MY YEAR: Lady Kitt | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Art Confined by Lady Kitt 2020, socially engaged live art craft project

Words: Lady Kitt

Along with producer Sarah Li, artist Sofia Barton and a brilliant bunch of folks from around the North East I’ve been working on Art Confined, a project scrummaging around in, and making art inspired by, the question “how the hell do we do social art with social distance?!” We’ve been supported to do this by the amazing disabled artist led consortium Disconsortia, Durham University and Norfolk Street Arts in Sunderland. Also me and artist Dan Russell have been continuing our work growing and sharing mutual support for artists locally and nationally with the Social Practice Surgery and co-leading the North East hub for UK wide Social Art Network.

The pandemic has affected me in so many ways. Basically I spend my life making art with people and when you can’t spend time with people that all becomes a bit complex! The initial impact was, well, devastating actually; no collaborating, no income, no creative focus, no professional development.

No access to my studio or physical access to the people and groups I was working alongside. Home schooling two small children whilst having to find/secure/develop new work opportunities. Thinking “Why bother? How/why the hell would I ‘do’ participatory art in a socially distanced world?” But that question became key; answering it – trying to, anyway – is what I’ve spent most of the last eight months doing. I’ve been forced to work slower, which has actually been dead useful and to embrace digital stuff in my work – something I‘ve been very hesitant about previously, but I’m now really getting into it.

I think there’s something about going through this collective trauma that has allowed/encouraged/given permission for people to be very open and vulnerable with one another. The work I’ve been part of has felt kinda tender and intimate. It’s had a sort of intense clarity, you know? People have really wanted to ‘do’ art with social purpose(s) and talk about what that really means and how it happens. And it’s felt open to (supported) experimentation and mess and gainy-ness and failure – which I absolutely love.

I just found out we got Arts Council England funding for a project which expands on the Art Confined scrummaging. It’s called (en)SHRINE and involves collaborative crafting, massive paper shrines and institutional policy change! Other than that, more (supported) experimentation and mess and gainy-ness and failure I hope!! More cuddles though, eh? I really miss cuddles…

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