It’s taken months and several funding applications to get off the ground, but I am pleased to say I have at last got my wellbeing project for foodbank users in Leicester up and running. I’ve been part of the foodbank / community hub volunteer team since early in lockdown last year, and I’ve had this dream of adding more than just food to what we can offer to support people. I wanted to use my community arts experience to create a programme of activities that support the wellbeing of people who are struggling with poverty, poor housing, insecurity, isolation and many other challenges brought on by or worsened by the pandemic. Volunteering during the pandemic really focussed me on trying to develop arts activities which really impact those who don’t have the privileges and access to the arts that I have.
I’ve now got a small pot of money for some consultation with foodbank users and to try a few different activities to see what people like & want. I’m also working with a local school who will help me create local history guides and walks and add their own touches to the wellbeing packs I plan to give out to those who sign up. Once the weather warms up, I will run some sessions in the foodbank too (it has no heating!) and involve local artists, writers and community practitioners to share their expertise too.
I only have 6 months of funding and I am already doing more than I am being paid for, but I have great ambitions to make this a long-term project and to support more people in the city, not just the foodbank users. I’m working with partners to find additional sources of funding and making use of my extensive funding application experience! It’s been such a great challenge to establish this new way of working and combining my volunteering / community work with paid project development work. I’m really excited to see where this goes and how it works with the community. If you would like to support the foodbank and the work we do, you can donate to our winter crowdfunder here. If you let me know I will ask for your donation to be put aside for the wellbeing work I’m doing.
For this year’s Leicester Society of Artists* exhibition, I chose to show my tiny but powerful Protest Pincushion. Since this piece was made, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has been passed by Parliament, putting an end to many of our protest rights and has criminalised stepping on land owned by someone else.
By including this protest piece in a generally traditional exhibition, I hope that different people will see it than otherwise might do on my website, and lead them into new ways of thinking about this issue. The exhibition is at Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester until 31st October.
Textiles and social justice work combine in a new body of work using data from a volunteer-run emergency foodbank in Leicester.
A new piece of work: 1292 Foodbank Visits in 18 Weeks, Ruth Singer, 2020. Hand stitch on cotton.
One thousand, two hundred and ninety two people supported by the emergency food bank my co-volunteers have created on my street this year. It has been an intense and powerful thing to be part of and given me lots to think about around food poverty, period poverty and hidden deprivation in this city I love. My aim in making this work is like most of my work: to make you think. To use artwork, soft, lovely textiles to help engage people with the harder stories that matter so much. I hope it will encourage you to find out about food poverty where you live. To support the volunteers who make foodbank a happen and to add your voice to campaigns and policies that work towards ending the need for foodbanks in this highly wealthy country.
I posted this on Instagram in December, and the app offered me the option of fundraising. Our foodbank is tiny and not a registered charity so can’t fundraise via Instagram. Instead I chose to support the Trussell Trust, a national foodbank charity. It was an interesting experiment. In the first few hours of posting, this image got more engagement (likes & comments) than I expected. Hundreds. Yet only a couple of donations. Within a week I’d met the modest £75 fundraising target through 4 donations. It’s been so interesting. I didn’t intend this outcome but it’s a useful learning experience towards how I can combine my volunteer work with my practice and grow both. I’m the treasurer for the volunteer group so have been heavily involved in fundraising and negotiating with the council for support for the last 6 months.
This work is also in my shop and 25% of the sale price will be donated straight back to the foodbank as 100% of my effort to keep feeding people in need this winter and campaigning for an end to austerity and cruel, unnecessary Tory policies which have led to this situation. Our foodbank continues to support our community during this lockdown and is almost entirely supported by personal donations. If you want to help us, please have a look at our fundraising page here. I’d love to hear your thoughts about food banks, food poverty and what needs to change.
This work was created for the Leicester Society of Artists annual exhibition which you can see online. LSA members have supported this project by donating their exhibition fees to the foodbank and one lovely member donated the entire sale price of her work straight to us. Support like this is amazing and so heartening.
Today I went to the launch of Leicester City Council’s cultural prospectus and strategy. It turns out that this wasn’t the launch of the actual strategy, it was the launch of the work to consult leading towards the strategy, which actually is good as there’s still chance to input in to the decision-making for how the city moves forward. I have so many hats when it comes to things like this. I am an independent artist and this event was not aimed at me but I am also Chair of Leicester Society of Artists (an unpaid role) and occasional consultant and project lead for Creative Leicestershire. I choose to get involved in events and conversations and activities around artist development and arts policy as I am professionally and personally engaged with the outcomes of them. And I LOVE a good strategy!
I was delighted to see that one of the key frameworks they are aiming to develop in the strategy is Workforce and Talent Development. From my perspective as an independent artist & cultural freelancer, I am mostly interested in how organisations and councils support and develop the creative talent of artists. But I am concerned that artists are expected to input their ideas (which is of course our means of making a living) into a consultation for which they won’t get paid, and won’t necessarily get credit.
Last year I completed a lengthy consultancy project called Made in Leicestershire looking at market development, networks and professional development for visual artists in the city and county.
This work has led directly into a new project for me, again working with Creative Leicestershire on their innovative professional development programme WebinArt, which will restart this spring (subject, as always to funding success). My element will be focussed on co-ordinating peer mentoring groups for mid-career and established artists in Leicestershire and surrounding areas. WebinArt is now taking expressions of interest for artists who would like to be part of the network and benefit from the professional development we will be offering. There’s no commitment required at this stage, you will be sent information about applying once its up and running. It really is a fantastic programme and I am really looking forward to getting artist together to do great things!
I loved working on Made in Leicestershire, getting to speak to artists and help create ideas and proposals to better promote and support them. The majority of the project funding was provided by ERDF, the European Regional Development Fund, just one of the ways in which being part of the EU was great, and is very much missed. I hope to continue developing artist support programmes, enabling creative people to thrive and to support their work in communities alongside their own creative practice.
I have three pieces in the Leicester Society of Artists Annual Exhibition at New Walk Museum, Leicester, until 7th December 2019.
I’ve also been awarded a prize for one of these pieces, Pierced. The Artist Magazine sponsored this prize which was selected by independent judges:
Over the last couple of years I have been working as a consultant for Creative Leicestershire, researching the future of the role of Made in Leicestershire, a network of local artists. Since this work has now finished, I have decided to try and take some of my recommendations forward through working in partnership with another Leicestershire artist network, The Leicester Society of Artists (LSA). In early October I put myself forward as Chair with the hope of taking some of my learning from Made in Leicestershire into this thriving, well-established group. I picked the busiest time of the year to do this, just before our Annual Exhibition opened in early November. The last few weeks have have been intense, with my focus being on the exhibition judges and prizes, the preview event, working with the museum staff and then some PR and marketing activity while the exhibition is open, as well as future planning with our President Lars Tharp and the LSA Council. The exhibition continues until 7th December and is open seven days a week. I have three pieces in the exhibition too and was awarded one of the prizes as well. But the best part so far has been handing over prizes to other artists, which is a joy – and can result in hilarious photos with Tim Fowler!
Earlier this month Creative Leicestershire was awarded a grant from Arts Council England to enable us (me) to do more on my Made in Leicestershire development project. I’ve been working on research and consultation for Made in Leicetershire for about 18 months and this grant has allowed us to extend until the end of September and run some exciting new programmes for Leicestershire and Rutland visual artists and makers.
We are piloting peer mentoring for artists, beginning with training next week and then facilitated meetings over the next month. Those taking part will also have the chance to have a professional photo taken of them with their work and apply for a small professional development bursary. There’s still time to sign up to the peer mentoring programme which takes place on Monday 19th August.
We are also hosting a larger networking event on 24th September, where I’ll be launching a new printed report which will showcase some of the finest creative talent in the city and two counties. There will also be professional development talks and business support 1:1s for new and established artists. Tickets are just £5 and can be booked here.
I love working with artists and it is great to be able to provide development opportunities and work on ways to make the network stronger in the future. It would be great to be able to expand this area of my work into other counties and regions and to work with agencies to create support networks. Hopefully Made in Leicestershire will take flight in the next few years and be the brilliant showcase I want for this creative county.
I’m pleased to be taking part in the Leicester Print Workshop members exhibition this year. I am working in collaboration with Gillian McFarland to produce a changing artwork installation which will develop from week to week as we share ideas, develop and pass things to and fro and create new pieces inspired by two found objects.
The exhibition opens this weekend (17th-18th November) with the Print Festival and Gillian and I will be giving at talk on Saturday 17th November at 4pm about our work. There is also an exhibition preview on Friday 23rd November – details below. The exhibition continues until 26th January 2019.
Gillian McFarland and Ruth Singer work in collaboration as McFarland & Singer alongside their distinct and established solo artistic practices. They began working together in 2014 while sharing a studio; a space that allowed them to share ideas and approaches. In addition to the work created for this residency, McFarland & Singer have a strong convergence of interest around the archaeology of stains and marks of time.
This work is an ongoing collaboration, passing to and fro between us as we each explore related, but separate ideas. The piece begins with two found objects from a charity shop which we both respond to initially, through discussion and making alongside each other. This work will change every week as we add new prints and related pieces of work. This work is displayed in file trays to represent the orderly collation and separation of ideas. Feel free to take the pieces out of the trays and move them around and change the order. We will use this intervention and selection as part of the process of making new pieces each week.
Tacit – Made in Leicestershire contemporary craft exhibition at LCB Depot 17th-29th September.
My first co-curated contemporary craft exhibition is now open! On Friday I installed Tacit – Made in Leicestershire exhibition at LCB Depot in Leicester. I am working for Creative Leicestershire as a consultant on the Made in Leicestershire brand development and putting together this exhibition and events programme is part of that process. It has been a delight to work with so many brilliant Leicestershire makers and to discover new ones selected by co-curator Jo Keogh. The exhibition is only up for a short time until 29th September with a couple of events next week for makers and for visitors to meet the makers.
Exhibition details here along with studio shots of the makers’ work. Late evening preview event is on Facebook. Leicestershire-based professional artists and makers are invited to a Makers Gathering on Thursday 27th Sept hosted by me for Made in Leicestershire.
This show includes my Tracery hanging and my Interlace collaboration work Halo.
I’ve installed two exhibitions in the space of 10 days so my tool box is well-used and I’m all out of cup hooks and glass cleaner. In my previous career I curated and developed museum exhibitions and have worked on a lot of craft exhibitions too over the years. I really enjoy this kind of work, though having help with the ladders, drilling and lifting from LCB staff was great – I’ve had to go up scaffolding to install things before and it wasn’t my favourite thing. Tacit has been an interesting, if very rushed, project to work on. The exhibition concept was developed by LCB Depot in the summer and they asked me to select makers and sort out installation. Jo Keogh (one of the artists) also found a group of emerging makers with new work I didn’t know about so the exhibition is really varied. I really enjoy mixed material exhibitions more than single material – I love to see my work alongside ceramics, glass and metals rather than just textile. It gives all the work a new perspective.