We are Emily Tracy and Lizzy Hobbs, we work as Tracy & Hobbs and our practice revolves around experiments with light, animation and paper. We’ve worked with young people at The Foyer, a youth organisation providing support for local 16 to 25 year-olds who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, once a week over five months since March 2015.
We started the project by introducing the group to the work of Henri Gaudier Brzeska, to tie in with New Rhythms, an exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, which marked 100 years since the artist’s death at the age of 23. A few from the group were able to visit to the exhibition after hours, to do some drawings and think about his amazing work and life. Gaudier Brzeska died as a young man, not without his fair share of troubles, but he lived his short life with great vigour, and the exhibition is about dancing, wrestling and movement, so there are many points for us and the group to connect to his work. For those who couldn’t come to the exhibition, we made a little film of our trip as a document, and we looked at prints of his drawings and sculptures and a clip from Kenneth Anger’s film ‘Savage Messiah’.
The group had expressed an interest in working with animation, so each week we brought along some different techniques and had them on offer for the participants to experiment with and dip into if they wanted. There were some people who came every week if they could, and others who put their head round the door. Sometimes people made things, sometimes they didn’t. The group size could be anything between 2 and 7.
We really wanted to offer them some new possibilities and open them to new techniques and ideas, so each week we brought something new to try, but often they didn’t feel up to it and we found that the most important thing was creating a comfortable space and a kind of quietness, which allowed them to form their own ideas and take the lead. Sometimes we felt like our artistic skills and equipment weren’t really needed, but in the end we realised that being there, chatting about this and that, encouraging them to make things was the most important part of this project. Emily and I found it quite a different experience to leading workshops with big groups in a gallery or school, the challenge required a different kind of stamina, and perhaps more creative improvisation on the spot.
Over the weeks, the group made some really wonderful drawings, animation, experiments with light and optical toys, and they have been very proud to show it to other residents at The Foyer and to visitors to the Circuit Takeover event at Kettle’s Yard. With Lucy’s support, two of the group hope to achieve their Silver Arts Award, which is no mean feat.
The final Circuit Takeover day at Kettle’s Yard in July was brilliant, we saw the young people from The Foyer, who have struggled with lack of confidence, anxieties and other physical and mental barriers, come together and show their work, share some techniques and take part in a wider arts project. We felt privileged to have shared the creative journey with them and we are a little bit sad to say goodbye as they go off onwards to the next part of their journey.