In the early part of 2015 Nova was commissioned by People United and Newington Big Local to work alongside the residents of Newington, Ramsgate to develop a large-scale participatory arts project, and so The Best of Us was born. With this project Nova has worked with people of all ages and abilities from Newington to co-create artwork and investigate the best of human characteristics such as hope, courage and kindness. These groups have included:
Dame Janet Primary Academy: Focusing on Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills and her positive human qualities to create a Memory Book.
Newington Community Primary School: Focusing on courage, together we created our own stories of courage and developed a character called Captain Courage with the children becoming ‘the Encouragers’.
Newington Youth Club: I facilitated creative workshops focused on the youth club members’ connection to Newington. By listening to them, I was able to bring in an urban artist who enabled them to express their ideas.
Creative Champions: Each week on Thursday evenings I have been meeting with a group of local residents who have been making artwork, planning events and programming Best Fest. This has also involved trips to London and creative workshops facilitated by other local artists.
Best Fest was a unique, free, one-off arts festival that celebrated the Newington community on Wednesday 28 October 2015, across six locations in Newington. The event celebrated the many positive stories that have emerged out of Newington over the last six months through The Best of Us project. In the lead up to Best Fest, the Creative Champions worked together to plan the festival. From the start, I wanted Best Fest to demonstrate and celebrate the work created by the community and be able to showcase what Newington was all about, not the negative labels placed on them by government statistics or those living outside Newington. The Creative Champions and the community of Newington truly embraced Best Fest, which took months of hard work to build positive relationships.
The Art Shelter
During my residency it has been a struggle to find a space from which to work, due to the existing community spaces being used so frequently. This led me to consider creating a portable art space that could be placed anywhere in the community. The Art Shelter is a moving ‘station’ that people can interact with, stop, listen and see. Participants can use it for a range of creative activities and has been used as a mini art gallery to display an archive. The idea is about taking art to the people. At Best Fest the shelter housed photographs of the workshops, trips and activities the Creative Champions had taken part in. It was also a stamp exchange destination for visitors to vote on the theme of next year’s Artist Commission by placing a marble in one jar choosing from kindness, spirituality, hope, courage, humour and creativity.
What they say…
“It feels very nice to be a Creative Champion so I can show everyone around me my art skills and how much I like to create things.” Tyla Wharmby, Creative Champion.
“It is nice to be a Creative Champion because you get to meet nice people and make new friends like Nova. It changes me, it makes me confident.” Chanese, Creative Champion.
“Nova’s authentic work has affected many residents who have been inspired and motivated by The Best of Us project to share and celebrate the best of Newington. Nova’s practice is truly collaborative; she listens, observes and challenges the people that she works with and then together they create. With her rich skills, experience and personal attributes she empowers the people she co-creates with to transform and positively influence their own communities. She naturally sees the positive in each person, treating everyone equally. When Nova collaborates with people she is always determined to bring out the best in them.” People United
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