Artists: Rebecca Ainsworth and Claire Weetman
St Helens Town Centre
How we spend time with others has been so important in the last two years, and the latest exhibitions to fill some of St Helens’ empty shops created spaces where we can snuggle up in the warmth of human connection.
The Many Uses of a Blanket is a project that took place just after the January 2021 lockdown. Artists Rebecca Ainsworth and Claire Weetman worked with people shielding in St Helens, creating drawings and photographs to design a series of printed blankets. Each collaborator received a blanket to keep to use at home; to feel comfortable in their favourite chair, to have a picnic with friends and family or in the many other ways a blanket can be useful. This exhibition invited passers by and guests to come and use the blankets inside the exhibition by sitting and relaxing in our cosy chairs with a selection of books supplied by St Helens Libraries; eating their lunch while watching the video of Buzzhub joining their blankets together into a 6m wide picnic blanket; or building a star-lit arched den with our snuggly blankets that connect up into serpentine shapes.
In this comforting and welcoming space, some of the activities that were used to create the blankets were available for visitors to take part in and artists Karen Hitchcock and Claire Eddleston both took up residence in the spaces for a day to work on their own relaxing art practices.
This was the third set of exhibitions taking place in empty shops in St Helens town centre as part of a project funded by The England European Regional Development fund between February and March. It was joined in the space by The Cosy Jumper, a project exploring human feelings of connections and togetherness, through knitting, poetry, sound, and movement by Artist Lou Chapelle with St Helens residents. Over the 8 days the project was open, nearly 400 visitors spent time in the peaceful and calming space, which was described by one visitor as ‘like a temple’.
The Many Uses of a Blanket and The Cosy Jumper were commissioned by Heart of Glass. The exhibition was supported by the England European Regional Development Fund, specifically the Welcome Back Fund.