Raising Awareness Through Art

Artreach Studios
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Kate Jerry demonstrating at a workshop at Artreach Studios.

As part of the closing celebrations for the Festival of Light, Year of Our Island have partnered with Artreach Studios to put on two free lantern making workshop using recycled materials in order to raise awareness of environmental issues.

We spoke to Fine Artist, Colette Gambell of Artreach Studios about how this project has come about and why art can play such an instrumental role in the current debate around climate change.

Colette Gambell teaches multiple workshops for adults and children throughout the year alongside Kate Jerry at Artreach Studios.

Q. Tell us about the workshop and how it demonstrates the values of the Year of Our Island project.

We were delighted to be approached by Culture Vannin & the Our Island team with a vision for a community art project involving recycled materials.  Celebrating our UNESCO Biosphere status, Year of our Island is a reminder that we have so much beauty and natural diversity on our Island and much of it is free for all to access. It also recognises our thriving cultural presence and heritage, actively encouraging us to ‘do more, try more’, which is something we like to advocate ourselves! Many of our workshops are centred around experience and trying something that perhaps ordinarily, you wouldn’t get the chance to do at home. Getting involved in a creative pursuit is much the same as taking a walk or being active in so much as it has a positive effect on our wellbeing.

In 2016 the Isle of Man were proudly awarded UNESCO Biosphere status. The first entire island nation to do so.

We’re really excited that Artreach could develop this lantern making workshop based on recycling general household waste. We have 2 opportunities for people to get involved (for free) taking place in the iconic Ramsey Courthouse building. Full details can be found via the link. Many of our leading workshops focus on giving new life to everyday forgotten objects and we’re forever preaching about minimising waste - you would be amazed what we can reuse!

The lanterns will also become part of the Festival of Light at Mooragh Park on Saturday 16th March before returning to their rightful owners.

Q. It's fantastic that you will be encouraging young people to bring their single-use plastics to use as materials to create art. What inspired you to reclaim these materials for this project?

As artists, recycling and repurposing materials is second nature. Be it as a result of having to improvise, experimentation or simply exploiting the creative possibilities of an item or material, we can’t help but try and make something out of ‘nothing’; it’s who we are! On a separate note, this is why creative industries are so important in times of hardship as they breathe new life into an economy! It was also really important to us that we were sensitive to the ethos of the project and whilst we wanted to create wonderful works of art, we felt it would completely defeat the object if these items should then be simply disposed of afterwards. By allowing adults and children to create something special and unique using the everyday items they have collected and by focusing on smaller items, it meant there was the possibility of these lanterns returning to their creators and living a life beyond the project. We hope that their owners will not only treasure their family experience but also what they have made with simple materials.

The Isle of Man Arts Council are proud partners of UNESCO Biosphere IOM. Find out how more about their Biosphere Pledge here.

Q. There's been a plethora of news and media (including David Attenborough's Blue Planet 2) that has lead to a real societal shift in the way we view single-use plastics and reducing, reusing and recycling plastics are more important than ever.

The problem is enormous and devastating. I remember as a child being interviewed about the effects of pollution on our environment.  In those days it was more about eradicating CFC’s, advocating unleaded petrol (as opposed to leaded) and the reducing the growth of the hole in the ozone layer. What’s terrifying is the visible difference in my lifetime and exponential rate at which humans are destroying the planet.  When I was 8, I had a rose tinted vision of how the world would look 20 years from then. Naively, I believed we would have woken up to our misgivings and that the future would be bright. I recycled my aluminium cans, glass jars & newspapers because I was going to be the change I expected to see in others. That early introduction was undoubtedly influential and has stuck with me.

David Attenborough's Blue Planet 2 left viewers shocked after showing the extent to which plastic affects the ocean.

Q. In what ways do you think that art can be used to highlight environmental issues?

Art has always had a voice. Communicating in a non-traditional way can often shed fresh light on contentious issues and equally has the power to reach a wider audience. I feel often its biggest advantage is offering a different perspective. When you take an everyday item out of context and present it to the world in a new way (or even in its original form) you’re shedding light on that item and asking your viewer to look again and consider its value.

With respect to this project, I’ve noticed since collecting items to transform, how prevalent single use plastics and other throw away items are in our day to day life and I’d hope that others will too. It’s easy to pay lip service to the these issues but do we truly understand what this means and the toll its taking on our planet? We need to all hold up a mirror and actively consider how our actions are affecting the planet.

Colette Gambell demonstrating at a workshop at Artreach Studios.

Q. In what ways will this workshop allow you to communicate these ideas to the younger generation?

Art is a unifier and offers us an opportunity to deliver a message with real resonance. By coming together and embarking on community projects such as this it gives us pause to think not only about our impact on the environment but promotes other positive aspects such as taking time out from our demanding ‘day to day’ schedules to reflect on the importance of investing time with our friends and loved ones whilst enjoying a collective sense of achievement and promoting cohesion. I think it also demonstrates that we can find meaningful things to do without it costing the earth!  We’re definitely seeing an upward trend towards forgotten crafts and anything that gets us interacting with humans again (and reducing our screen time) has to be a good thing!

Our perpetual desire for convenience has fuelled the rapid turnover of a throw away society. We have gone from throwing something away because it was broken and unfixable to discarding things because they no longer meet our ideals. It is hard to transform inherent behaviour, however the best way to impact change is through a grass roots movement.

Children are more open and planting seeds now, helping shape their beliefs and morals at an early stage can positively impact all our futures. 

From Litter to Lanterns

Sunday 10th March: 2 - 4pm

Wednesday 13th March: 6-8pm

Please see event listing for full details. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Please bring at least 2 of the following items per person with you on the day: Large plastic bottles, milk cartons, paint cans, celebrations/roses tubs, glass jars (for full list see event).

A sponsored body of
The Department of Education, Sport and Culture
Rheynn Ynsee, Spoyrt as Cultoor
Isle of Man Government
Reiltys Ellan Vannin
Isle of man Government