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Homeless but not hopeless: that is the Christmas message

Arnolfini will host an event from Art4Change in the auditorium during the week running up to Christmas. They will be exploring issues surrounding homelessness using an interactive sculpture. We asked project founders Mark and Frankie some questions about the project.

Art4Change was founded during 2016 by collaborators Mark Skelton and Frankie Stone. Both are young people who have first-hand experience of homelessness and sleeping rough and who have put together a provoking and humbling installation Why Am I Here & You There which aims to engage the public about the realities of homelessness in Bristol.

How did Art 4 Change come about?

The concept of Art 4 Change came about in January this year whilst I was attending a social enterprise course through Ideal, a social project in Barton Hill. It aims to give people voice through art, highlighting any social issues that they may be experiencing at that time. The current project is a pilot, but we intend to expand the project further, to generate art work for exhibition, created by people who have experience of varying social issues, enabling dialogue and exchange.

What do you hope the exhibition you are holding at Arnolfini can help you achieve?

Why Am I Here & You There has been created to raise awareness around the issue of homelessness in Bristol and nationally.  We aim to challenge and break down pre-conceptions many people have relating to homelessness and give people who may not necessarily have had experience of this a deeper insight into this issue.

We are hoping this will help create a conversation which we feel is important at this time & especially this time of year.

Tell us about the structure of the artworks you are creating, and how they help audiences engage with the themes around homelessness?

Initially, a series of postcard were produced through a social enterprise course run by Ideal posing three questions relating to homelessness. These were then distributed to different cultural establishments in Bristol by participants on the course. Arnolfini being one of them.

The content of the exhibition will be two wooden framed houses with cardboard panels, one finished in the workshops and one blank to invite the gallery goers/general public to express their thoughts & feelings in response to the house that have already been created by answering the three questions;

What do you value most about your home?
How Would You Feel If You No Longer Had a Home?
What Causes Homelessness?

 

These questions will be attached to the walls of the house and aimed at the public for their participation. There will then be an opportunity for visitors to write their answers on the walls to express their thoughts and views around this issue.

 What have been some of the publics’ responses to the project? Have you got specific examples?

There has been a great deal of public engagement with the postcards. We have approx. 200 completed postcards so far (pictured):

 

What is your own personal experience about prejudice and perceptions that people have about homelessness? Do you have any specific examples?

Both myself and Frankie have personal experience of homelessness and social exclusion for various complex issues. 10 years ago this Christmas, Frankie was street homeless, so to be part of this project 10 years on feels very cathartic.  We believe that to fully empathise and understand a situation you have to have lived it and this is why we are both so passionate around this subject.

As we are both developing artists we thought of using a combination of our creative skills and ideas to enable us to work within an important and personal social context.

What is the best way to support a programme like Art 4 Change?

We would welcome any form of creative and artistic contribution from other artists. Art4change needs funds for materials and we are currently looking for a studio space to execute further projects. We intend to work in conjunction with charities & organisations addressing other social issues, any offer of collaborative work would be considered.

If you managed to get 5 minutes to talk to Mayor Marvin who is championing the Homelessness cause in Bristol, what would you say to him?

The Mayor said that he aims to build 2000 new homes by 2020 to tackle the rising problem of homelessness in Bristol, but what does he aim to do to tackle the problem in 2017? For example, there are huge amounts of empty buildings owned by large corporations in Bristol, could something be done about these, at least temporarily? Also, can he do more to ensure landlords are being regulated so as to ensure secure rights for tenants?  And finally, we would hope he would be willing to answer the 3 questions within our exhibition.

Do you mostly think of yourself as artists? Or campaigners? Or an activist? Or what?

I think we think of ourselves as artists with a social conscience. Our creative outlet is the linchpin to the understanding and processing of personal and social issues, it has been a vehicle for our own personal transformation and we wish to offer this opportunity in a collaborative way to others. We believe in the power of transformation through the vehicle of art.

What is next for Art 4 Change after the showing at Arnolfini?

In January, we will be working on how to make Art4Change financially and socially sustainable whilst continuing to approach work collaboratively. We have developed a small but tight team of people within Art4Change and have been received positively by external organisations willing to support our project. We shall be continuing to develop these connections so as to plan further projects where Myself and Frankie can actualise our concepts and ideas, alongside marginalised groups, raising awareness of the relevant social issue.

Why Am I Here & You There  by Art4 Change opens at Arnolfini on Saturday 17 December and runs up until 24 December. Please check our official opening times for the Christmas period

For more information about the work Ideal Community Action Group do to create positive change for individuals and communities affected by issues such as legal and illegal drugs, poverty, poor education, offending and long term unemployment 

To contact Mark and Frankie

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