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Project - Ability

The Art of Confidence

Recently,  I had the chance to share some of my thoughts on the experience of working with a lovely group of adult artists who experience learning difficulties. 
I decided to deliver a fairly informal chat on my experiences – the kind you might have over a nice cuppa, and feel free to dunk your hob-nob, kind of chat - reminiscing over the group’s exploration of Trongate 103 and our developing a relationship with the galleries and the art contained within.
I guess the talk was about this:
Too often, the pleasure that the artist takes in creation, outweighs the pleasure given to his or her audience.  Too often we are too passive, wondering if we are interpreting it as we should.  Often we pass it by for pursuits we feel better connected with.  All too often we feel that we have no business being in the gallery at all.

I wasn’t surprised then, when told by Elisabeth (Elisabeth Gibson, Director of Project-ability), that members of my group of artists were making their way straight up stairs and into the studios to create their own art but made no attempt to visit the gallery spaces below.   ‘Let’s see if we can’t change all that?’

I talked about how I led the group into the gallery spaces, creating trails on the floor and in the lift…  a shoal of fish,  pointing the way to the Still Water Exhibition.  Colourful foam hand prints, suggesting that someone had made their way along the corridors on their hands, leading the way to the Print Studio; quirky music leading us to the ever so quirky exhibition of The Theatre of The Self.
Once in the space my group claimed it as their own, we now had a right to be there. Warm-ups/drama games done, making ourselves as tall and as wide as possible, roaming the space in our giant bubbles we began finding ways in to the pieces through multi-sensory story-telling -  We used, Swathes of colourful cloth, feathers tickling us on the nose, print rollers rolling on our arms and hands…
All art is play and all play is learning.  If we get it right, then it’s joyously spontaneous and we interact with and become part of the art.  Happily, this is what we did as a group over my month-short residency.  There was an immediacy and an unpolished honesty and joy in the work presented on our final day – happenings not performances.  
It’s not until after this kind of work, you try to establish in your mind exactly what had taken place and why was it so effective?  It was art as interaction not a passive, intellectual exercise.
One thing that I was certain of was that this had been a truly special experience.  We had, as I hoped we would do, dived in and splashed about in the wonderful works adorning the gallery walls. 
The last day, in particular, had been a time of great merriment, adventure, togetherness and empowerment.  A time that I will never forget and hopefully my new friends at Aspire (my group of artists from Project-ability) will not forget either. 
At the end of each session, I asked each of the participants to share with the group what they liked best about the session, “I liked the fish, they were like arrows”, “I loved the story of the strange creature coming out of the picture”, “I liked the busy print because it reminded me of Glasgow”.  Every time, without fail, there came the same reply from one of the most astute in the group, “I liked the confidence”.
And hopefully this is what I managed to convey in my little chat.  So go on have another hob-nob, that’s what they’re there for.

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