A Community Taking Off

I had been attending a one year part-time art foundation course when the whole of the UK went into lockdown due to Covid-19. It wasn’t a surprise as other countries were or had already been experiencing its impact, but this led to the last few months of the course being completed remotely. Before that my final project was going to focus on creating sustainable art through found beach objects. However, there were very few objects to be found on the beach due to people staying at home.
My class was informed that our final grade would be determined by the work we had completed prior to lockdown and in learning this, I lost motivation with the project.

Article written by Sarah McBrearty.

My art tutor suggested doing a community art project and, since it was not being graded, I felt excited that I could have some fun with it. It resonated strongly with me due to my former 18 year career as a social worker, a career I left just a month before starting the course. I knew I was able to build connections with people, but I didn’t know that would be an invaluable skill in starting this project.

Pebbles In Flower Pot Positive message written on decorated pebbles As I really missed the social interactions I had at college and in the community, the sudden isolation impacted upon my mood and caused me to feel teary. I knew I was not alone in experiencing this so I decided not to place any pressure on myself and began painting positive messages on pebbles to try to lift my mood, as well as leaving pebbles for my friends. They were all thrilled by their pebbles, which in turn, made me feel happy. This led to me painting more pebbles (another 200-300) which I left on my neighbours' doorsteps with a note to let them know that they were not alone during these challenging times. I guess you can tell I enjoy doing things for others! Then I unexpectedly received messages of thanks through a neighbourhood app which I only became aware of when a friend said he had recognised one of my pebbles on the app. My mood was still fluctuating, but found that I was immediately uplifted with each lovely message I received.
Hand Painted Pebbles More pebbles with positive messages

After researching community artists for ideas I chose a pair of angel wings where each participant could decorate a feather. I live in Brighton in the UK and there is an angel statue on the seafront which is well known locally. I wanted it to be something that anyone could get involved in so I chose a pair of wings as I felt they offered hope, freedom and positivity. The individual feathers could represent people and the wings could represent the community. Neither could work without the other. The wings could not fly without the feathers and I think it shows how individually we are all important and have something to offer. The only requirement was that the base of each feather needed to be made from recycled plastic such as used milk cartons.

I cut a pair of wings from two salvaged wardrobe doors and drew 50 feathers on each wing. I felt optimistic at the challenge of finding 100 participants, managing to find most of the participants through the Next Door app, Facebook, and several art students and tutors from my course. But I still needed more participants so I decided to knock on doors where I had seen colourful ‘rainbows’ or other artwork in the windows and then, with social distancing in mind, stepping back before anyone answered.

Feather Close Up An image to give you a clearer idea of the detail in each feather Once I had recruited all of my participants, I wrote an instruction sheet which included pictures of test samples of plastic feathers and also suggested materials for decorating their plastic feather. I spent many hours tracing around each feather shape from the wings and transferring it onto cartridge paper. I decided to hand-deliver most of the feather templates with printed instructions, posting them through letterboxes. I then knocked and stood away from the door saying hello to each participant when they answered. I felt it was important to start to develop relationships at this stage as, to me, a community art project is all about connections and how individually, we can all contribute to something much bigger.

On Show The completed wings were placed on show outside Sarah’s house for contributors and the passing public to admire. I felt incredibly excited as the feathers were gradually returned to me so I could glue them onto the wings. I could quickly see that the wings were transforming into a stunning and original piece of art which everyone had contributed to. Then I placed them outside my flat so all the participants could have a look at the finished wings.
I was bursting with pride at everyone's hard work and I loved seeing the reactions when they came to see the wings and find their own feathers. I was keen to acknowledge individuals involvement in the project so I typed a list of participants (where permission had been given), and placed it next to the wings.

A local newspaper, The Argus, ran a story about the wings and they also published it online. I requested that the list of participants also be included in the story as I did not want to take sole credit for this work when we had all worked hard on this project and I was delighted when I saw that everyone had a mention in the online story.

The Wings Team decided that they wanted to donate the wings to a local charity, the Chestnut Children’s Hospice in Arundel.

Melissa Hancorn, the PR Communications Manager at Chestnut Tree House children's hospice said: "This is a really lovely gift and we are honoured to be the recipient of the wings. Many of our children love getting involved in arts and crafts so I'm sure this will inspire some new activities. Apart from the wonderful end result, what really struck me about this project is that it is all about community and celebrating coming together and being part of something. We rely so much on our local community, and children's hospice care simply wouldn't be possible without people's support and generosity. For us, these wings symbolise how Chestnut Tree House is part of the local community, and how everyone is important. Thank you to all involved.”
Welcome to Chestnut Tree House The wings displayed for a photo opportunity at the entrance to Chestnut Tree House.
When the wings are in situ we’ll update this article and include an image that will show their final resting place.

They're not in situ inside the hospice yet, due to the covid-19, but they are being stored safely at the moment and the team are looking forward to finding them a suitable home where everyone can enjoy them in the future.

I was overwhelmed by the reaction of the local community and I’m now organising another community art project at the request of many of the Wings Team participants. This time the group decided what we will be making and also for us to all share roles and decisions in this next project. I personally wanted to create a large 3D sculpture of a seagull, mermaid or fishes and after taking a vote of all of the members the group have decided they would like to use ‘fishes’ as their inspiration. There will be three sizes of fish sculptures with the only stipulation being that just found and recycled objects, that are intended for waste, are used.

Sarah McBrearty

In Full flight The wings as we at Charity Needs Foundation would like to present them.

Wings Contributors

Alex Adams
Andrea Arnold
Anniek Verholt
Arona Khan
Bernard Claydon
Boglarka Bogyai
Carlos De La Roche
Cath Laffan
Charlotte Pihlqvist
Claire Viva
Clive Rodgers
Colin Rogers-March
David McBrearty
David Sweeney
Debbie Taylor
Dee Tipping
Eleanor Gamper
Eliph Hadert
Ella Baker
Emma Jackson
Fran Jackson
Frances Lindsay-Hills
Gaynor Wingham
Imogen Tanner
Isobel Bigland
Jacqui Freeman
John Wingham
Johnny Carroll-Pell
Laia Farran Graves
Lewis Carter
Luella Skye Woollen
Maria Scard
Maddy Morton
Max Sargent
Meghan Brooks
Melissa Chalmers
Miranda Blayney
Natalie Sargent
Nathalie Von Rueti
Neal Young
Oliver Ryan
Rachel Davidson
Rachel Ness Martin
Richard Hanley
Rohays Perry
Roxy Binns
Rowan Tanner
Rupert Juan Woollen
Sarah Gravett
Sarah McBrearty
Sasha Glynn
Sasha Morton Smyth
Stanley Andrews
Sue Penrose
Summer Martin Desouky
Susan Clement
Tash Sweeney
Teresa Outhwaite
Tilly Outhwaite
Veronica Urbano
Violet Pugh
Wendy Glynn
Yvette Dehoop
Yvonne Raisin
Zoe Bigland
Rowan Tanner
Rupert Juan Woollen
Sarah Gravett
Sarah McBrearty
Sasha Glynn
Sasha Morton Smyth
Stanley Andrews
Sue Penrose
Summer Martin Desouky
Susan Clement
Tash Sweeney
Teresa Outhwaite
Tilly Outhwaite
Veronica Urbano
Violet Pugh
Wendy Glynn
Yvette Dehoop
Yvonne Raisin
Zoe Bigland

Chestnut Tree House — The Story So Far
The story of how Chestnut Tree House got through its first fifteen years in existence
Chestnut Tree House — Community Team
Staff at Chestnut Tree House telling how they engage the kids in fun activities and the community for their support
Chestnut Tree House — Find A Friend
Staff telling the public ways that they can help to support Chestnut Tree House

This is a CNF Feature Article

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Opening Image Info:

Head/Cover picture by: Sarah McBreartyt
Head/Cover image description: Positive message written on decorated pebbles

Article Details:

Article written by: Sarah McBrearty
Article edited by: Jonathan Fleming
Article Length: Words count is 1408 from 10562 characters
Released — 3rd-July-2020 at 15:45
Modified — Never

Closing Credits from CNF:

  • A Thank You to Sarah McBrearty:
    Charity Needs Foundation would like to thank Sarah McBrearty for taking the time and effort to produce this article, its a real community warmer. Thanks.


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