Local is an exhibition by HND Contemporary Art Practice (CAP) students from the Granton Campus of the Edinburgh College. The artworks that can be seen in the exhibition at North Edinburgh Arts until February the 23rd are the culmination of a project which was instigated in September 2012 by ourselves, Alan Holligan & Jennie Temple, course lecturers on HND CAP, with priceless support from Lynn McCabe and the North Edinburgh Social History Group.
The Contemporary Art Practice course has been running very successfully since 2007. The course provides a range of excellent opportunities for students to develop a broad understanding of artistic practice. Alan and I had for some time been discussing how to develop a strong working connection between the CAP Course, the local community and surrounding areas of North Edinburgh. Beyond the college location, and the students who came to us who lived locally, we recognised that although we were part of a Community College (then Edinburgh’s Telford College: a stalwart of North Edinburgh for many years) we felt professional connection to our immediate surroundings could be stronger. We acknowledged that we bussed in and out of work every day, passing through the community in which our workplace was rooted, and also acknowledged that this was something we did not feel entirely comfortable about. As a result we started to discuss the possibility of a project for our HND 2nd year students that we hoped would, at the very least, begin a dialogue with some our neighbours.
We initially approached a couple of local groups to see if they would be interested in meeting with us, and subsequently our students. We couldn’t have anticipated the warmth with which we were greeted and quite quickly we were able to establish links and visits with (the amazing) North Edinburgh Social History Group and North Edinburgh Arts (with whom we already had some links). These visits were incredibly informative and allowed us to immediately understand the local area more fully, and in a way that we had never before: An area steeped in history; an area that had once been rich farmland; an area that had been home to a post-war camp; an area that the Duke of Buccleuch had happily called home, and much, much more. The students were instantly engaged and brought a range of rich contributions to the discussions: amongst the group of 11 students the majority was similar to us; they did not know the area very well. However, there is one current student (and we have had several prior) who grew up in the area and who has been able to give a very subjective insight into his relationship with North Edinburgh, alongside a few other students with friends and relatives in the area.
After these initial meetings and an amazing guided mini-bus tour of the area, generously facilitated by members of the Social History Group, we set the students the project. They were to spend two weeks responding to the local area and draw on the information that they had received from the experts. We would then present the resulting artworks to the Social History Group at the College.
At this point, we were all very excited, but could not have anticipated just how successful and stimulating the project would be. The students worked exceptionally hard from the moment the project started and responded in meaningful, thoughtful and sensitive ways. In retrospect, we realised that the students’ sense of responsibility to the Social History Group and the residents of North Edinburgh meant that they approached the project with a strong sense of integrity and a determination to make artworks that did not patronise or misrepresent the (sometimes sensitive and personal) issues that had been discussed within the meetings. The provision of a very unambiguous context for the artwork allowed the students to work in a way that was fundamentally different to normal project work: they had an audience that they did not know very well, and they were making work which they would themselves present to their audience.
As the initial stage of the project drew to a conclusion, we arranged a date for some members of the Social History Group to come and lunch with us and to view the works. The students were understandably nervous and worried: What if they didn’t like what we had done? Quickly it became clear that there was no need for nerves and all of the artworks were exceptionally well received and prompted lively, important and some emotional discussion amongst everyone present. The success and positive reception of the artworks went far, far beyond our expectations and we all knew immediately that we had to take the project to its next logical step: to exhibit the works, beyond the walls of the college and within the local community. And that is where we are now. The exhibition is an exciting opportunity for the staff and students to continue to engage with our local area and we are privileged to be taking part in what we hope to be the first stage of a long and prosperous collaboration between the students and staff of the HND Contemporary Art Practice course and the local residents and communities of North Edinburgh.
The exhibition will run until the 23rd of February at North Edinburgh Arts, Tuesday-Friday 10am-8pm Sat 10am – 1pm, with a day of discussion and art-workshops to take place on Wednesday the 20th February from 10am until 3pm. Places are free but limited and booking is essential. Please book a place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131 315 2515
Recruitment is currently taking place for HND Contemporary Art Practice Course at the Edinburgh College, Granton Campus. If you are interested please visit the College website for further information and online application.