ART + GARDEN +LIFE
VERITY ROWETH, NICK BOWKER, TAMARA KEOSHGERIAN, NATASHA K. HE, JUN SHI, FRIXOS PETROU
Location: Greater Manchester, UK
Typology: Research + Design + Collaboration + Social Event
Our main collaborator during the Events project was Victoria House (Sanctuary Supported Living). Victoria House is located on Victoria St. in Openshaw, and it provides 26 one-bedroom flats and 3 shared two-bedroom flats, as well as 8 beds for emergency accommodation.
Victoria House aims to help adults aged 18 and over, who are experiencing or at threat of homelessness, with an active desire to participate in a programme of support. Full time staff work with each of the residents to agree support plans to plan and realise a better future. They provide a range of activities such as cooking, gardening, art and games to help rebuild confidence
and mental well- being whilst having fun and building social connections. Additionally, they provide advice and guidance with education, employment and skills to improve their situation.
Their tailored support aims to find long term results for individuals where they become self-reliant, can gain move-on accommodation and prevent eviction.
We were grateful to collaborate with the wood suppliers TREE STATION in Manchester. They are a social enterprise that deals with arboriculture, woodland management, wood fuels and timber. At their site, they provide a variety of locally and sustainably sourced planks of timber such as sawn timber, whole tree trunks and sleepers.
Tree Station were intrigued with the project we were proposing as well as to hear about the work that was going on at Victoria House. As a result, they kindly offered to supply Group AI with timber planks and deliver them to site.
One member of staff suggested that: “We would be happy to supply any extra available timber planks or wood
materials required by Victoria House to support their ongoing projects.”
Hence these materials to use for constructing the planters.
A secondary provision of wood came from the Old Bank Residency, a project sponsored by NOMA in Manchester.
The Old Bank Residency offers a space for local artists to experiment, collaborate and grow their endeavours in a disused bank. The space hosts a variety of artists in residency, as well as exhibitions, workshops, reading groups and other events that are related to cultural production in the city of Manchester.
In contrast to the timber planks offered by Tree Station, the workshop at Old Bank gave us various lengths of square section timber posts. Some of these had nails and screws which had to be removed.
We arranged pickup from the site and transported the wood to the Benzie workshop, and it was used to test, prototype and make planters alongside its counterparts from the Tree Station donation.
We were collaborating with the artist JOSEPH O’ROURKE along with the residents of Victoria House to create the mural. Joseph is an excellent young artist based at Bankley Studios in Manchester. After graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in 2017, he has been part of many exhibitions, including his most recent in the John Moores Painting Prize 2018.
During the mural painting session with Joe, we were provided with the opportunity to welcome a film maker collaborator CAELAN KNIGHT who volunteers at HOME in Manchester. HOME encourages artists from a wide range of work, but specific to our project, supports community documentaries. In their own words, their cinema screens aim to “light up with challenging, independent, provoking films.”
After agreeing to collaborate with Victoria House, we visited the site for a meeting with staff and residents to consider their needs and what we could offer according to our specific abilities, as well as the time frame of the Events project.
Some of the residents at Victoria House have been working on improving the garden space for the past year offering two important benefits. The area has become more welcoming for people to gather and socialise. The residents also told us how working on the garden has made great improvements to their mental health.
Through our discussion we decided to contribute to their improvements in the garden on two levels: we would design and brainstorm ideas for the wider garden project, such as different ways to use remaining spaces; and we would design and construct minor interventions in the form of planters that could improve the space.
-What We Did-
Working with our main collaborator and other contributors we decided on a plan of action and a time frame for activities.
– To design and suggest ideas for the wider usage of the garden space;
– To design and construct planters with simple, knock-down joints that could be assembled on site with the residents and to contribute to the garden’s decoration via a mural.