My environment, my art, my place

"To us, the final exhibition embodied a vibrant youth culture, representative of the identities of young people local to Brixton and how they feel towards their dynamic, changing environment" - Laura and Gaby, Tate Collective London

On the Down Low cGaby Sahhar

Laura and Gaby are the first two members of Tate Collective London to support a partnership project from conception, through planning and recruitment to delivery. On the Down Low was a project run collaboratively with University of the Arts London (UAL) Widening Participation, offsite at The Platform in Loughborough Junction near Brixton. The Platform is run by Meanwhile Space, a social enterprise working across the private, public and community sectors and aiming to boost community uses of empty properties and sites. The project aimed to provide an opportunity for young people from the local area to produce culture within their own environment, and The Platform became a blank canvas for the young people to shape as the week progressed. Here Gaby and Laura reflect on their experience of the project:

‘On the Down Low’ was a collaborative project run by Tate and UAL Widening Participation team; it was a weeklong photography and graphic design course led by creative practitioners Teo ‘O’ Connor and Othello D’souza-Hartley that took place during a sunny Easter holiday break, culminating in a showcase of the work produced.  This project formed part of our partnership strand and aimed to engage young people local to the area considered to have the least access to the arts.

The project took place in the lesser known area of Loughborough Junction in Brixton, where young people are very much aware of the rapid change that is sweeping over much of inner city London. But what do they think of their changing environment and how could they express this in a creative way? These initial questions created the foundations for the project…

After securing the space, we as Tate Collective helped to recruit other young people by going into local schools, colleges and youth clubs. We gave a short presentation to students at Lambeth College with a short overview of Tate Collective as well as our personal pathways into the arts. I think our presence as Tate Collective helped by being approachable, making people comfortable and keeping the tone informal.

Using The Platform as a base, the project encouraged young people to explore the local community and respond to it through different forms of photography and graphic design. The project kicked off with an icebreaker exercise that asked the group to guess the location of the photo through visual signifiers. This worked well as a visual stimulus and introduced the group to innovative methods of documentary photography.

Working with Teo and Othello, the group were able to de-construct the environment around them in an innovative way. Othello’s photography skills helped the group gain an understanding of how to use it as a tool in their local environment whilst considering how the photos could be used for the final exhibition.  One young person said that their highlight was learning “how to optimise the entire space, but also to focus on perspective and the use of different angles”. Teo’s process-led graphic design practice informed some of the workshop activities such as using photocopying, printing, repetitive and overlaying techniques, painting and coloured card to rework their photos.

On the Down Low cDaine (7)

For the final exhibition, The Platform was transformed into a colourful showcase of work, rooted within the area and informed by the conversations around the young people’s own interests and identities. Brixton based hip-hop duo Blackmale Beats provided atmospheric beats with food from local Sunshine Arts Café, whilst the young people celebrated what they had achieved with family and friends. This was also a chance for the young people to discover more about potential progression routes into Tate Collective or onto UAL courses.

So what did we learn as Tate Collective? It was a great experience all round; seeing the project through from its conception to the delivery and beyond, has given us an insight into the logistics of running such a project as well as learning new skills from all those involved!

To us, the final exhibition embodied a vibrant youth culture, representative of the identities of young people local to Brixton and how they feel towards their dynamic, changing environment. One young person identified their highlight of the project as “[using] my identity when taking pictures in order to portray it through photography”.

By Laura Ghany and Gaby Sahhar

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