First National Park Artists in Residence programme gets underwayPUBLISHED ON: 9 FEBRUARY 2022
The first New Forest National Park Residency artists have been introduced to their working space at spudWORKS in Sway, in the heart of the New Forest.
The National Park Artist in Residence programme is a creative partnership between the arts and people that work, live, and visit the New Forest, and will showcase that to new audiences.
The New Forest National Park Authority and SPUD introduced this exciting partnership last year and will deliver a three-year programme of six residencies and accompanying exhibitions focused on the New Forest.
The first of the residencies will start in May with Marie Smith from South London, who in her residency will use this opportunity to create a series called ‘We belong to nature’ which will consist of portrait and landscape photographs providing a nuanced visual representation of how Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority communities feel about the New Forest. Marie is a traditional photographer who uses rolls of film and plant-based materials to process her work and hopes to learn more about the ecology of the landscape to use in her processes.
Marie said: ‘It’s been such a new experience for me to visit the New Forest. I love the stillness and the quietness. It’s such a contrast to where I live, I’ve enjoyed being outside of my comfort zone.
‘I’m really looking forward to getting to know the Forest, spending time in the community, and meeting people. I will be using nature as a space to think about ideas and belonging and how I can link this with climate change. I hope they will all inform the work I’m going to be making in this residency. My continued emphasis will be working with people from Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority communities in a bid to get those voices heard and start conversations. It is important to see these bodies in New Forest. I often go out for walks with friends, and we are the only people of colour in these landscapes. I want everyone to have a feeling of belonging in these spaces rather than feeling segregated from nature.’
Beccy McCray, originally from Andover, will take up the second residency in October although she will be developing and learning about the area throughout the summer. Participation is at the heart of her practice as she seeks to break down boundaries between art, activism, and everyday life in a joyful and positive way.
Beccy said: ‘After spending much of my childhood in the Forest, being back here feels like I am coming home. There were many reasons I was inspired to apply for this residency, one of which was my experiences as a child with my Grandad Jack. They were such happy memories as I feel he started my interest in nature on our summer holidays in the New Forest. The others were the opportunity to be involved with the local community to create something climate focused.
‘I am excited to be working with the local community as my artwork is “socially engaged” which means it’s community driven and reliant on their participation. I would really like to connect with the New Forest commoners and the local Romany community to learn how their lives and traditions through the stewardship of the land has progressed though their heritage and observe how it relates to climate change and ecology.’
The arts are integral to our understanding of landscape. The New Forest National Park Authority and spudWORKS are looking forward to working with inspiring and inspired artists to think in different ways about landscapes, how people interact with them, and the challenges that they face.
New Forest National Park Authority Member Caroline Rackham, who has spent much of her career using arts to unite communities, said: ‘The goal for the residency programme is to provide closer links between artists and the people and spaces that make up the New Forest National Park beyond the usual things that people might see. The highly protected nature of the National Park means that we are interested in artists who can work sensitively within these restrictions and respond to this positively in their work. This is an incredible opportunity to build a collection of artists whose knowledge and experience can help to positively promote arts throughout the National Park.’
The National Park Artist in Residence programme will provide an optional menu of activities, participatory events, and conversations with key people, to help artists explore these topics and develop their knowledge and experience of the area.
Alison Ward, a trustee from spudWORKS said: ‘Artists will be able to show their work through a month-long exhibition at spudWORKS in Sway as well as a virtual gallery space to help bring the work to a wider audience and encourage collaboration. There may also be an opportunity for artists to show their work at the New Forest and Hampshire County Show in 2022.’
A new ‘Arts in the New Forest National Park’ toolkit will be developed to identify and promote locations that artists might be interested in exploring in more detail. Artists selected for year one of the residency programme will be invited to help to develop this resource.
Photo: National Park Artists in Residence at spudWORKS, Sway: (L-R)
Mark Drury, Director at SPUD, Caroline Rackham – New Forest National Park Authority Member, Beccy McCray – New Forest National Park Residency artist starting October, Alison Ward – trustee at spudWORKS, Marie Smith – New Forest National Park Residency artist starting May, Jim Mitchell – Interpretation and Outreach Manager at New Forest National Park Authority.