Aberdeen art project empowers diverse group of residents

An art exhibition featuring work created by Aberdeen residents isolated from community will go on show in the city this week.

L-R Alasdair Elder, Caroline McKenna and Caitlyn Main‘Drawing in Response’ opened at Peacock Visual Arts on Thursday, March 31, and ran until April 16 at the gallery.

The project, led by homelessness prevention charity Bethany Christian Trust in partnership with Peacocks and Gray’s School of Art, has seen arts co-ordinator Caitlyn Main run a series of drawing and screen printing workshops, with 15 participants engaging in the sessions.

It aims to give those without much experience of art and creativity the opportunity to learn new skills and gain an insight into what is involved in putting on an exhibition.

The project is funded by Vibrant Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council, the Scottish Government and the Hugh Fraser Foundation.

Alasdair Elder, Regional Coordinator North of Scotland at the Bethany Christian Trust, said: “The ultimate aim of this project is to enable the participants to work with artists in a way that harnesses their experience, enthusiasm and creativity.

“We want the classes to increase the participants’ own skills, confidence and self-esteem to help them to move on in their lives. The project hopes to reduce loneliness and isolation and provide an opportunity for self expression.”

He added: “The reaction to the project has been fantastic as participants have realised that they can learn new skills and it has increased their self-confidence immeasurably. One participant commented that a two-hour session was the longest he has concentrated on anything without thinking about having a cigarette, such was his enjoyment.

“Caitlyn has really been fantastic in the role of arts co-ordinator. She has taught participants really well and has often found new and creative ways to teach classes and help others learn in new ways.

“She has been fantastic at engaging with those coming along, making them feel at home and helping them develop new skills. She’s been a real asset to the project, the organisation and the participants.”

Caitlyn, a Contemporary Art Practice graduate of Gray’s School of Art and currently completing a graduate residency at the School, said: “I have very much enjoyed being involved in the project, particularly having the opportunity to create the structure of the classes myself.

“I was particularly keen on encouraging drawing which involved gestural and expressive mark, or exercises which impose some sort of limitation upon the drawer – whether that be using their wrong hand, or having their eyes shut or forcing them to have a large distance from the surface of the paper they are drawing upon.”

She added: “I think the introduction of new techniques was really beneficial to participants of the project. There are so many different ways to make a drawing, and so many forms a drawing can take. Often people can have quite limited notions about what a ‘good’ drawing looks like, and that can be really restricting when making art, especially to new artists.”

Caroline McKenna, who was one of the participants in the project, said: “I’ve found the classes have really helped to build my confidence. Art is something that I hadn’t done in years and years, since I was a teenager, so it was a bit daunting but Caitlyn is so easy going and just eased everybody into it.

“Seeing your work as part of the exhibition is so different. It feels like we’ve achieved something.”

Caitlyn worked alongside two current Contemporary Art Practice students at Gray’s, David Brown and Aiden Mulligan, to deliver the screen printing workshops.

‘Drawing in Response’ is the second project the Bethany Christian Trust has delivered in partnership with Peacock Visual Arts and the art school, following on from the ‘Changing Minds’ project in 2012/13 which spanned film, photography, animation and more.

‘Drawing in Response’ runs at Peacock Visual Arts from March 31 to April 16.

Release by
Jenny Rush

Communications Officer | Design and Technology

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