In July, 2022, we welcomed five Taiwanese art interns, Stacy, Peggy, Haruna, Annie and Huai-Jhen. They were accompanied for the first few weeks by their professor, Ming Turner. Whilst here the students would observe, for a period of five weeks, daily life in a community centre setting and would participate in a programme of artist-led workshops, giving them a flavour of the type of community art activities and projects delivered at Fearon Hall.
The students had created their own banner to mark the beginning of their internship and our very own cake baker, Hannah, made some lovely cakes for the welcoming tea party.
The creative journey unfolds
Exploring Loughborough, Tuesday 19 July
On Britain’s hottest ever recorded day, I took our art interns for a walk around Loughborough. After looking at All Saints Church, we then took in the Old Rectory Museum – the interns were amazed that a building 800 years old was still standing here! Then to the Sock Gallery where we saw a lovely exhibition of lino prints by Richard Jarvis. Next up, Loughborough Library, where we spent a fair bit of time in the Local Studies Department, followed by a trip to Queens Park. It was wonderful seeing Loughborough through the eyes of our visitors. The students marvelled at all our wonderful heritage, including the band stand on the park. Finally, back to Fearon Hall – lunch in the café accompanied by copious amounts of water to quench our thirst.
Wednesday – The first workshop experience – puppet animation
Nenagh Watson, puppeteer extraordinaire, led a puppet animation workshop in the Ballroom at Fearon Hall.
During this workshop, Nenagh encouraged the students to explore how working with puppets brings to the fore what it is to be human through exploring notions of life and death and the intricacies of how we build relationships. The students warmed up for performance with ball games and had a fascinating day working with Nenagh’s beautiful handmade puppets as well as making their own puppet heads fashioned from plastic milk bottles.
The group documented their experience through video. In the first video, you can see art intern Annie imbue a puppet with life. She awakens her, raises her gently and they engage in a silent dialogue of gestures, gazes and movement.
The second video depicts the art interns interacting with an umbrella in an ordered sequence of performative engagement with the object.
Thursday – Eco-dyeing and journal making
Local artist Zanetta Middleton ran an absolutely amazing workshop for our art interns in her beautiful home studio. She had gathered wild flowers from the edge of the canal for our eco-dyeing session in the morning. A delicious home-made cheese flan for lunch followed by journal making in the afternoon. Zanetta is a regular workshop leader at Fearon Hall.
“Zanetta invited us to spend a whole day in her beautiful studio, which was so wonderful that we didn’t want to leave. In addition, we learned that creating with plants was experimental during the eco-dyeing workshop. We cooked eco-dyeing paper like witches, surrounded by the aromas of eucalyptus, roses, onions, and so on. It was like opening presents when we untied the eco-dyeing paper package. The fabulous and unpredictable colours attracted us so much”.
Friday – Exploring human traces at Fearon Hall: Fragments of Memory
I began this workshop by encouraging our interns to explore all the nooks and crannies of Fearon Hall, taking rubbings on paper from the different surfaces wherever they went. They created a rich portfolio of work, using staircase balustrades, frosted glass, the wooden floorboards of the ball room, decorative door handles and grills on the exterior. Gradually the interns wandered further and further away from the building – Haruna said ‘Fearon Hall is more than just the building’. What a perceptive thing to say about how Fearon Hall reaches out beyond its walls after just a short time being with us!
Here is what Huai-Jhen said about the workshop:
“Memory is like the deposition of time and emotion. As time passes, happiness, melancholy, and all the feelings leave footprints in our minds. Even if we do not remember the details, it is the emotion always remains for a long time.
Nonetheless, humans are not the only ones that remember but the surrounding preserves the trace of time. Every carved mark and scratch records a fragment of time and resonates the embodied memory.
In this workshop, as we started to take a close look at the building and rub on the trace and texture of the objects, we genuinely had a dialogue with the surroundings. The floor kept the steps of those who dance in the room; the bricks and trees were carved by someone to leave evidence of their existence, while the gravestones around the church are in memory of one’s beloved. We traced their track, immersed ourselves in the place, and created with the past.
Fearon Hall, the nexus and a place where minds and goodwill aggregated, is a lovely carrier of memories.”
The students created a pathway of their rubbings – which are of many different colours – with a chair at the end of the journey. They explained:
“There is a statement in the book Walden (Life in the Woods) “I had three chairs in my house,” Thoreau wrote, “one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.” Fearon Hall brings to people more than three chairs and becomes a shelter for all. Everyone can bring their chair here to reclaim the conversation and brighten each life.”
Monday and Tuesday – Preparing and delivering children’s workshops
Under the guidance of artist Pasha Kincaid, the interns learned how to create block printed designs using polystyrene sheets. They applied this knowledge in a community setting by delivering a wonderfully creative children’s workshop session.
One delighted grandma: “Eliza & Ferne had the best time at the craft workshop.”
Wednesday and Friday – Place and Identity
The interns took part in a two-day workshop at Loughborough University exploring place and identity led by PhD researcher James Chantry. Outcomes included some beautiful oil monoprints, large scale automatic drawings and video works. It was a very revelatory and stimulating two days.
“When participating in the project, “Place and identity,” we mined from our memories about ourselves, families, cultural background, and the long standing issues in our society back in Taiwan. Memories are the roots of identities. To illustrate, everything we experienced in the past is what makes us today. From your perception to your behaviour; from your value to your identity. By tracking back to the root, we could have clear pictures of who we are. Guided by the artist, James Chantry, we revealed ourselves and reflected on our art practice in abstracts and videos. For one, the creative journey was a reconciliation with herself, while one freely sprayed the colours as her flowing thoughts. One depicted the most memorable scenes in her childhood, and one expressed the concept of breakthrough and freedom. Art empowered us to be honest with ourselves.”
Thursday – Harnessing the power of the sun – creating cyanotypes
The joy and exuberance displayed by our art interns during their stay in Loughborough was totally infectious, even more so when working with nature. Fearon Hall and its surroundings is such a happy place in which to work, play and create. Thank you to the wonderful Emily Arnold for leading such an inspired cyanotype workshop with the interns at Fearon Hall.
Three days at Nanpantan, on the edge of the Charnwood Forest.
Monday – Natural dyeing
The week began with a visit to my own studio located at Home Farm. Here the wonderful Vanessa Parkinson, a Tudor plant specialist who has taken part in many re-enactment events, met the interns, dressed as her alter ego, Lettuce, a poor Tudor gardener. She talked about plants which yielded good colours for dyeing and everyone had a go at making dyes from plants such as Madder, Golden Rod, nettles, red onion skins. Gloves were the theme for the day – representing hands which symbolise friendship and reaching out, a subject very close to our hearts here at Fearon Hall.
Wednesday and Thursday – Becoming Wild – two days creating in a secret woodland location
With artists Miffy Ryan & The Lone Ones Collective, Paul Conneally and Laura Dalton.
We explored the performative possibilities of plastics in relation to nature and our bodies.
The two-day odyssey began with a procession and ended with a procession. We camped out, we became community. There were jewels of creative actions, simple things like filling bags with air, tying ourselves to each other, to branches, to trees, making sculptures with plastics. Seemingly playful actions but responding to big issues – the relationship between plastics, humans and the environment, our relationship with death even.
“Findings from the wood bring a new way of seeing the objects, such as Barbies and plastic bags. They became the materials for creating pieces, which interacted with nature. I enjoyed watching how children do with those particular items and reminded me that people have the ability to live amazing life.”
You can watch videowork of the final performance piece here.
Exploring urban spaces – a day of Parkour
Parkour practitioner Jemain Duberry is tutor for a day.
“There is a lesson as always from the unforgettable experience here every day. People who engaged in their interests for a long time won our respect, and the enthusiasm rippled my mind. At the same time, they are open-minded, take a risk, and keep trying new things are so inspired! How long has it been since I’ve been to the playground? A day of Parkour brought me back to that day.
Annie took these fabulous photographs.
THE FINAL WEEK
Fly to Fearon Hall – an exhibition to celebrate a wonderful experience
Four weeks passed by in a flash and the exhibition which had been planned to celebrate the internship was upon us. The last week was spent assembling work which had been created as part of the workshop experiences, and planning how everything was to be displayed and where. Meg, manager at Fearon Hall, gave us free rein to use the whole of the ground floor – a fantastic opportunity.
A painterly dance on paper
The word ‘flying’ felt particularly relevant after the global Covid pandemic. Flying, soaring high in the sky, represents freedom, being able to visit other countries again, being able to connect with people face to face and learn first hand about other cultures. Hence the exhibition title ‘Fly to Fearon Hall’.
Using brushes taped to branches, dipped in black paint, the students brought the idea of flying, their own culture and the woodland at Nanpantan all together. They painted large-scale hieroglyphs from ancient Chinese Oracle Bone script on long sheets of paper. The script originates from several Dynasties and each hieroglyph represents a version of the same word – ‘flying’. Although the script is no longer used, it remains an important part of Chinese culture.
On painting using a a branch, Stacy said
“ I have never worked in this way before, it is a very powerful and freeing way of working”.
The exercise was a wonderful experience for the observer too, like watching a dance or ritual taking place across the paper.
A newsletter is born
The interns’ experiences with the people at Fearon Hall and the services which this centre offers to its community led them to attempt to describe or label what it was that they were observing. They coined a new word – NEXUST. Nexust is a coming together of three words, nest, nexus and next.
The idea of Nest came first. The interns saw in action how Fearon Hall strives to provide a place of security, shelter and personal growth. They saw how place and identity go hand in hand, that memory of place is an important part of our sense of identity.
The word, Nexus helped then clarify their observations further. Nexus describes the important connections between a group of people or things. The interns saw how very important the idea of connection is here. The artwork ‘Loughborough Typeface, created by Huai-Jhen, takes something as individually unique as handwriting and creates a new collective typeface which represents the community as a whole.
And ‘Next’ – where next for all of us? Humans are constantly moving forward, where we go next depends to a large extent on the support mechanisms which we encounter. The interns recognised how much of that type of support goes on in community centres such as Fearon Hall. Interviews with service users revealed the significance of this support.
The interns named their newsletter Nexust. It pulled together their experiences whilst participating in this internship, describing their creative work which highlights the ways in which Fearon Hall reaches out to the community. The headings in the newsletter use a new ‘Loughborough Typeface, created by Huai-Jhen. Huai-jhen asked several Fearon Hall visitors and staff to write words of their choice. Utilising characters from this writing, she formed an alphabet, bringing individual handwriting characteristics together to form a unique typeface which reflects our community of individuals here at Fearon Hall.
You can read the newsletter here.
Friday 19 August. The exhibition is presented – an evening to remember
After five very busy and long days spent preparing, the exhibition was upon us. We opened the doors of Fearon Hall at six o’clock to find many members of the public waiting to come in to see the work which our interns had created. We felt so happy and excited, we had an audience!
A special community artwork had been planned to open the event. Visitors were invited to describe what community meant to them by writing words on a white sheet which was then carried by everyone into the Hall in an opening ceremony.
Lots to do and see
Every room on our ground floor was utilised – Fearon Hall became a pop-up contemporary gallery for the evening. Visitors were able to meander through a rich feast of exhibits. We embraced new media art using clever and intriguing video installations to tell the stories of our interns experiences. These even extended to fill the wonderful Victorian staircase at Fearon Hall.
A wall of sensitive and insightful photographs taken by Annie captured moments in time during her art internship with us and the Chinese Bone Oracle script became a wonderful installation in the centre of the Hall – it made a fantastic backdrop for my introductory talk.
Beautifully presented transcripts of interviews with Fearon Hall Staff and visitors along with photographs provided insight into everyday life at Fearon Hall. Sculptures and assemblages made from bottles and other waste plastics and even dyed cotton gloves added another rich layer.
A very popular exhibit was the Interactive piece, ‘Roadside Banquet’, which invited visitors to select a secret message from the ‘Hotpot’ using chopsticks.
Fearon Hall’s role as a place of shelter and nurture for residents in the community was emphasised in the artwork ‘House’. Made from cardboard boxes, the building was covered with cyanotype images of flowers, symbolising notions of growth.
Huai-jhen illustrated her Loughborough typeface using a large poster depicting some of the people who had contributed to her project, their hands connected by red thread. We are all together, we are all connected in some way.
‘Hopscotch to Fearon Hall’, the pathway of rubbings first conceived during the workshop ‘Fragments of Memory’ made a second reincarnation in the exhibition. The many coloured rubbings placed on the floor with a chair at the end of the journey explored Fearon Hall as a connecting place for the community.
And, above all, the exhibition provided an opportunity to celebrate, to connect with others, to share ideas, to laugh, to pose, and even reflect a little.
Thank you from everyone at Fearon Hall to our group of interns for throwing a light on the centre’s everyday aims and activities through this exhibition.
You can watch two of the video works shown at the exhibition at the following links:
…and people of all ages kept writing, giving us their take on what community means to them.
What our visitors thought
Here are some comments made by visitors to the exhibition:
“Such a wonderful event, so honoured to have been part of it”
“Such a lot of sharing & mixing & mixing & sharing! WOW WOW WOW!”
“What a lovely evening last night seeing and hearing about the Taiwanese Interns’ work.”
I have read the newsletter today with absolute joy – what a beautiful story and such inspiring words.”
“Thanks so much for all your hard work and putting on the exhibition. It will stay in my mind for a long time.”
Not goodbye but see you again
We will see you again one day Stacy, Haruna, Huai-jhen, Annie and Peggy. We have loved every moment of your stay with us at Fearon Hall.
Thank you to the following local artists and creative practitioners who generously gave of their time to support this international internship programme.
Emily Arnold, Natalie Chabaud, James Chantry, Paul Conneally, Laura Dalton, Jemain Duberry, Pasha Kincaid, Zanetta Middleton, Vanessa Parkinson, Miffy Ryan & The Lone Ones Collective, Nenagh Watson
Thank you from everyone at Fearon Hall to our interns for shining a light on our everyday experiences and what we strive to achieve at this community centre.