Artist-Led in St Helens

Creative Activity in Empty Shops, 10 January – 31 March 2022

In 2022 St Helens Council awarded a tender for me to deliver Creative Activity in Empty Shops as part of the Welcome Back Fund, funded by the European Development Fund. The project was promoted under the title ‘artist-led in St Helens’ with Claire project managing the delivery. A team of freelance artists supported Claire in the delivery; as installation and invigilation assistants, social media support and project management support. Partner organisations including Wonder Arts, Short Supply and Heart of Glass supported delivery of the programme. Here is a summary of what happened.

Print 20:20 exhibition by Platform Print, Buzzhub and Hot Bed Press in the window of Salsa for an 8 week period
Three Artists Together events, providing space for more artists local to St Helens to come together in a space, for the first time in 2 years, to make new work in the town centre.
Aliens, Zombies and Monsters & Alien Agency Exhibitions open in 2 empty shop spaces on Church Square for 8 days during February half term, welcoming over 1000 visitors through the doors in that time. Delivered in partnership with St Helens based Wonder Arts and working with local independent businesses St Helens Bookstop and Geek Retreat to build interest in St Helens’ town centre offerings. Featuring a day of zombie-inspired dance performances by MD Creatives.
SLAP DASH: 1-day artist residencies on 3 March, 1-day symposium on 5 March and 6-day exhibition in an empty shop in St Mary’s Arcade to research ways of creating a culturally centred town centre. Working with North-West based organisation Short Supply to build a regional audience to visit and work in St Helens and supporting local independent businesses such as Phoenix Plant Based Eatery, Rennies and St Helens College Print Room in the production of the events.
Our Susan’s an artist… and Traces of the Town.
A 1 day event where visiting members of the public could share the creativity that they treasure that doesn’t usually get seen in a public space and where they could explore what St Helens town centre means to them through drawing – leading to a new interactive artwork and the exhibition of 10 illustrated photographs by Grace Collins in the windows of 3 more empty shops in St Mary’s Arcade, which will be in place for a minimum of 3 months March – June 2022.
The Many Uses of a Blanket and A Cosy Jumper exhibitions (both projects originally commissioned by Heart of Glass) across 2 empty shop spaces for 7 days, creating comforting spaces where people could reflect on connection and creativity within our community and where two St Helens artists were commissioned to create additional new works.

And here’s the key facts and figures:

  • 63% of the total £30,000* budget was spent directly in St Helens supporting local retailers (9%) and the St Helens Arts economy (54%), predominantly to individual artists living, working and studying here who will go on to spend their income in the local retail economy.
  • A total of 1738 people came through our doors on the 22 days we were open
  • From the postcodes we’ve collected, 73% of visitors were from St Helens, with 13% from Liverpool City Region and 13% nationally.

*numbers are rounded

Who did we work with?

  • 53 individual artists were involved either in the creation of works or as support staff for the events
  • Local independent businesses including Phoenix Plant Based Eatery, Bookstop St Helens, Geek Retreat, Rennies, Vinyline, Retro Chimps, 1 hour stitch, Victoria Flowers.
  • Local and regional arts partners including Wonder Arts, Heart of Glass, St Helens Arts Service, St Helens Libraries, Short Supply, Buzzhub, MD Creatives, Hot Bed Press.

“The major benefits …was being able to see a variety of ages, genders, backgrounds interacting with artwork in the heart of the town centre. The reactions were…of surprise and intrigue and to see the joy that art work can bring to audiences that aren’t not expecting to see it on a routine outing was wonderful.”

“The Benefits for our members have been extraordinary. We have been able to showcase the work of our talented members in various locations around the Town. It has enabled their local community to recognise and appreciate their talents. We have had the privilege of working with some amazing Artists… Our aspiration is inclusion. Our members (as) equals within their society. Opportunities to be admired and respected. Working with these artists allowed this to happen…we saw the Town Centre come to life with creative spaces ” – Buzzhub St Helens CDP

“It was wonderful to be welcomed into a town and space I would likely otherwise never have worked in before. I learned about the energy you find in small towns, breaking down that assumption that creativity isn’t worth bringing to a small town because nobody is interested in it. The project proved resoundingly that isn’t true, and furthermore proved how a little care, attention and effort can bring life and energy to even the smallest places.”

Check out @artistledsthelens on Instagram and Facebook for posts made during the project.

Artist-led in St Helens Creative Activity in empty shops was receiving up to £24,500 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund, specifically the Welcome Back Fund, as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

Constellations of Kindness

Sutton Oak Primary School
February 2020

Claire returned to Sutton Oak Primary School with her Constellations of Kindness workshops which explore how art can be used to express kindness and empathy.

Beginning by passing our positive actions around the class with a symbolic handful of light, we worked to create a number of art installations which take the idea of stars and how we view them collectively in constellations as a metaphor for how a community can work together. The story of Hoshi and the legend of the origami lucky stars inspires a creative activity where the classes worked together to create their own jars of paper stars.

One night while watching the stars, something happened in the sky that made her sad and she began to cry. The stars were falling out of heaven like a shower. So many of them were falling that she was afraid there would be no more.

The story of Hoshi

With magazine cuttings, found text and images pupils used compositional skills to lay out a design that created a message linked to emotions and kindness, then used drawing pins to prick holes into segments of a black card sphere along the outlines of those shapes. The sphere segments were joined together to create a suspended orb that you can duck underneath and view the pin-pricked drawings from within – the light shining in from the outside creating a universe-like experience, full of symbolic objects and positive text.

This was the first time creating these pin pricked drawings into a 3-dimensional form at such a human scale, and the hope is that more works like this can be created in other locations forming a universe of kindness.

This project is available within St Helens schools via Cultured St Helens, or contact me directly if you want to create more universes of kindness where you are.

Drawn In

The Turnpike Gallery, Leigh
1st April – 11 June 2021
Tuesday – Saturday 10:00-4:00

Drawn in is an exhibition celebrating 50 years of wonderful art at The Turnpike gallery in Leigh. A show of drawings and works on paper, showcasing works by 50 artists including those who have exhibited there previously, are based in the north-west who have a connection to the Turnpike. Artists include Henry Moore, Lowry, Tania Kovats, Layla Curtis, Tony Bevan, Halima Cassell, Susie MacMurray, Naomi Kendrick, Masakatsu Kondo, Glenys Johnson, Suki Chan and Jill Randall.

I’ll be exhibiting one of my One Minute works on paper in this exhibition, and as part of my involvement I thought I’d reflect on my own connection to the Turnpike Gallery. After I graduated in 2003, my second job as an artist was at the Turnpike Gallery. I’d seen promotion for the Art Factory exhibition, and my degree-show work of an office chair fitted with pens to draw on the floor seemed like it was a potential match for a show about using experimental processes for drawing. I think I got in touch with Martyn Lucas and his team after being encouraged by a mentor, and ended up leading some workshops in the gallery creating drawings using the movement of the office chair participants’ wheelchairs and probably some other processes. I went on to devise a number of workshops to connect to the Turnpike’s programme and that early career support was so valuable in building the practice I have today. The drive to bring quality arts programming to places outside of cities like Leigh and my base in St Helens, developing a process-based artistic practice with other people and using the platforms I have to support other artists, are all things that I can trace back to my experiences at the Turnpike in the early-mid 2000s.

One Minute, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin. 2012. 42x59cm £400

Artists Together

Since November 2020 I’ve been working as the lead artist on St Helens Cultural Hubs ‘Artists Together’. It started under the stewardship of Mark Storor, who brought together and nurtured the creativity of a collection of artists of all disciplines in St Helens. It’s been a challenge so far to bring us together, with the advice to stay apart forming a looming backdrop to our efforts, but, with the generosity and patience of a wonderful group of artists we’ve spent some time ‘together’ on zoom gatherings, at virtual exhibitions and out on walks led by artists from the group.

Each of our monthly sessions have had a focus for sharing experiences, work and ideas, and January’s session was called ‘How to keep going’. It resulted in this set of instructions, which you may also find useful:

How to keep going (what is your gold?)  Don't be precious Loosen up Meditate, recharge, chill out Look inside  Who's your soundboard? When is your time? Where is your space? "I can help you to do this."  Step by step, what small thing comes next? Let's find other ways to do things How can I pivot? Use what you've already got, use it differently.  Say “ I am an artist”! be kind to yourself. An incomplete work is still work, that's like gold to you.

There’s more planned, as we hopefully are able to do more activity face-to-face too. If you’re an artist, and in St Helens, then you’re welcome to come and be together with us. Get in touch via the arts service: artsservice@sthelens.gov.uk

Here – Cultured St Helens

Since they opened back up in March 2021 it’s been great to get back working in schools. ‘Here’ is one of those projects, delivered by Cultured St Helens. It uses new technology to create a portrait of St Helens, exploring the history, geography, social make-up and diversity of the town. Artists and performers (of which I’m one) have worked with schools to create artworks which Impossible Arts will bring together for a final outdoor augmented reality exhibition in October 2021.

I’ve been working with Rivington Primary, Mill Green school and Blackbrook St Mary’s Primary as part of the project, combining performative actions with drawing and print techniques as we look at the past and present of St Helens. What has also been great during these projects (and has happened a lot more in the last 12 months) is the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in the delivery of the work.

With Rivington Primary I’ve worked with Mako Create, who took charge of green screen filming, and Altru Drama, who led a creative writing session, as we created a work about the traces and echoes of Victoria Park. What will happen when children from today bump into King George V and Queen Mary during their 1913 visit? Will they ever get unstuck from the climbing frame? Their drawings, words and actions form a video work that will be part of the AR trail around St Helens in November.

The sessions at Mill Green school have been a chance to work with artist Dave Bixter who combines his drawing practice with music and technology. We’ve looked at the skylines of St Helens, layering drawings, shapes, movement, print and sound to create and audio-visual work that will sit against the real skyline of St Helens.

Blackbrook St Mary’s have done most of their work with Henry Iddon and Jess Wheeler, connecting to their cross-school project about the conservation of rainforest habitats. I was invited in to run a print session with year 1 where we used stencilled screen-printed slogans devised by the pupils to print onto T-shirts. The children made studies of leaves in their sketchbooks and created rubber stamps out of them to make each of their t-shirts an individual representation of the rainforest.

You’ll be able to see more of these works once they’re out on the Augmented Reality trail in the Autumn.

Wishes on a Dandelion – Sherdley Primary’s 50th Anniversary

Every Dandelion you see today grew from the seed from another dandelion. Maybe the dandelion seed was blown by the wind, or maybe it was blown last year by one of the children from Sherdley Primary.

The seeds that grew last year’s dandelions might have been blown by another child who’s grown older and gone to high school now. Their dandelion’s seed might have been blown from it’s stem by a parent when they went to school. Dandelions can grow in all sorts of places and live for more than 10 years, so maybe, just maybe the dandelions we see today can be traced back to a child who was here when Sherdley Primary opened 50 years ago.

This is the premise on which a whole-school programme of arts activity was based to celebrate Sherdley Primary School’s 50th Anniversary in April 2021. Using something that we can see now in the present, to celebrate the past and make wishes for the future. Children from every class were invited to make prints onto a postcard and to find a dandelion clock and make a wish for Sherdley Primary’s future, with each class from Y1 through to Y6 taking part in additional art workshops that led to the designs for an anniversary mural and garden in the grounds of the school.

Delivered in partnership with Cultured St Helens these workshops included observational drawing of natural forms, stamp-making, experimental drawing using gestures, shadows and spotlights and workshops plus workshops by partners UC Crew which connected Hip Hop Arts and its values to those of the school community.

Pupils hands were covered in chalk and charcoal as they created larger scale drawings of each other’s shadows expressing emotions, seed-filled sculptures were constructed, sketchbook pages filled with drawings of flora and fauna that was gathered from nearby greenspaces, and spray can techniques were practiced in the sunny spells between April showers.

All of these elements were brought together into a design that uses stenciled elements that I have used in my previous works such as Keep the Pavement Dry and Migrate combined with the graffiti art skills of James from UC Crew. This was complemented by the beginnings of an anniversary garden in front of the mural sown with perennial flower seeds, dandelion clock sculptures containing more seeds and golden stones with drawings of dandelions edging the planting areas.

Two trees, hands and leaves are spray painted onto the side of a storage container. Petal shapes are formed on the soil in front, edged by golden stones.

Constellations of Kindness

Stars are the specks of light in the dark skies, and are there even when we can’t see them. They have been used as symbols of guidance, energy, hopes and positivity and in the Autumn of 2020 Allanson Street Primary School and St Peter’s C of E Primary School used them to create images, actions and objects that mean something to us as individuals.

Beginning by passing our positive actions around the class with a symbolic handful of light, we worked to create a number of art installations which take the idea of stars and how we view them collectively in constellations as a metaphor for how a community can work together. The story of Hoshi and the legend of the origami lucky stars inspires a creative activity where the classes worked together to create their own jars of paper stars, which led to some pupils setting up their own club following the sessions.

One night while watching the stars, something happened in the sky that made her sad and she began to cry. The stars were falling out of heaven like a shower. So many of them were falling that she was afraid there would be no more.

The story of Hoshi

With magazine cuttings, found text and images pupils used compositional skills to lay out a design that created a message linked to emotions and kindness, then used drawing pins to prick holes into black card along the outlines of those shapes. Placed together against a window, these formed our third art installation, full of symbolic objects and positive text. A short poetry session using the principles of Concrete Poetry creates an additional literacy related artwork.

The incredible deep splash
a few amazing homes.
A great tender cat,
fantastic animal friends
were being brave & fun

A new rebooted world. Brave NHS
incredible NHS,
look how the NHS helps us.

A good new heart
in our little wonder world.
Incredible world.
Team up, play
like a little wonder.

Y4, St Peter’s C of E Primary, 2020.

This set of workshops gives pupils the confidence to develop a collaborative contemporary artwork using visual symbolism and metaphor, which connects to the PSHE, Art & Design and Literacy curriculum. This workshop is part of Cultured St Helens programme (LCEP). If you’re outside St Helens and would like to book this session for your school or organisation, get in touch.

A summer of Projects

Look at this, I have a long-neglected news page on my website. That’s the way with the projects I work on, lots of things happening in the background that occasionally put on a public face. There’s been quiet, ongoing projects, ideas developing with schools and some bigger projects where it’s important for the work to just stay between me and the people that I make it with. August is nearly here, and a flurry of work directly with people is coming to a close, so I thought I’d share some of that over the coming weeks. For now, here’s some pictures of what’s coming…

Will you wait? People wanted for artist performance event.

Can you wait for 3 hours as part of an artistic commission?

Will you wear one of those barriers that you find in an airport as a belt in public?

Are you ok with being filmed as part of the creation of this artwork?

If yes, then artist Claire Weetman needs you!

Performance of What are you waiting for? Stuttgart © Daniela Wolf


Claire Weetman has created the artwork, ‘What are you waiting for?’ which will be staged in St Helens to coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2018.  For this she needs up to 10 people to wear the specially made belts with a tensabarrier attached.  As part of this role you will be asked to wear the belts in a public space and to move through that space in a choreographed way.

The performance will be filmed and the subsequent footage will be exhibited as an artwork by Claire Weetman.

Requirements:

  • There will be a 1 hour briefing/rehearsal session on the morning of Tuesday 18th September, which will be paid at £10 for the hour.
  • 4 people are required for an event at Thatto Heath Library 1:30-4:30pm on Tuesday 18th September. This will be paid at £30 for the 3 hours.
  • 10 people are required for the event at Thatto Heath Library 1:00-5:00pm on Wednesday 10th October.  This will be paid at £40 for the 4 hours.

By taking up the role you agree to be paid as a self employed person, responsible for your tax and national insurance responsibilities.  If you cannot guarantee this, but would still like to be part of the performance, travel and reasonable subsistence expenses can be reimbursed on receipt of evidence of expenditure.

How to get involved

To express your interest in being part of this event, contact Claire Weetman by email

claireweetman@hotmail.com by Sunday 16th September.