The Place Where We Live
As co-founder and director of arts social enterprise Inverkeithing Arts Initiative, I collaborated in 2015 with artist Rosie Gibson for her Luminate project Trading Wisdom. Based on conversations she had held with older local people of her mum's generation (born 1925-35). From the conversations she created a series of 'nuggets of wisdom'. She then approached various trading places on the High Street in Inverkeithing and asked them to incorporate temporary installations, based on the nuggets of wisdom, to be experienced by customers. The project was a celebration "both the gritty lyrical wisdom of my mum's generation and also the shops and businesses on the High Street. I was curious about what happens if you put the two together."
The nugget of wisdom she asked us to think about was a memory related to her by Grace:
"My mother's hoose was like a canteen. We went hame fae the mill for breakfast, lunch, then hame for the tea! And my brothers were on different shifts so they went hame at different times tae!"
Rosie wanted to involve the younger generation in her Trading Wisdom project, and so we tutored a project with the p4 pupils of Inverkeithing Primary School based on Grace's nugget of wisdom.
I was inspired by the imagery of Grace walking to and from work, from the Mill to her mother's hoose and back again, day after day. I knew this would be an experience familiar to the school children as they walk to and from school every day, to the shops, to see the doctor or go to the library etc..
The children's artwork project would then be transformed into an installation at The Mill Brae Cafe, perched at the top of the Mill Brae, a long, hilly footpath between the High Street and Caldwell's Paper Mill (now demolished).
In preparation for the children's project, I drew two large, basic maps of Inverkeithing, writing Grace's words along the streets where she might have walked. From the top of Mill Brae, along the High Street, and turning down onto Town Hall Street.
At the start of the project the children were shown the maps and Grace's words, and were invited to have a think and a chat about them. We asked them to imagine Grace as a young woman, many years ago, walking on the self-same streets which they walk along themselves. We asked, would Grace have seen the same things that the children see? They told us what they see when they are walking through the streets of their town: shops, buildings, vehicles, animals and people. Then they got drawing them, using small squares of white card and brightly coloured pens. After they had made several drawings each, they folded over the bottoms of the card - making each into a 3D mini sculpture. Then we all got together round the maps and stuck them in the appropriate places. The two maps were necessary as there were more than 40 children altogether. The two maps essentially told the same story, yet it was fascinating to see them side by side, in order to compare and contrast.
We were delighted and very impressed by the the children's response to this project. They were incredibly interested and engaged with the concept, and sincerely excited to be representing their daily surroundings through art work. They got down to hours of drawing without complaint, and in the process re-created their environment in a beautiful, charming, and most colourful and imaginative way.
Photographs of the art works were used to create place-mats for The Millbrae Cafe.. The placemats will continue to be used at the cafe, even after the Trading Wisdom project is finished, and the two beautiful maps made by the children will remain at the school, to be regularly and proudly put on display for visitors.