Jennie Smalles, the self titled “Disabled artist”, looks at reclamation of art by local communities and the changes blossoming in local areas…
When I moved to Doncaster six years ago, it took me a year to find my way into the regular art sessions; I began attending them at The Point Gallery on South Parade. Before then, I would never have known they existed if not for the advice of a friendly social worker; prior to that I’d been feeding my habit with sporadic craft groups at my local library. At the time I was more focused on the latest scandal than producing anything remotely artistic, yet I found that it was entertaining but not enriching.
Back then Art, and the culture around it, seemed to exist in very specific boxes. There were Educational Courses at college, Art Therapy at The Point; then there were the community crafters who operated in and of themselves. I dabbled in a little of everything, never really finding a place I fit.
However, during the pandemic the Artist community in Doncaster has been tentatively laying the foundations for a new approach towards Art in our town. Rather than quietly working on the side-lines Artists sprung forth with the ‘Birdsong’ exhibition. Situated jarringly alongside the pubs and bars of Hallgate, it forces Art into the public domain. People of Doncaster no longer must go seeking their Art, it is now seeking them.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there. When creative minds come together, amazing things begin to happen. A gargantuan mural now appears on the once drab Sainsbury’s wall, ready to arrest viewers’ attention as soon as their bus pulls out of the interchange. Shoppers and passers-by have been treated to workshops in the Frenchgate shopping centre and outside the Birdsong exhibition. Baxter Park has been swathed in colour and passion in a drive to welcome families back to it.
The list goes on and on, continually being added to as new and exciting ideas come to the forefront.
Art is no longer just a tool for the clinically depressed or an elite club for the ‘talented few’. The Art community in Doncaster used the pandemic as a time to gather momentum and ultimately propel itself from the shadows, paving a new way of encouraging Art within the community. There is no turning back now.
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