Crescent Arts’ trip to Edinburgh

Seven of us visited Edinburgh with a view to observing the practice/s of established organisations driven by holistic approaches to art making namely embracing community involvement and hosting participatory projects and events. We also sought out parallels where Crescents strengths lie, chiefly the printmaking facilities and our approach to open access for members.

The excitement was palpable as we boarded the train. Breaking through the border, northerly in a quest for culture and exoticism –you may laugh, but reminiscing here in Scarborough, back at the end of the line is no joke – even neighbouring counties can come to represent unreachable islands where access is denied via public transport either due to redundant lines, reduced bus routes and extortionate prices. Here we were on a day trip, finally and, guaranteed, expectations were surpassed!

For many of us, the train journey alone was an adventure and one that wasn’t wasted. … The whistle-stop and suitably scenic journey was full of the comedy necessary for a jam-packed day of moderate intensity, one that might cement in our minds as a flourish of farewells: Dan our main marketing man is leaving Crescent for pastures greener in as much as his new position at Leeds College of Art is permanent and full time – the man is an asset despite his public displays of incontinence – we’ve come to find them endearing even.

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Our first port of call, arriving into Waverley at 13:20, was The Fruitmarket Gallery represented in a little church room, for they are currently expanding their workshop facilities whilst preparing for the forthcoming Gabriel Orozco show (now open). Fruitmarket kindly agreed that we could observe the workshop entitled “Art Works” in progress. Maybe this was one of the most important workshops we had collectively been privy to. Three  young people were participating in a workshop. The workshop, ongoing to culminate in an exhibition of the participants work alongside and inspired by Orozco’s, aims to provide young people who are unemployed and/or out of mainstream education to attain an art qualification and gain new skills. With a ratio of 3 to 1 in the group (participants and artist) – this initiative is truly exemplary, gallant and inspiring and one that would translate wonderfully to Crescent and similar organistations. It is one that, again, we observe from afar at Wysing, Grizedale and Kettles Yard for example.

There is a sincere need to address this age bracket whose horizons are marred only by lack of glaring opportunity, especially in the art world, which perhaps can at times seem daunting, unobtainable, exclusive and marginalized in respect of career expectations, (a myth of course). Although we missed the start of the session, we caught the tail end of a slide show presentation – the last slide was expressly relevant in its far-reaching, provocative and repellent subject matter calling for unswerving activism in an attempt to stop brutality and initiate a climate of freedom:

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“It appeared that the slide show presentation and discussion was a very popular beginning for the session by the way everyone was clearly involved in it when we arrived. I loved the way a few basic art materials and everyday remnants like envelopes and tickets were put to use by the group – no preciousness, no pressure – just familiar, understated things with which to work.”                                Janet White

 Next stop – Edinburgh Printmakers – an organisation unaccountably geared up for the task in hand – the production of beautiful prints and the interaction of professional and aspiring printmakers. Their spot is state of the art – world-class – with regard facilities – but in actual fact Crescent offers merely a nimble, compact version – whereby Edinburgh’s facilities are housed in space corresponding to the whole of the basement we occupy, which includes 6 artist studios and public access areas – Crescent’s facilities are enabled by resourcefulness of the space we have to work with, which in comparison isn’t an awful lot. It is anticipated that before long a photo-etching workshop will be available at Cres and it is Dawn Brooks’ intention that non toxic inks etc are used exclusively in the near future.

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Finally a little on Franz West at Inverleith House – sexy, refined and almost dismissive of authorship by the fact that there was nothing boastful about the work or display – a canon of works selected for their participatory flavour. Mostly West: Franz West and Artist Collaborations charts a career driven by the ego of mankind rather than a celebration of the individual artist or otherwise. This show is about connectivity and interaction, about the lure of the phallus and a raw pursuit of pleasure – not only fitting for the West and Inverleith partnership – The Royal Botanic Garden was one of the first public institutions ever to exhibit West’s outdoor aluminum sculptures in the Exhibition Meeting Points – but for the audience and her position in this garden of sensual pleasure simultaneously metaphoric, as testimony and certainly euphorically.

 The West exhibition highlighted what I think Crescent Arts residency offers artists – an opportunity for exchange: but this opportunity is far from fixed to this one location or between one group – it is anarchic in its scope, betraying conventional career paths as a route that clamours off the beaten track towards destinations seemingly regular as to expectations but irregular in its methods of evocation and subsequent discourse.

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