique and often unexpected experience for all. We are so lucky to have an event like this in the North and I’m buzzing for next year already!

If you loved it, like me –see you next year. If you didn’t like it this year….well keep an open mind because next year, it will be completely different again, a different experience, story and installations. Remember Art is supposed to make you think, question, reflect and feel – so if you came away doing any of those things, well Enchanted Parks smashed it out the park (literally).

Nobody wants a beige buffet.

All my love – The Culture Vulture.

 

Frank Styles in the Spotlight

You may have noticed Snowdogs popping up across the region!? From 19 September to 29 November, parks, streets and open spaces across the North East region are playing host to Great North Snowdogs; 60 large and 97 little sculptures  inspired by ‘The Snowman and The Snowdog’.

Leading businesses, cultural organisations and talented artists have united to bring you this major free, public art trail, devised by creative producers, Wild In Art in partnership with St Oswald’s Children’s Hospice to raise funds for this Newcastle-based charity.

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There are Dogs across Gateshead; two in Saltwell Park, One at the Angel site, One at Gateshead Central Library, One at Trinity Square, One in the Gateshead Interchange and two at the Sage, Gateshead.

My office and base is at Gateshead Central Library and it’s not that I’m biased (ok may be a little!) but of course, my favourite is Graffiti, which is standing proudly to right of the old library entrance. He’s an absolute knock out beaut and the design is just fantastic!

Have you seen our Snowdog Graffiti yet? If so, let me know what you think!? If not – then get yourself along to Gateshead Central Library to visit him and of course pop in and say hello to our lovely Little Dogs – tweet us @GatesheadLibs and let us know about your visit.

Frank Styles in the Spotlight

Graffiti Dog was designed and created by one of the best known street artists in the North East; Frank Styles.

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Frank is a talented freehand spray painter with over 18 years’ experience painting under his belt. He specialises in photo-realistic murals, freehand graffiti art and stencil graffiti. Throughout his practice he designs and paints North East graffiti commissions, street art, murals alongside facilitating graffiti workshops and community projects.

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Frank is equally passionate about making art accessible for all and storytelling through his work.

Now, I personally love love LOVE graffiti work – I love the David Bowie near the Sage, I love the changing nature of the industrial walls between Sandyford, Shieldfield and Heaton in Newcastle. It’s real art form – one that I’ve always been completely in awe of and captivated by. When done professionally and of course, legally, it adds a colour and vibrancy to urban areas.

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My experience with “street art” and interest began with those sharp “s”’s in the back of my maths class when I was probably about 11 – practicing them over and over and if you went to school in the 90s, you’ll know exactly what I mean!

That retro activity, which fills me with nostalgia is what got me interested and today one of my favourite things to do, in any city in the world, in places from Barcelona to Southend, is whilst exploring a new place; I take photos and photos of all the street art I come across. New York was an absolute haven for it and street sculpture too……a true culture vulture’s paradise. In fact, I think I spent more time looking at that than I did the touristy things.

I was speaking recently to a gent who commissioned a local graffiti group to decorate and a design a piece for his car park on Brandling Street, Gateshead (just off the Tyne Bridge) and I asked him why he’d commissioned a graffiti style of piece in a client carpark. He said, he wanted a talking point for his visiting clients, something colourful with a North East theme and he had the idea of young people feeling ownership of the car park, re-visiting it and thinking “I did that!”. It’s a fantastic piece that is hidden away and certainly always stops me in my tracks!

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So when I found out our Snowdog was by a graffiti artist, obviously I was excited and couldn’t wait to see it. I imagined colourful, exciting and impactful and that is exactly what we got. Frank’s design is brilliant and certainly one of my favourite Snowdogs!

I also love the idea of finally jumping over the hurdle of “graffiti isn’t really art” – well, of course it is and it’s one of my favourites. It’s a glorious form of Art and the skill behind it is unbelievable. I love anything where people are self-taught, self-crafted; that takes passionate and real hard work. We now have businesses and Councils embracing it and commissioning such work inside and outside as part of environmental enrichment and to impress clients.

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So whilst you could say graffiti isn’t to your taste; I could also say that a watercolour painting of a landscape really isn’t my taste but I can still look at appreciate the skill of the artist. You only have to watch our Snowdog Graffiti for five minutes and see how many people stop, look at the Dog and take photos.

And that’s exactly what Snowdogs is all about – getting out and about engaging with sculpture and new art forms and styles, learning about new artists and of course, raising some funds for St Oswalds.

I caught up with Frank to find out a little bit more about the man behind graffiti…..

Tell me a bit about yourself?

Hi I am Frank, Frank I am.

Tell me about your practice?

I paint pictures using spray paint, a skill I learned from doing graffiti. I’m a full time mural artist; I like to paint large walls in places where people can see them, for me it’s a job that I am passionate about and really enjoy, in that respect I am really lucky but then you make your own luck, don’t you?

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In between painting big walls I paint a lot of smaller commissions like restaurants, pubs, offices etc.  I love this, meeting new people each week and having a new challenge to paint all the time, it gives me ideas and techniques that filter into the bigger walls.

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What is “street art”?

I don’t see myself as a street artist, I used to do graffiti, I did Fine art degree and then I started painting commissions and eventually landed some big walls.

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I’m a spray painter, I paint pretty pictures, more of a mural artist, I had a choice to make – I could keep doing illegal graffiti and risk ending up in prison or use my skills to support my family and try to make the world a more colourful place at the same time.

Do you have a favourite piece of work?

Yes; it’s normally the last thing I’ve painted! However one that stands out for me is the ‘Two Whites’ piece on High Street East in Sunderland City Centre (see picture below). It’s a painting of two butterflies 12 meters high. It’s a simple painting but the scale of the thing still blows me away every time I see it.

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Why did you want to get involved with Snowdogs?

I wasn’t going to do a Snowdog but my friend Steph convinced me, she said you need to paint one it’ll be awesome! So I said, “ok I’ll give it a shot” and I was really happy with the outcome. It’s the first sculpture I’ve painted and it presented new challenges, trying to make it look good from every angle for example.

What was your inspiration for Graffiti dog?

Ok, so I paint a lot of photo realistic images and I love painting things from nature.  But when faced with a dog, it didn’t seem right to go down this route.  I thought “they look very cute so how can I toughen this guy up a bit”?  How can I contrast this cuteness?! So I looked back through some of my old graffiti letters for inspiration and came up with this abstracted letterform design.  I love the colours and the flow; I’ve had great fun painting this dog. I don’t think I’ve managed to completely kill the cuteness but at least I’ve given it a shot!

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A part from your Dog, do you have another favourite Snowdog?

I’ve been impressed by the standard of all the dogs I’ve seen. It’s so worth seeing them in person you just can’t take it all in through a photo. Mike Clay’s ‘Guide Dog’ sings to me for the sheer detail that’s gone into the maps on it and likewise the ‘Hounds Tooth’ by Damien Jeffrey must have taken some doing, so bright and colourful; it’s class.

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Advice for people wanting to get into street art?

It takes a great deal of time, patience and paint to learn spray painting. So you have to keep going and keep drawing and painting; even it doesn’t look great just keep going.  It took me years to learn, I mean 6 or 7 years before I was even happy with anything I painted, buy I kept going, you have to.

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Well thank you Frank – if you want to watch Frank in action – watch this amazing video!

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(The 90s kid inside LOVES Frank’s Power Ranger indoor design!!)

We are now 3 weeks into Snowdogs – keep finding them, enjoying the work and of course #protectthepack…….

Jane Gower – Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month August

Well Summer is drawing to the end…..and it seems fitting that we spent most of August’s Sculpture 30 activity outside with the sculptor version of Ray Mears.

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As an artist, a business person, a career person, a stay at home saint or any other type of busy bee, do you take the opportunity to get outside and appreciate the outdoors. Now I mean, REALLY appreciate – look around you, taking in the smells, the shapes of natural objects, the light…….

If you look closely enough, beauty and sculpture can be found and created in almost anything. Taking time out to do this is not only imperative for your mindfulness and inner wellbeing, it is also crucial part of the creative process; allowing yourself to think, reflect, reimagine and to get lost in the world around you, that you may see every day, but not take in.

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That’s what we focused on during August with our Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month Jane Gower. We got outside with different groups; adults, children, artists and creatives a like and we got using the natural world and materials around us to make beautiful sculptural pieces that both created meaning in the present and complemented the landscape.

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I spent an afternoon with Jane during a family Land Art workshop in Thornley Woods…..it was a fantastic afternoon spent making our names from natural resources around us and picking special objects during our trail.

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Whilst on our object hunt, we often stopped to talk about why we’d picked certain objects, why they visually seemed special to us and the beautiful colours, shapes and textures. It was fascinating to share perceptions and discover emotional attachments to inanimate objects.

Jane had also scattered on our route, several pieces of her land art that she had created making the afternoon feel like a mini sculpture trail of natural discovery.

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We used our materials to recreate the Gruffalo’s foot-steps – a series of footsteps with natural materials, to reimagine what he might like to eat and we ended our session making him a den.

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I had a fantastic afternoon – I found it grounding in the sense it reminded me of the creative possibilities that exist all around us every day and how these possibilities are constantly changing and evolving with nature. Moreover, this type of sculpture making is very accessible to everyone and something individuals, teams, groups and families can do as a collective.

After the session, I caught up with Jane Gower, our artist of the Month for August, to probe a little deeper into her practice, to find out what it is about the outdoors she loves so much and what exactly, ephemeral art is……?

Hi Jane, Tell me a little about yourself?

I love walking, especially with friends and family and ravelling around and camping in my converted transit van; also getting totally lost in creating a piece of work when I forget time, to eat and other people. I also love collaborating with other artists on projects.

Meeting new people is endlessly fascinating especially if I’m researching for a commission and find out about a whole different way of life.

I did a degree in Textiles and an M.A in Fine Art. My jobs from a previous life include; Stage-Management in London West End Theatres, running my own knitted textile business, clothing designer/production manager for a Fair Trade company, Art Foundation Course Lecturer and Community artist.

I have two children who have flown the nest.

Tell me about your practice?

I have been described as an eccentric art-scientist, experimenting with different materials: melting, shredding and generally deconstructing, then re-constructing the remains into some other form. This approach employed man-made materials. I’ve transferred this questioning recently, into testing the physical qualities of natural elements out in a rural environment. In doing so I’ve dropped the need for tools and equipment, finding the necessaries in a ‘make-do-Ray-Mears’ approach and adapting whatever’s lying around or re-thinking the process. This is very liberating. It involves trusting a spontaneous response to the natural environment and going with it.

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I also describe my practice as socially-engaged; involving participants in the creative process, using a range of media and techniques that is relevant for both the participants and to the installation site. The constant thread that runs through all my work is the intricacies of communication in the cultural realm: the disparity that lies between intention and interpretation.

Social engagement has decreased in recent times as I’ve been exploring this new direction in my practice.

Past commissions and residencies include; The Great North Run, The Sage Gateshead, Newcastle Riverside Sculpture Trail, The Tall Ships Race, Pallion, Cleadon and Gateshead PCT NHS Health Centres, among others.

Where can people go to see more of your work?

In terms of the Land Art work nothing can be seen in actuality as it’s so temporary but I’m on Instagram as jane_gower. I try and make one Land art piece a day, photograph it and upload onto the app every day.

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There are two large-scale, permanent, sculptural installations in the Trinity Square Health Centre at West Street, Gateshead. One is inside the surgery and one outside in the car park. Both were participatory pieces based around the question: ‘What makes you better?’. They are both permanent. Fabricated from printed and engraved clear or mirror acrylic they are different from resources I am currently using.

Voice recordings are often incorporated into my sculptural installations as I like to make evident the work process in the final piece and they bring animation.

I’ve just completed a sound piece: ‘Coastal Viewpoints’ in collaboration with Nicola Balfour for Durham Heritage Coast. We’ve been audio recording people out and about on the coastal path between Seaham and Horden. Their responses to the question: ‘What’s your view of this coastline?’ are being edited into QR points on the information boards along the path. People can hear some of the recordings on the FB page; ‘Coastal Viewpoints’.

What are your ties to the North East?

There are several factors:

I ran away from a London-life 28 years ago, for a job as clothing designer/production manager for the fair-trade company Traidcraft in Gateshead, and never went back.

I live on the border of three very different county boundaries; Northumberland, Durham and Gateshead. The diversity in terms of landscape, communities and culture is so varied and engaging, that it constantly inspires me.

I feel the North East has been one of the few areas in England that has valued artists’ contribution to its regeneration. Even though there has been a noticeable dearth of available arts funding recently, it still feels there’s potential to make a living as a free-lance artist here.

The North East has been good to me. Both my children were born here, so the area feels like part of our DNA.

For those who don’t know, what is “Ephemeral Land Art”?

Land Art refers to an art movement that began in the 60’s in which landscape and art is inextricably linked. It’s about experiencing natural spaces and responding to them using indigenous materials to create art and placing it in the natural environment. The ‘Ephemeral’ derives from a Greek word meaning lasting only one day. This encapsulates the temporary period that the artworks are expected to exist. Due to the raw materials being used and the spaces they are created in, out in the natural environment, they will start to deteriorate immediately. Open to the elements, to animal and human activity, the artworks only exists at the moment of creation. Documenting that moment through photography is the only way to keep the piece alive and give it longevity.

Why is getting outside important for creatives?

Getting outside whatever the weather for anyone, regardless of whether they are an artist or not, is very grounding. Even in an urban environment, I think to feel the elements and to be in natural light helps get things into perspective. Being outdoors invigorates and you are dealing immediately with the here-and-now basics of life.

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Having to find a way of working with the idiosyncrasies of a variety of natural forms, out in an uncontrollable environment, has its own particular challenges and rewards for creative people.

Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with the Gateshead homeschoolers?

I was asked to work with a homeschooling group and their carers based in Gateshead. We spent 2 ½ days in Thornley Woods exploring the landscape, looking at all the resources available and using different techniques to make land art, prints and photographs. Sometimes everyone worked individually and sometimes as a team. We did lots of playing and walking, and discussing the natural environment   and our response to it. They were for me some very uplifting and informative days with an enthusiastic group of learners.

What is your favourite piece of Sculpture in the North East/the world?

One that always resonates with me is Cornelia Parkers’   Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) A garden shed she had blown up by the British Army and suspended the fragments as if suspending the explosion process in time.

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Well thank you Jane, another fantastic Sculpture 30 artist of the Month.

As we draw ever closer to the end of Sculpture 30 Festival, I have to say I now view Sculpture in a whole new way. It is very accessible and incredibly diverse in art form, materials used, nature, inspiration…..I am also surprised to discover through-out the year, how “sculpture” is not really the isolated art form, I thought it was. It in fact infuses, permeates and influences Art and creative practices in a huge way….

Taking from Jane and I think we all can Culture Vultures; get outside more and really look at the natural world around you for it is full of undiscovered creative possibilities!

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Great North Snowdogs…..5 weeks to go!

It’s not long until The Great North Snow Dogs launches across the North East (19th September – so just over a month away!) and lots of Big and Small Snowdogs pop up across the region in cultural venues, landmarks and local hidden gems.

Each Big Snowdog has been design by a professional artist; the North East and of course, Gateshead on the Gateshead Trail are set to come alive with colour from the fantastic designs!

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Last week we caught up with Corinne Lewis-Ward; a brilliant Gateshead based artist and the business brains behind Powder Butterfly.

Corinne has been a long-time champion of Arts in Gateshead (and of course – Arts regionally, Nationally and Internationally). She has also been selected as an artist as part of The Great North Snow Dogs project working on two Big Snow Dogs.

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We wanted to catch up with her and find out more about her work, her practice and of course, more about Snowdogs!

Hi Corinne, can you tell me a bit about your practice?

Just like many creatives, I work in a variety of ways! I have my own creative practice as an artist but I also have my own design company which is called Powder Butterfly.

With my design company I am interested in representing well-loved landmarks from different locations in the UK. I currently have a Newcastle/Gateshead collection, a York collection and a London collection.

One Snow Dog design was inspired by my Newcastle/Gateshead collection. I have lived in the North east for 18 years and all of the landmarks hold a special place in my heart.

How did you hear about The Great North Snowdogs project?

I heard about The Great North Snowdogs at the North Design Centre in Gateshead. It was a really exciting event where we got to meet people from Wild In Art, St Oswalds and some of the sponsors and other creatives. There was a buzz about The Great North Snowdog project and I could tell that it would be wonderful to play a small part in it.

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Why did you decide/want to get involved?

I wanted to get involved because St Oswalds is an amazing organisation that carries out wonderful work throughout the North East, and being part of the raising money and awareness for their cause and activity was something that I really wanted to be part of.

I also love The Snowman and the Snow Dog animation, I enjoyed watching it with my kids and I could see how much fun this project was going to be with The Snowdog as the sculpture.

This project also took me out of my comfort zone to a certain degree as painting is not something that I do every day. Increasingly I work with digital media, but I was really keen to have the chance to use my art school experience to create something completely unique.

What was the process behind submitting your designs for your Dog and getting the green light?

The process was pretty simple really; I had to come up with a design in a two dimensional format and submit it as part of my application. I knew that I wanted to use the basis of my design from my Newcastle/Gateshead collection so I had a fair idea of how the artwork should look.

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I had to wait a few weeks before finding out if I had been successful. I knew that there would be selection process where sponsors would get to see the designs and then choose their favourite.

How did you feel when you found out, you’d been selected not once, but TWICE!?

I was really thrilled to find out that my Newcastle/Gateshead design had been selected from my original application. When I was working on it I was asked to carry out a VIP Snowdog commission which was amazing. Having two Snow Dogs on the sculpture trail is really wonderful and it is such an honour to be selected to carry out a VIP commission.

What were the inspirations behind your Snowdog designs? (only say as much as you can!)

Newcastle/Gateshead landmarks were the inspiration for my first design. All I can say about the VIP commission is that the design is based upon a well-loved British children’s author and illustrator.

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As you can imagine we all want to keep the sculpture trail a surprise for people so I wouldn’t want to reveal any spoilers.

Can you reveal any secrets regarding your Dogs, locations, names, sponsors?

The name of the Newcastle/Gateshead design is Tyne Tail Jack you can follow him on twitter @TyneTailJack . The lovely Sponsors are called The North Group and they have been operating in the North East for 150 years. The location of the dog will be on the Newcastle side of the Quayside.

As far as my VIP commission is concerned I am not able to reveal much at all about this lovely pup. But as soon as I do I will let you know what I can.

How does it feel as a Gateshead based Artist, to be featured within such a high profile North East campaign?

I am so proud to be part of this project. Although I am originally from London, I have lived in the North East for 18 years and I love it up here.

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I am so passionate about Gateshead and the amazing creative community that we have here. To be part of such a high profile campaign is wonderful and I am really excited to see how the local community and visitors to the region respond to the amazing work that artists from the local area and all over the country have created.

Each dog has its own very unique character and there are so many brilliant designs that have also been created by local schools and community groups as well.

Have you seen any other Snowdogs yet?

Yes I have seen some fabulous Snowdogs. I have been working in the studio in Newcastle that is provided for artists to work on the dogs and I am so excited that I have been lucky enough to meet some amazingly talented artists in the process.

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The studio is also the place where all completed dogs come to before the sculpture trail. So all of the school and community art dogs and the sculpture trail dogs end up there, so I am looking forward to seeing many more over the coming weeks.

Why are projects like this so important to the North East cultural agenda?

Events like this raise awareness of what is going on up here creatively and raise awareness of the great work St Oswalds does for people in the region.

It will also bring people from outside of the region to the area which will help introduce new audiences to the North East and help stimulate the local economy. With my design I have tried to help foster links between industry, the corporate world and the arts. I think the project model that Wild In Art have created really demonstrates how seemingly disparate bodies can work together to achieve great things creatively.

Do you intend to complete the wider Great North Snowdogs Public Art Trail and (of course!) the Gateshead Trail?

I can’t wait to attend the sculpture trail with my friends and family. It is going to be amazing to see how many pictures of the Snowdogs we can collect before they go to auction at the end of the year. It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to document the event and see how many we can take pictures of. I am also excited to see where they all end up being located.

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After Gateshead Sculpture 30 Festival, Playground at Baltic and now Snowdogs, there seems to have been a bit of a shift towards more accessible, interactive sculpture and outdoor Art! We really love this as it gets people outdoors, exploring alongside engaging with Art and Sculpture! What do you think about this?

Any kind of project or campaign that makes art more accessible to a wider audience is something that I love to be part of. With my creative practice as an artist, I attempt to bring art and science together which could be seen as two entirely unrelated subjects. But I have found that audiences are really interested and engaged in this sort of work especially if you make the work engaging and accessible.

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The Great North Snow Dogs project is one of those special events that will get people exploring, engaging and sharing their experience through social media. I think I have also heard rumours of an app being created for the event so I am keen to see what that will be like. It’s going to be a wonderful and exciting event and I am so thrilled to be a small part of it.

How brilliant and thank you Corinne! So Culture Vultures – as of the 19th September, you have ten weeks, so find, discover and snap a selfie (or a snowfie, as we are calling them) with the Snowdogs across the region and of course Gateshead.

In the meantime; Tweet a “hello” to Corinne’s Snowdog @TyneTailJack, visit Snowdogs webpage to keep yourself up to date on all things Snowdog related including any app information. You can also catch them on @GreatNorthSnowdogs on Facebook and @great_snowdogs on Twitter.

We can’t waitttttt for Snowdogs!

Gilbert Ward July Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month.

Another Month over and another Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month; for July we have been lucky enough to have Gilbert Ward as our artist in residence in Saltwell Park!

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Gilbert is a local favourite sculptor with strong ties to Gateshead Riverside, Cheeseburn, Northumberland and he has recently completed a residency in Alnwick Gardens. Those of you, who keenly attend Anna Pepperall’s Public Art Walks may have even met Gilbert during an interpreted Riverside Walk, as he talked through his inspirations and practice when creating Foliate Forms’.

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Foliate Forms’ by Gilbert Ward (2010), Gateshead Riverside Park

Every Tuesday in July, 10am-3pm Gilbert pitched up next to the Rose Garden, in Saltwell Park and offered passers by the opportunity to see and experience Sculpture in Action. As it is in the midst of the Summer holidays, Gilbert was not in shortage of people in the Park eager and curious, to find out what he was doing!

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Through-out his time in Saltwell Park, Gilbert was working on a new piece called “The Kiss” made out of Doddington Stone; the piece really blossomed and developed across the month with many Park goers returning to see how the work was progressing.

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Some Park goers simply relaxed and took in his practice interested in the process, the form and the image but many, including myself, wanted to get more hands on and actually have a bit of a go whilst visiting the Park, a place many visitors describe as “the lungs of Gateshead”.

Speaking about sculpture Gilbert commented “I am a sculptor and a sculptor’s work is his statement. Sculpture cannot lie; it is an idea, material, form and structure, brought together in an object, which occupies a particular space with its presence.”

Gilbert was born proudly in 1935, in Yorkshire and like any typical Yorkshire man; he’s a big fan of his Yorkshire brew! He lives, works and of course sculpts in amongst the beautiful landscape of Northumberland.

Gilbert Ward has been commissioned to develop many sculptures across the North East of England. Gilberts work in stone and wood stems from a fascination with formal geometry and structures found within nature. Often carving on site or with communities Gilbert works to develop a sculptural response to a landscape.

One such piece is positioned in Saltwell Park – Foliate Carving. It’s a beautiful peace and there is something about it, something natural and connected the growing wonderland around it that feels so right and as if it truly belongs.

Foliate Carving – Gilbert Ward (2006)

“When I am working for a fixed site, I try to make the piece (usually in stone) fit the place, and fitting into its landscape. One hopes that those who pause upon finding the sculpture will come to an understanding of its meaning, and of it becoming a living part of their landscape.”

Gilbert has many more pieces across the North East and viewing them is a perfect opportunity to get outdoors and exploring this Summer. Another beautiful piece is situated up at Bowes and Tanfield Railway Paths……

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Standing Stone by Gilbert Ward.

Gilbert also has installed 2 collections of small sculptural works at Cheeseburn which he has been developing over the last 10 years: ‘Bakers Dozen’ (hornbeam) and ‘The Fall’ (ash).

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Cheeseburn – Gilbert Ward

Sited in the old potting shed at Cheeseburn these works explore the potential of natural forms for growth and evolution.

“I live in the hope that others will get the same amount of pleasure seeing the work, as I did in preparing and making it.”

Well with another month over in our Sculpture 30 celebrations, that means two things…… 1. We are nearing closer to the end of the year-long festival! Boo! But 2. We’re one month closer to the next Gateshead Family Sculpture Day, which this year is on 25th September, as always in Saltwell Park, in the Grove. We can’t wait!

Yeyyyy…….with less than two months to go, Gateshead’s 31st Sculpture day count down is officially on!

Colin Rose – Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month: June

 Colin Rose has been one of my favourite Sculpture 30 artists so far; he’s very down to earth and a hands on creative, which to me makes the often intangible creative process into something quite real and tangible. He also tells fantastic stories that go along with his Art and the positioning of each piece, which I could happily listen to all day.

Those of you, who pop into the Gallery at Gateshead Central library, may have caught his recent exhibition; charcoal earth paper.

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This body of work was inspired by his use of earth, charcoal and time in Australia. The pieces forced on every objects of little beautiful, that he has captured within rich drawings, making them so intrinsically beautiful and interesting to look at.

I spoke to several people who viewed his exhibition and the general thematic questions arose “who is Colin Rose?” and “where can I see more of his work?”. Such questions are surely a good sign……so this blog post is about just that; I’m going to tell you who he is and the local pieces you can go and view!

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Colin Rose is born and bred in the North East; like myself is a Northumbria University Graduate and is passionate not only about the “doing” side of Art but also the teaching side having held a variety of positions at local Universities. His work transcends different artistic mediums and materials; from rope work, to metal, to drawing, to toy trucks, to engineering feats of sculpture…..

I joined him on his recent Sculpture Tour on Saturday 18th June to view and find out more about his Public sculpture works in the region….

Our first stop was Window; local Gateshead folk will recognise the piece from the Bensham area on Rawling Road.

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Window (1986)

Window was commissioned as part of a regeneration project in the area and interestingly, irrespective of its size and dominance, very much blends into the urban architecture of the area. To me, at least someone born in 1985, it has always been there and I can’t imagine the space beforehand.

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Colin talked through the process of erecting such a piece; his love for Sculpture doesn’t just focus on the planning and making part, but also the “how on earth are we going to move this piece and get it into position???”. Apparently such problem solving trials have involved driving several cars into the ground……

Window is very much inspired by sound and form and for me, even just knowing the name “window” automatically shaped my view of what it represented; a window into Bensham and Gateshead. Colin purported his preference of hearing other people’s take on the sculpture and what “thing” they think it is before expressing his inspiration.

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And of course, he is quite right….. we all put individual meaning onto things, that can be radically changed once the artist states what it is. That’s another reason I like Colin, his love of listening to others and his “realness” about his art. I tend to find people try to see meaning in Art, sometimes beyond meaning that is actually there and full of metaphor….. sometimes a box can in fact just be a box and still be as brilliant.

The next piece we viewed was Swirl, which is on the Gateshead Quays, just behind Baltic. Swirl is another beautiful metal piece of sculpture that just perfectly “fits” with the surroundings. So much so, I assumed that Colin must have known about the wider developments of the area when he was commissioned to do it, but in fact he was unaware and responding to the surroundings pre-2010. It has a very strong sense of belonging.

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Swirl (2010)

What I love about Swirl, is that it is a piece that has become a part of people’s daily lives; my office was close by at the Northern Design Centre (there are lots of offices in Baltic Square) and people like myself often take time out of the office environment to each lunch there or even host a meeting by Swirl. Skaters skate around it and on it, students from Gateshead College sometimes sit doing their work next to it, it has become a prime wedding picture location for those having their party at the Baltic and it is a visitor hot spot on the Gateshead Quays. Swirl is the definition of accessible sculpture….

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In addition, I love that Swirl has been named by so many people; becoming a representation of what they visually see it as; the vortex, water down a plug hole, leaning tower, metal thing, stairs, like a slinky, stack of silver coins (my name!)…..maybe you have your own name for it too.

Interestingly it’s made using the same method as the statue of liberty with a central copper core that keeps it upright and balanced. The engineering feat of this piece is not a mistake, as Colin a sculptor who describes himself as “going against the grain”, decided against pursuing a career as an engineer and swapped into Fine Art, something that was quite controversial at the time. However, his experience as an engineer is very dominant in pieces such as Swirl, as his design is enabled through industrial, hands on experience.

The third piece we visited was Rolling Moon, in Riverside Park on Gateshead Quays; this sculpture is another feat of structural engineering. It was commissioned for Glasgow Garden Festival before finding its home in Gateshead.

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Rolling Moon (1989)

The piece represents the tide pulling back and forth the moon; when you look up at the piece it is difficult to understand how on earth the “moon” stays on us there.

Moreover, I think the piece has especially symbolic significance to the area; not only does it show the regeneration of the Riverside area which was in decline for some time but also the period pre-Angel, where Gateshead was beginning to position itself culturally and making great steps towards the vibrant Gateshead we know today.

The final piece on our tour was Wriggle in Saltwell Park. I live along the top of the Park and walk through it most days to get to and from work and I can honestly say, I’ve never noticed this piece; a true hidden gem.

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Wriggle (2006)

It sits down towards the stream area on the rocky area of once of the waterfalls and is inspired by the river and sound waves. It sits perfectly within its natural surroundings and the fact, it rusts a bright reddish colour, creates a colourful contrast on the green foliage.

If like me, your appetite to see more Colin Rose pieces remains, you can visit Cheeseburn during one of their open weekends as he has three pieces sited across the grounds.

So back to the present….I will be lurking (a favourite hobby of mine) with Sculpture 30 Artist of the Month: July, Gilbert Ward this coming Tuesday….come and say hiyerrr! Hopefully the sun will shine!

Over and out…

Gilbert in action

 

Cultural kid’s activities in Central Gateshead this Summer

The summer holidays are nearly here…..and I know what you’re thinking if you’re a parent!? What am I going to do with my mini mes over the Summer Holiday period……

Well there is LOTS going on in Central Gateshead, a real diverse mix of activities both indoors and outside for a range of ages. We want to keep your kids entertained, discovering new things and having lots of fun. That is what the English Summertime should all be about…..

Summer holiday activities kick off with a bang with a Theatre Set Design Workshop with Tanya Axford

Wailes Room, Gateshead Central Library – Saturday 16 July, 10am – 12.30pm

Work with visual artist Tanya Axford, who masterminded the set for ‘In A NutShell’ to create your very own imaginative theatrical world and become a part of it! This is a unique experience for theatre loving creatives to work with a professional!

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In A NutShell set – Tanya Axford

For ages 7+ (all children must be accompanied by an adult).

£ 3 per child

Click to book

We then move onto the launch of Summer Holiday Culture Camp

Camp

Have you got a budding artist at home who wants some inspiration in the summer holidays? Culture Camp gives young people aged 8-14 an opportunity to work with a different professional artist each day to try lots of interesting arts activities and materials.

Monday 25 JulyKate Eccles will help you to create your own unique hoodies and bags using recycled fabrics.

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Bring along something you don’t mind cutting up and transforming by adding horns, flowers, skulls or animals.

£20

Click to book

Tuesday 26 July – Artist Paul Merrick will have you mastering your drawing and painting skills using lots of different materials.

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Move from 2d to 3d over the day and turn some of your ideas into your own sculptural mobile to take home for your bedroom.

£20

Click to book

Wednesday 27 July – Try your hand at printmaking with experts from Northern Print Studio, with monoprinting in the morning and using letterpress in the afternoon to make cards, posters or bunting for your bedroom.

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£20

Click to book

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Minecraft Special is a free drop in session…

Gateshead Central Library – Wednesday 3 August, 11am

As part of the Summer Reading Challenge; bring books to life in Minecraft. Help us recreate a Minecraft Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory.

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Free, just drop in!

More info

Welcome to the Circus: Workshop for all the family

Ever fancied learning some circus tricks to show off to your friends…..well we’ve got a corker of a session for you….

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St Mary’s Heritage Centre – Friday 5 August, 1pm-3pm

Become a trainee circus performer for the afternoon and try out some of the skills it takes to join the circus, including Plate spinning, Poi, Gymnastic Ribbon, Juggling, Hula Hoop, Tight Rope Walking and Beginners Stilts in this action packed session. Both children and adults will equally enjoy showing off their favourite skills at the graduation to the Big Top showcase where everyone will receive a certificate welcoming them to the circus.

This exciting and energetic workshop is suitable for anyone over 7 years, all equipment will be available.

£10 per participant

Click to book

Over The Moon Glass Workshop

Wailes Room, Gateshead Central Library – Saturday 6 August, 10am-12.30pm

Join glass artist Effie Burns to make ‘space’ inspired glass pieces that are out of this world, in this family friendly workshop.

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This workshop is perfect for parent and child to work together on a lovely glass project…..

Suitable for ages 7+

£10 – Please book places for both children and adults taking part.

Click to book

Mad About Monkeys

Have you got a cheeky monkey at home? Well this free workshop is perfect just for them….

Gateshead Central Library – Thursday 11 August, 2pm

A monkey sculpture craft afternoon for all the family.

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Free, reserve your place!

To reserve a place click

Whimsical Windchimes

Have you checked out the community garden at Gateshead Central Library; it’s always a hive of activity…..

Gateshead Central Library – Saturday 13 August, 10.30am

Join us to make your very own windchimes to hang in the garden this summer. Test them out first in our community garden!

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£2/£3 per child

Click to book

Creatures Up Close @ Central

Oooooh back by popular demand our beasties, creepy crawlies and unusual small animals…..book quick as this always sells out!

Gateshead Central Library – Monday 15 August, 2pm and 2.45pm

Your chance to get hands on and up close with some very unusual insects, reptiles and amphibians.

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£2/£3 per child

Click to book

I Dreamed A Jar

Have you seen the BFG? What would you put in your Dream Jar…… let’s find out!

Gateshead Central Library, Monday 22 August, 2pm

Staff at Central will be making their own Dream Jars so why not help them out or make one of your very own!

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Free

To reserve a place

Family Nature Doodling Workshop

The English summertime should be about getting outside and exploring…..

Meet at Thornley Woodlands Centre, off the A694 – Wednesday 24 August, 1pm – 4pm

Discover new ways of exploring our natural landscape through making temporary land art.

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Treehug – Jane Gower

Join Artist Jane Gower for a leisurely walk and explore the process of making – find beautiful objects in nature; seek out enchanting spaces; collect colours; and create sculptures and 3-D collages. They may only last a day, but you can capture your art piece in a photograph before it disappears.

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Ladders – Jane Gower

Please wear suitable clothing and shoes for the weather and bring a camera or phone to take photos of what you make.

£3/£5 – suitable for families

Click to book

Mrs Twit’s Trick Menu

Another Summer reading challenge activity……

Gateshead Central Library – Thursday 25 August, 2pm

Mrs Twit invites you to come along and sample her special menu. Do you fancy tomato-blood soup, octopus eyeballs or spider lollipops?

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Test your tastebuds and see which is the most delicious and make your own revolting recipe!

£1 per child

To reserve a place

Manga Workshop with Paul Belcher

Back by popular demand after last summer’s session…..

St Mary’s Heritage Centre – Thursday 25 August, 1pm-3pm

Local Community Artist Paul Belcher is returning to St Mary’s for his popular manga art session.

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It’s a great opportunity to learn some manga art techniques in this workshop suitable for children and adults. With Paul’s guidance you will create manga style portraits on A4 canvas using acrylics.

£5 per participant

Click to book

Summer Holiday Culture Camp – Make a Play in a Day

Do you have the next aspiring Jennifer Lawrence or Leo Dicaprio in your family?

Gateshead Central Library – Thursday 1 September, 9.30am – 4.30pm

Drama Teacher, David Raynor will help you create a play in a day; you get to experiment with a variety of acting and movement techniques, script writing and set design!

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£20

Click to book

Sculpture Making Workshop with Neil Canavan

Join Sculpture 30’s September artist of the month to get creating and making….

The Gallery, Gateshead Central Library – Saturday 3 September, 10am-12.30pm

Create mini sculptures that will help artist Neil Canavan create a largescale sculpture called ‘Juggernaut’ inspired by the large mobile structures that were pulled along by devotees in Hindu religious processions.

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Ship of Fools – Neil Canavan

The finished sculpture will feature at the 31st Gateshead Family Sculpture Day in Saltwell Park on 25 September!

Suitable for all ages and all materials provided.

Free, just drop in.

Click for more info

So get booking and reserving your places quick! This is just a flavour of Central Gateshead activities….there are more activities listed at www.gateshead.gov.uk/whatson at other branch library locations across Gateshead that you may want to check out!

 

 

 

 

 

July…. Saltwell Park meets Sculpture 30

July, ohhhh July, where is your summer sunshine and why is it hiding? I can’t promise sun shine for July, but I can promise a celebration of all things Saltwell Park as part of Gateshead Sculpture 30 Festival.

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I’ve grown up in Low Fell, living right along the top of the park my whole life, since I was about 18months old. It was where I first rode a bike (into a tree – my Dad caught it on video), it was where I used to play out during long hot 90’s summers, it was where my Grandma told me that all the fireworks on Bonfire night (my birthday) were just for me and everyone was celebrating (I was such a diva child that of course, that seemed quite plausible), it is my walk to route every morning and it is my go to place for reflection. I love it.

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Tyne Bridge – Alan J Smith, Red Box Design

Part of my job (my old job) was working for Local Studies and I did a lot of cataloguing of Saltwell Park images and history….. I really got to know the history and saw images of the park from different ages and people in the park socialising and their wonderful fashions of the time (60s-90s is always a favourite of mine…. 80s hair was just brilliant).

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Saltwell Park started life as a Victorian park in Gateshead. It was opened in 1876; the park was designed by Edward Kemp and incorporates the mansion and associated grounds of estate owner William Wailes. The park has flourished over the years and also during certain periods fallen into disrepair.

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Across 1999 – 2005, the Park received £9.6million funding from Gateshead Council and Heritage Lottery for restoration and now the park is back into full bloom. Whilst 2million people visit the park for simply enjoyment and recreation, it is also the home of multiple events across the year, Enchanted Parks, Gateshead Family Sculpture Day and Gateshead Bonfire Night.

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Enchanted Parks

So for July, Gateshead Culture Team are bringing a few events to Saltwell Park to celebrate culture in Saltwell Park.

Sculpture In Action

Every Tuesday (5th, 12th, 19th and 26th July, 10am-3pm) our July Sculpture 30 artist of the Month will be carving one of his stone sculptures in Saltwell Park. Gilbert has several pieces across the North East including Foliate Carving in Saltwell Park; he will be talking about his practice and pieces, so why not stop by and pay him a visit and see him in action.

Gilbert in action

He will be carving next to the Rose Garden, near Foliate Carving so just drop by!

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Foliate Carving – Gilbert Ward

Have you walked around the Park and noticed all the amazing and interesting pieces of art and sculpture dotted around and thought “what is that?”. I know I have!

Saltwell park Sculpture Walk (meet at Saltwell Towers)

Tuesday 5th July, 10.30am – 12.30pm

Join Anna Pepperall, Public Art Curator on this informal walk and talk and discover some of the varied pieces of Sculpture in Saltwell Park. Many of these pieces have both National and International acclaim, so for a culture vulture of the North East, this walk and talk is an amazing opportunity to see the Park from a different perspective.

To book   : https://online.gateshead.gov.uk/EventTicketsOnline/pages/eventdetails.aspx?ky=3608

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Juxtaposition – Hideo Furuta

Creative Writing & Walking Workshop

Calling all budding writers…..we have a Creative Writing & Walking Workshop with writer and poet Ellen Phethean on 7th July, 6pm-8.30pm.

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Wiggle – Colin Rose

You will be using Saltwell park and the surroundings as inspiration and prompts for a series of writing exercises. This workshop will push you out of your writing comfort zone and we are so lucky to have the legendary Ellen to facilitate this. I love her work!

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To find out more about Ellen, follow this link…. http://www.diamondtwig.co.uk/people/ellen.phethean.html

To book and for more info: https://online.gateshead.gov.uk/EventTicketsOnline/pages/eventdetails.aspx?ky=3609#

So get yourself along to one of these events……..and if you can’t, well you have the whole summer to discover or rediscover Saltwell Park. I 100% know for a fact that it looks and feels better, with an ice-cream in hand….so that’s my top tip!

Over and out!