Make Box: A collaboration between Whitworth Young Contemporaries and SARC

Whitworth Young Contemporaries artist in residence Helen Newman writes about her collaboration with SARC for their 30th Anniversary and the challenges of  producing a project for young people without the youth group.

I was asked by St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) to produce an installation to sit in their reception area to mark the celebration of their 30th Anniversary. SARC were “established in 1986 and was the first Centre of its kind in the UK” providing an aftercare service to men, women and children who have  experienced sexually assault.

I knew I wanted to produce a collaborative installation which involved young people who attend the centre, but with no youth group and a strict privacy policy it meant I wouldn’t be able to work directly with young people. The challenge of having no direct contact became one of the key steps in creating the installation and a new challenge of thinking about how the Whitworth and SARC could connect through art without meeting face to face.

Taking inspiration from a box idea that SARC give their clients to fill with images and words to open up conversation, and David Batchelor’s Plato’s Disco hanging in the whitworth, I came up with the first step for the installation called ‘Make Box.’

Make Box is a kit containing a clear plastic sphere and craft materials. A box is given to a client attending the centre and to be used during a consultation or to take home. Using the materials in the box the idea is that the client will fill the sphere with messages, photographs and drawings of anything they wish which are then sealed inside the sphere and kept private. Once sealed a client can decorate the outside. Each sphere will never be opened and will all be unique. The completed sphere can be kept or sent back to the Whitworth to then be added to the installation which will reside in the SARC reception area later in the year.

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The project so far has allowed me to develop new skills in my profession as an artist such as dealing with a clients needs for example working out costings and putting together proposals. It has also sparked a new interest in my own practice in looking at how tactile materials and objects can open up a platform for conversation.

With the boxes now delivered to SARC I am excited to see what I will get back and looking forward to creating the installation.

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