THE POWER of enriching art workshops is helping the community come together – thanks to the River Hope Project.
Inspired by an association working with street children in Senegal, Africa, the organisation brings together sculpture and art by encouraging the community to ‘share a vision’.
“This is about a group of people trying to do something with art in the community, it is about art educating and serving a purpose and an opportunity to bring people together,” said Stuart Callow, co-ordinator of the River Hope Project.
“Hopefully the art could link people together and influence the next generation.”
With dozens of charities, schools and community support groups getting involved over the past few years, the artistic projects are going from strength to strength and city residents are getting used to unusual sculptures cropping up around the area.
The latest community work – a figure woven from willow – has been made by students at the Apuldram Centre, a foundation studies group at Chichester College and for the first time – charity Mind.
“This is the first time Mind has been involved,” said Stuart. “The charity aids the community for better mental health, with a drop-in late coffee morning once a week.
“The sculpture has been displayed in the Hope garden in Market Avenue as part of a fringe event to the Festival of Chichester.”
Rayner Waszki is the organises events in Chichester for Coastal West Sussex Mind, which offers group support for older people with mild cognitive impairment, memory loss or dementia.
“It was good to see everyone working on the sculpture and chatting about it,” she said. “It provided mental stimulation, social contact and was good fun. It was also a good opportunity to find out more about willow crafts in general and it provoked a general discussion among the group.”
Stuart said the sculptures often change shape or structure as they journey around the groups.
“This year the willow sculpture has naturally and creatively evolved in to a fairy or angel,” he said. “The sculptures have attracted attention from the public, especially from two young girls – who were keen to find out more and see into our enchanted garden.”
Stuart said he hoped the workshops would help to ‘inspire and educate’ the next generation about the importance of art and community ventures.
In December the River Hope Project held a successful sculpture competition at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester.
“Sculpture is a tactile physical experience,” he said. “In our workshops it is always fascinating to witness from the moment a pupil, patient or client, first touches their work, and embarks upon their personal or shared journey. They are often immediately immersed in their work.”
More than 20 clay heads were produced in community workshops in hospitals, schools and by charities. The event received support from not only the gallery – Marc Steene, gallery co-ordinator judged the sculptures – but also local businesses which joined in an auction. The money raised was split between the winners and other world causes.
Large willow spheres formed the basis of a community workshop last year, with groups being encourage to add to them. The workshop visited St Wilfrid’s Hospice, Chidham Parochial Primary School, The Hub and Stonepillow’s Day Centre, and has been worked on by Fordwater School pupils at Chichester College.