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The second in a series of posts where the Place and Memory artists tell us what they’ve been up to since the project ended… this post is from:

CHARYS ELLMER

Since the release of the Place and Memory book I’ve been applying for commissions in the Leeds and Wakefield area. This lead to me getting my first paid job as an artist for Beam who were looking for interventions on the theme of ‘playful city’.

Here's Charys on the right at the start of 'Shelter In The Rain

Here’s Charys on the right at the start of ‘Shelter In The Rain’

Shelter in the Rain was an imaginative, immersive experience for visitors in Wakefield’s Ridings Shopping Centre.  Our piece was a fantastical, make believe storm hand crafted from molten glass and freehand stencilled paper. We aimed to bring the outside inside, offering a quiet space to reflect and let the creative mind wander. Viewers were given an open invitation to forget the umbrellas and instead take shelter in the rain. The paper clouds were hand cut by myself, and the glass raindrops were created by Nicky Archer, a sculptor who works in metal and glass. Participants were given the chance to select a raindrop from the many colours and hues and place it amongst the clouds, making a community built storm. A speaker was hidden amongst the canopy, playing the soothing sounds of rainfall, thunder and birdsong.

f55d7d_f3962ec43e6743828dcedd5fe15dd60b.jpg_srz_434_651_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzI would describe myself as an emerging artist, one who is still learning about using art to engage with the public. I found that the most successful part of this project was how appealing it was to all members of the public, regardless of age or background. You did not even have to speak the same language to take some enjoyment from it. The interactive element was very effective in that it drew people in and allowed a basic engagement. We started out with just over one hundred raindrops, of which we hung roughly half and invited the public to hang the other half. By 3 all of those raindrops had been hung and we were left with a kind of democratic artwork, a rain cloud built up by the participants.

The most unexpected part of the installation was how much some people would actually enjoy the moment of peace and quiet. I tried to play it by ear, either talking to them about whatever personal experience or art they wanted to talk about or letting them have a couple of minutes peace listening to rain and birdsong. When I decided to bring art to the public I expected some to like it or dislike it, what I forgot was that those visitors have their own lives and troubles that they would in turn be bringing to the intervention. To bring them something positive to their day was a lovely experience.

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