Category Archives: Communities
One of the joys of this job is the range of work we take on, and how it is so easy to be intensely focused on one task while your colleagues are immersed in quite different ones. The storm and buzz of our forthcoming exhibitions All Dressed Up and Secret Egypt have largely ignored me, which his just as well given we have Spotlight: Belsen Head fast approaching and the planning for our summer early years exhibition started to gather speed.
Spotlight: Belsen Head continues a thread of exhibitions focussed on a single powerful object, in this case a recently acquired sculpture by Raymond Mason. We’ve asked some local artists to create responses to the piece, and I feel their approach is testament to the quality of the local arts community, that we have artists prepared to accept the challenge of this commission. I feel pride in the way Coventry marks Holocaust Memorial Day each year, and it sometimes shocks me that I am part of that process.
Although, on the face of it, completely different, we take our summer exhibition for early years just as seriously as commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.
Over the past 8 years, we have been able to explore how a gallery can offer creative play opportunities, and to consciously experiment and push boundaries. We’ll keep most details secret for now, but we are building on developments in 2010’s In the Big Treetop especially in the use of off-ground structures and light. We’ve invested in more multicoloured lamps, and while the Studio was quiet over New Year, we built a test bed “Iglow” to try out lighting effects – the sense of movement feels wonderful in this clip:
Another area we are exploring is how we can make the growing field of pervasive gaming appropriate to the family and early years audiences we receive throughout the summer. Lots of reading, then lots of trialling and, lets face it, lots of playing, to do on this one.
The office windows behind the Herbert open onto a strange landscape, particularly with the recent weather. When I raise my eyes from my screen, I am greeted by a steel sky, grey-clad university buildings and high grey lamp posts on the ring-road. At the front of the building we have the richer palette and sharper details of the Cathedrals, yet this wash of subtle greys offers an urban alternative to the coastal landscapes evocative of 20th century heroes such as Britten and Jarman..
I have been asked to take part in Coventry Pecha Kucha Volume 1 and share some of the bizarre facts I’ve picked up over the years about Coventry. This lead me to realise how much I’ve learned through working at The Herbert, so here are ten bijou factettes I’ve learned through the Herbert Illumination talks which take place every month:
1) Far from being a commercialised American import, Trick or Treating still happens in an unbroken tradition in some places in England, for serious prizes too. The craze started returning to England earlier than I thought too, with British newspapers having articles on how to make costumes in the 1920s or 30s.
2) The central figure in the Keresley Miners Wife’s Support Group banner is in a strong tradition of women leading people to victory, such as the goddess Nike or Liberty.
3) Littlewood’s catalogues and shops were built on their football pools empire. The pools meant they had a wide network of people who could be trusted to collect money and who were already well know in their local communities. This is vital for the weekly collections for catalogue shopping.
4) The excellent cheesemakers Fowler’s of Earlswood made use of the early days of the railways by guaranteeing any farm close to the railways a good price for their milk, enabling them to supply the rapidly expanding city of Birmingham with fresh milk.
5) Ralph Beyer based the letter shapes he used in Coventry Cathedral on painted letters from Roman catacombs. This echoes one of his mentors, Eric Gill, who rather than learning Roman lettering in the usual way, from a cast of a cast of a cast of Trajan’s column, went back to the originals and found subtleties lost in the reproduction process.
6) In the 1950s the English Folk Dance & Song Society effectively re-constructed the Playford dances, originally published in 1652. They decided (for no good reason) that before the dance started, everyone would rise up on the balls of their feet. It you rose to far, they stopped the dance and tried again, and if you didn’t rise far enough the also stopped it and started again.
7)The wonderful woodland alongside Coventry’s Memorial was planted as a commercial enterprise to provide timbers for naval shipbuilders.
8 ) In Victorian times, sentimental paintings of rural cottages found a huge audience as rural workers moved to the growing industrial cities and wanted a reminder of their past lives.
9) When a car runs through a puddle the splash is actually travelling forwards, so stand behind the puddle if you want to stay dry!
10) Look at many canal bridges in Coventry and you’ll notice panels of more modern bricking and faded yellow painted circles. This is because during the Blitz, many water mains were damaged, so canal bridges had sections knocked out of them where fire fighters could lower hoses into the cut. The circles helped people find them in the black-out. This one is on Stoney Stanton Road.
Why’s that good for you? Well, all images uploaded to the group will appear on an in-gallery screen for the duration of the exhibition.
Face to Face features a series of large-scale ape portraits by photographer James Mollison. We’re encouraging participants to use their cameras to explore some of the exhibition’s themes, particularly those surrounding our relationship with, and our treatment of, the natural world. This is also an excellent opportunity to try your hand at animal portraiture!
To join or find out more, visit: http://www.flickr.com/groups/herbertfacetoface/
We hope to see you (and your pictures) there soon!