Natasha De Vries is a Canadian painter and multimedia artist from Vancouver, British Columbia. Having graduated in with a masters in Architecture from Glasgow School of Art, she recently joined Impact Arts as Youth Ambassador for the Our Bright Future project in Dennistoun, Glasgow. This will involve her engaging with local schools and community groups to create public art for the area.
Below, Natasha speaks about her artistic practice, what art is to her and what she hopes to do through working in Dennistoun. More information about Natasha and her art can be found here on her website.
Our Bright Future is funded by the Big Lottery Fund to support young people to lead progressive environmental change in their communities. The information and ideas gathered are shared with 30 other Our Bright Future projects across the UK. Find out more here on their website.
What is your role with Impact Arts?
My official title is Youth Ambassador for the Big Lottery Fund's Our Bright Future project, which aims to empower young people to have agency in their communities, particularly with regards to the environment and the future of their neighbourhoods.
People are what make communities what they are and young people are a part of that - but they often have the most difficulty speaking to the community about their future. My job is to run workshops in Dennistoun to let people talk about what they want for the future of the community and then take what they communicate forwards to help them visually communicate that through art which which will reach the wider community.
There’s this book that almost every art student - at least in Canada - has to read called Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art by Suzanne Lacy and a lot of other really interesting writers and artists. On the cover there is the quote: "to search for the good and make it matter: this is the real challenge for the artist." At Impact Arts I have found a lot of people trying to do that and succeeding - showing it’s possible for art to be a force for good and change in the world, not just some abstract idea. I’m really excited to work with the community in Dennistoun to show my how much better they are at what I do than I am!
How would you describe your artwork/artistic practice?
Art is meant to be shared and to help people share. I think it’s interesting how we communicate and relate to each other, and how strongly we are affected by other people's presence. In western society, we are increasingly individualistic -so I like making work that let’s people engage with other people and the world around them.
What do you aim to say with your artwork?
There are lots of ways to communicate thoughts and feelings to others. Most people have a learning style that work best for them, and it’s the same with communication. Sometimes what you can depict in a painting cannot really be as accurately expressed in writing or speaking. Explaining yourself is something very difficult to do, and when we lack certain types of literacy it’s very frustrating for everyone. I want my work to help people understand but also help them feel understood.
Where has your work been displayed/exhibited?
My work has been displayed in several places in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia, Canada and most recently in Glasgow School of Art's Graduate Degree Show. Back in Canada, my work was shown in the Langley Centennial Museum for the Graduate Degree Show and at the Fort Gallery for a collective art show with a group of artists from the Fort Gallery, my University and the community - anyone could come to the gallery space and draw on the walls with us.
What is your professional goal as an artist?
I’d consider myself a successful artist if I can get my work to the point where it stops being mine - that would be the dream. I like making work that people can put themselves into, that they can identify with and that they can change as they need to. Books, film, music and plays can all do that so I don’t see why art can’t. I want people to be able to look at and interact with my work, and feel it’s theirs just as much as it is mine.
What would you say to encourage other artists to get involved with community arts?
I would ask them who and what they’re making art for. In my experience, most people do not make art just for themselves - you make it to say something, and very few people are trying only to speak for themselves. Most artists I talk to are excited about community art and are really interested in the idea of working with community groups - it’s the "how" that is a lot harder for them and I think the only solution to that is to start talking and working with a community.
For community art to be successful, the group has to want to work with you, and you as the artist have to remember that they are an equal partner in the project. The end work is theirs just as much, if not more than it is yours. As an artist, I know that can be really difficult. But I think there’s something intriguing that comes out of that collaboration and I do believe it’s better and more meaningful than any of the work I could make on my own.
What are similarities and differences between working in Scotland and working in Canada?
It’s been really exciting working and studying in Scotland for the past year and a bit. I still panic a little when I see drivers on the other side of the road, and have definitely thought someone let an eight-year-old drive a car for a good few minutes! It’s definitely different, but in a lot of ways not so different - I actually see and hear less bagpipes here than in Canada. But they also seem to play more than just Amazing Grace, which is a nice change.
There are certainly more old buildings here, but I’ve realized that in Canada our equivalent is probably old growth forests and very large trees. There are things I miss about Canada while I’m here but I think the longer I stay here the more I realise I will miss things about Scotland as well. One of my favourite things about Canada is that overall we’re a small country with an absurdly large land mass that tries to do its best, and I think that’s very true of the people I’ve met here as well. There are plenty of things in any country that seem to be working against you, but I’ve met a lot of people here that really do their best to make things work anyways.
A new Creative Pathways project for young people in the East End of Glasgow has kicked off with an explosion of creativity – and plenty of planning for environmental themed public art in the north of the city.
15 participants – all aged 16 and 17 - will be working with our artist tutors until the end of November to design, develop and create a significant sculptural project for the canal side in north Glasgow.
With support and funding from Our Bright Future, the Big Lottery Fund, Skills Development Scotland, Inspiring Scotland, the Scottish Children’s Lottery and Scottish Canals, the group will be developing their creative talents while working with Impact Arts staff to strengthen skills that will prepare them for employment, education or training.
The project has got off to a flyer, with stacks of incredible work produced! A stand-out piece is this Glasgow Skyline created out of bottle caps, paint chip samples and plywood. Not only is the work beautiful but – fitting with the environmental theme of the project - it uses discarded objects creatively while highlighting the issue of pollution in the city.
The ultimate aim of the project is to develop site-specific sculptures for the Claypits, an area of land in Possil which is undergoing regeneration. With this in mind, the group have been spending time in Alexandra Park, gathering materials and discussing environmental sculpture.
Over the coming weeks, the team will work together to plan projects while thinking about form, structure and materials. They will also learn about photography, product design and 3D printing.
The Claypits, situated by the Forth and Clyde canal, is the former site of a brick factory that had its heyday during the industrial revolution. The area is now a prime site of urban green-space, and home to an array of plant and animal species.
The space is being developed to include a pathway and nature walk, which is where the Creative Pathways team’s sculptures will be installed. This work is in fitting with the ethos of the UK-wide Our Bright Future movement, which supports projects helping young people lead environmental change in their area.
The team are looking forward to working with other creatives, including Glasgow Sculpture Studios, to help produce large scale, professional work designed by the participants. The team will also make field trips to Jupiter Artland, a sculptural tour of Glasgow and to the archives department at the Mitchell Library. It promises to be an exciting and enlightening ten weeks...
A bright, colourful 30-foot mural, designed and painted by young people on our Creative Pathways programme in Barrhead, has been unveiled at their final showcase event.
As part of the 14-week programme, the participants have been working on the mural for the outer wall of the ARC Community Centre over the past month.
They used materials that would normally be seen as unsustainable – such as artificial grass – to create an artwork intended to speak of the importance of sustainability.
Inspired by the natural world, the mural includes exotic plants and animals from a variety of global.
The event also exhibited video, prints, photography and crafts produced over the course of the project, giving participants' friends and family the chance to see them.
This project has been funded by Barrhead Housing Association, the Scottish Government’s People and Communities Fund and the Big Lottery Fund’s Our Bright Future initiative, which encourages young people to lead environmental change in their communities.
As well as picking up a number of artistic techniques – both by hand and using computers – over the past 14 weeks, the young people have received one-to-one support with job-hunting and interview skills.
Over half of the participants have since moved into employment, education and training, with interviews coming up for others.
Callum, 18, is one of the participants who will be starting a college course. He speaks enthusiastically about the different the course has made to him.
“I’ve really enjoyed Impact Arts. I feel it’s helped me a lot. It’s been great to engage with the local community and other charities in the area to find out what is important to people about the environment.
“It’s also opened my mind a bit. My creativity skills were quite lacking when I came here, but I’ve tried to take part in as many activities as I can. As a result, my creativity and my ability to change things on the fly has improved a lot.”
Alistair, 18, has enjoyed working on creative projects with other people his age.
“It’s been amazing. I feel I’ve achieved so much, and made a lot new friends. The social side has been a big part of it.
“The best part has been being able to work creatively on computers, and also the new techniques I’ve been able to try – like making prints and 3D models.
“The tutors have been amazing. You couldn’t ask for better people to work with. I’ve also got help with interviews, and I’m a lot more confident going into them now than I was previously.”
The course has been led by Impact Arts’ artists Heather Gault and Kaitlyn DeBiasse.
Lead tutor Heather says: “It was an amazing afternoon, having the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of a very special group of young people.
“They have been so enthusiastic, have really made an effort to engage with the community on the project, and have thrown themselves into new things.”
“The fact so many attended meant a lot to them and showed the value of all their hard work over the summer.”
Next week, Impact Arts will be starting a new 12-week project for unemployed 16-24 year olds, also based at the ARC Centre. If you are interested in finding out more, please visit www.impactarts.co.uk, contact Aileen Lynn on 0141 575 3001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There was some creative intergenerational working going in Barrhead last week, as young people on our Creative Pathways programme and over-60s from our Craft Cafe project in the town came together to discuss Barrhead past and present.
The group had originally met near the beginning of the young people's project which started in June. They discussed changes in the town and local life on a day-to-day basis.
The young people then decided to produce a photography project - entitled Barrhead then and now - which placed old images of Barrhead next to ones they had taken themselves to emphasise the changes that had taken place.
Last week, the team presented their project at the Craft Cafe workshops Impact Arts runs for older people at Barrhead Sheltered Housing Complex.
This prompted further discussion about differences in life in the town between the generations, and the group shared some fascinating and funny stories about their childhoods.
These discussions are to be turned into a poem by Julie Anna Douglas, a professional poet, with illustrations accompanying. Watch this space.
Alyson, 19, loved showing her work to the Craft Cafe members.
"It was really nice," she said, "I felt very proud."
"I love looking at old photos and find it really interesting. You see it from a different perspective and we got to hear stories about what happened at the time."
"I think its good for older people and young people to interact with each other. I don’t think many older people get to be around young people and find out how the generations are different now."
Creative Pathways: Environmental Design in Barrhead is funded by Barrhead Housing Association, the Big Lottery Fund's Our Bright Future initiative, Inspiring Scotland and the Scottish Government's People and Communities Fund.
The aim of the project is to pass on creative skills to young unemployed people, while preparing them to find work through employability training in things like CV writing and interview skills.
Craft Cafe in Barrhead runs at Barrhead Sheltered Housing on Wednesday afternoons between 1pm and 4pm. It offers relaxed, friendly and creative sessions to socialise and pick up skills from an artist-in-residence.
For more about Impact Arts' work with young people, please visit this section of our website.
For more about our work with older people, please visit this section of our website.
Next week, our Creative Pathways: Environmental Design block in Barrhead will come to an end, with the young people who have taken part unveiling digital artwork, prints, textiles and a stunning new mural to adorn an outer wall of the Auchenback Resource Centre!
The showcase event will take place on Friday 8th September 2017 between 1.30pm and 3.30pm at the ARC (64 Aurs Drive, Barrhead).
This fourteen week project has seen participants get to grips with a whole range of creative and design skills, learning how to use new software and expressing themselves artistically in their own voice.
There has been a strong environmental focus as well, and the young people have done a great job engaging members of the local community, finding out what is important to people in the area and how public spaces can be used to benefit both quality of life and the environment in the future.
The mural will also have an environmental theme, showing images of different ecosystems and using materials that may otherwise have a negative environmental impact - such as artificial grass.
Funding for the project has come from Inspiring Scotland, Barrhead Housing Association, and the Big Lottery Fund's Our Bright Future initiative which supports projects helping young people lead progressive change in their communities.
From planning, hosting and marketing community consultation events, to building 3D scale models for future developments, the project has been a massive success in giving participants practical experience of creative techniques and making them more confident and vocal about what they want for their own futures and the future of their community.
While working together on a number of creative projects, the participants - who were all out of work at the beginning of the programme - have also had support with job-hunting and CV-writing, with a priority placed on achieving positive destinations for those involved.
Brendan, 18, has been on the project since it started in June. He speaks enthusiastically about the difference having this opportunity has made in his own life.
"At first, I thought I was just coming along for the money - £55 a week, sign me up. But as it's gone on I got to know the people and enjoyed it a lot more.
"When I started I had only just moved to the area and I'm not usually the first person to go out and start things - but as it's gone on you get more relaxed, get talking to people and there was more banter.
"The tutors were very helpful in building up confidence and getting you to try new things. I know that if I hadn't been doing it, I would have been sitting in the house doing nothing. But now I feel a lot more confident, and a lot more confident about getting a job."
How will he feel when he sees their artwork on proud display in the community? "I'll feel proud. People will walk by the mural and we'll know that we put that time in and helped do it. That's pretty cool."
The programme has been led by tutors and artists Heather Gault and Kaitlyn deBiasse.
Lead Tutor Heather says: "This group of young people have done incredible work and have really thrown themselves into trying new techniques with amazing enthusiasm. It's been a privilege to work with them.
“As the programme has gone on, they've also gone from strength to strength personally, whether in how they communicate, how they work together or simply in how confident they are. These are majorly important when we consider the many challenges these young people are facing, and goes to show how vital such projects are.
"A healthy turnout on the day would be fantastic in properly celebrating these achievements, so I'd encourage anyone who can to make it along. It also promises to be a fun, relaxed atmosphere, and a chance to see some really great artwork and film."
If you are interested in attending, or would just like to find out more, please contact Heather on 07810184043 or email@example.com.
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