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Adam Smith College, Fife

The residency
The artists
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The Xpress artist residency project began in late Autumn 2005 at Adam Smith College, Fife.  Funded through the partners artist residency programme, Xpress is a 12 month residency programme is based at St Brycedale’s campus in Kirkcaldy, and delivered on an outreach basis.  Developed to involve participants who have had little or no access to arts activities, the artists are working with groups and individuals in their own familiar territory and spaces.

Picture of the sun; Photo: Adam Smith College

'it all began at the bus stop
on a cold and frosty day
the sun was shining brightly
but it wasn’t there to stay'

Quote from Picture of the sun image (left).

The residency

Xpress is a visual and literary arts project, and two photographers, Rebecca Marr and Lisa Fleming are now in residence.  The literary element is provided through extra funding from Adam Smith College to engage tutors with an understanding, both of literacy needs as well as literary arts and creative writing.  They will actively work alongside the artists, linking participants with literacy needs to support systems within the college.  The photographers themselves have also utilised the relationship between photography and text and many of the resulting artworks employ creative writing.

The photographers and literacy tutors are employed principally to work with two organisations: YMCA/YWCA, Glenrothes and Frae Fife. These umbrella organisations support and work with BME communities, and young homeless people, many with drug and alcohol addictions and/or mental health issues.

Artists and members of The Wash; Photo: Adam Smith College

They are also working with students and staff within the college, offering a range of professional and student development talks and seminars.

The artists have recently completed a series of workshops with a homeless unit offering temporary accommodation to young people.  The 12 young people, who typically have chaotic lifestyles and find completing tasks difficult, regularly attended the sessions and will soon be exhibiting in Rothes Halls, Glenrothes.  Through using the arts, it gave participants the opportunities to gaining confidence in learning, expressing emotion, creating and seeing something through to the end.

Lisa and Rebecca worked with the unit staff to understand the young peoples' situations and find a way of working that would encourage and facilitate as wide an uptake as possible, and maintain involvement.  Approaching the group in a more social setting, including an introductory night with food and chat, they developed a relationship with the individuals in the group and did not impose group work.

Food and sociable settings seem to offer a less threatening way in for participants to explore what was being offered.  They were invited, rather than directed, to take part and given the opportunity to make an informed decision about their involvement.  Some turned up at the start of the project, just to watch others, but were soon getting involved.

Picture of the sun; Photo: Adam Smith College

'somewhere in the bushes
surrounded by the trees
a mysterys awaiting
that only a trained eye sees

some say they are aliens
but I don’t think its true
its far to bright for aliens
to find a passage through'

Quote from Picture of the sun image (above).

This individual approach within a group context has been a key point of the groups' success.  There is no assumption made that everyone is able to work at the same level, or indeed has the same interests.  The participants underlined for the artists that homeless groups are not homogenous groups.  Tending to steer away from issue-based work and focussing more on nature and outdoor surroundings (familiar environments to homeless groups), the participants' images were obviously influenced by their particular situations, but in the same way that the artists' experiences influence their own work.

Some participants have expressed an interest in taking their learning further.  This transition from homeless project to college environment is a significant step.  It shows that art can be used as a positive learning experience and can inspire participants to take their learning further.

The artists stated, 'This is a two-way learning experience, we are learning as much from the people we work with, and in setting up the projects, as the participants are from us'.  This sense of collaboration and development with the participants is something they will take on to the next group, the young homeless women and mother and baby unit.

'it seems to want to go now
which cant be very good
what will entertain us now
when we were in a mood.

well thats it disappeared now
before it all begun
its amazing to see what you can do
with pictures of the sun.'

Quote from Picture of the sun image (right).

Picture of the sun; Photo: Adam Smith College

Future work includes a youth club based summer school and inter-generational work, working towards expanding current provision within the groups and, for the artists professionally, developing their own skills and practice. 

A rolling programme of displays and exhibitions will be held in key locations across Fife over the coming months.  The artists plan to showcase their artwork in Fife and Edinburgh, as well as sharing the community residency results with audiences throughout Scotland.

The artists

Lisa Fleming has worked in the arts for several years, graduating from Napier University in Photography and Film in 1997.  She has worked on several community arts projects in Fife, Edinburgh, and West Lothian and works for Inverleith House in Edinburgh as their arts education officer.  Her own work for this residency will focus on documenting people who consider themselves outwith society.  She is also working on a photographic project looking at the digital revolution (or lack of).

Rebecca Marr has been working in community arts for over 12 years, with a wide range of groups.  She worked as a gallery educator and has co-ordinated several visual arts projects.  Recently she was Co-ordinator for engage Scotland, a visual arts education organisation.  Her photographic practice lies somewhere between portraiture and landscape and in this residency she will be exploring the changing industries of Fife and producing a Sky diary. 

Want more?

Visit Adam Smith College, Fife, online to find out more about the college.

Read our feature on the development of the new Creative Arts Learning Centre at St Brycedale Campus, the base for the artist residency.

Don't forget to visit the Visual Arts and Literature sections, for more interesting features and projects. 

All images courtesy of Adam Smith College, Fife.

Partners: Scotland's Artist Residency Programme is supported by the National Lottery through the Scottish Arts Council.

Related links
* Adam Smith College, Fife
* partners projects index page
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