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
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
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.