The Place Where We Live
As co-founder and director of arts social enterprise Inverkeithing Arts Initiative, I collaborated with local artist Rosie Gibson on her Luminate project Trading Wisdom in 2015 - based on conversations she held with older local people born in her mum's generation of 1925-35. After collecting a series of 'nuggets of wisdom' gleaned from these conversations, she was collaborating with various trades on the High Street in Inverkeithing to create temporary installations to be experienced by their customers.. She was celebrating "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."
Rosie knew that Mary Farrell and myself from IAI ran an art club held at Inverkeithing Primary School and saw this as an ideal opportunity to include the younger generation in her project. The nugget of wisdom she asked us to think about was a memory by her friend, 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!"
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 talk to and from school every day, and to the shops, doctor's etc with their families.
Fittingly, for Trading Wisdom, the children's work was to be turned into an art installation in The Mill Brae Cafe, which is perched at the top of the Mill Brae, a long, hilly footpath between the High Street and Caldwell's Paper Mill (now demolished).
I drew two large scale, 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 p4 pupils were shown the maps and invited to have a think about and respond to the quote. We asked them to imagine Grace as a young woman on the streets where they themselves walk daily. Would Grace have seen the same things that the children can see today? They had a think and a wee chat about what they see when they are walking through the streets of their town. Then they got drawing! Using small pieces of card and vividly coloured pens, they drew the things they could remember. After they had made several drawings each, we folded over the bottoms of the card to make them into 3D pop-ups, and gathered to get sticking them onto the streets of the maps!
We were delighted and very impressed by the the pupils' response to this project. They were incredibly interested and engaged with the concept, sincerely excited to be representing their daily surroundings through art work. They got down to several hours of drawing without complaint, and in the process re-created their environment in the most colourful and imaginative way.
Rosie herself was on-hand to talk to the pupils about the project and their drawings. 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.