Street ART Community Project

2020 has been a year many of us have been apart from family and friends which has meant connections within our communities and with neighbours became more important throughout the COVID 19 pandemic. Perching precariously on a cliff edge in the Lace Market, Nottingham Contemporary isn’t a residential building but we are part of the local community which includes residential homes in the many streets around the gallery which were there long before our building was built. Checking in and chatting with some of our neighbours has been a way to connect and appreciate what 2020 might have been like living in the heart of inner-city Nottingham during ‘lockdown’.

Some residents previously set up an online neighbourhood forum (Narrow Marsh Residents Group) back in 2017/2018 whilst we were working alongside each other during the planning stages of the brand new College building (Cliff Road) which is where we started some (virtual and socially distanced) chats. After thought-provoking discussions about the Thursday NHS appreciation claps and the controversial Banksy that appeared overnight in an estate in Radford, we were inspired to start our own ‘Street ART’ project.

Natelle Morgan-Brown (Community Programmer) and (Associate Artist) Chris Lewis-Jones collaborated with neighbours to come up with ideas for a series of 10 minute Creative Challenges designed to be suited to all ages and creative abilities as a way to connect, beat the boredom and carve out some mindful creative time. Alongside a few fantastic neighbourly volunteers, the activities were posted on postcards to over 100 homes in the area. The weekly activities involved sound making, poetry and mark making (sketching or drawing), were linked to themes of home and community and included a selection of free art materials though we also suggested people use materials they had around them. Neighbours were encouraged to display their art creations at home on walls or windows and/or include them in an exhibition projected in our gallery café window.

As well as being a socially engaged artist, Chris Lewis-Jones is a musician therefore for the ultimate Street ART creative challenge we asked residents to express themselves through sound. A socially distanced musical doorstep jam was cautiously planned and participants were asked to opt in (as we understand different households are dealing with varying situations including shielding etc) to experience a shared moment of joy. Residents watched from windows or stood on their doorsteps with “instruments” - homemade maracas, a recorder, spoons, a guitar and a stick clanging on an iron fence – and it was fabulous though noisy!

After a short break over Christmas we look forward to Street ART inspiring more connections and collaborations with our neighbours in 2021 and beyond. If you live in the Narrow Marsh area (including Cliff Road and Sherwood Close) and want to get involved or have other ideas for the future please share them with natelle@nottinghamcontemporary.org

A public exhibition of community Street ART can be seen in our gallery Café window (lower ground) every day from 3.30pm – 10.30pm until Sat 2 Jan 2020.

A few quotes from our neighbours:

“It's been very fun and it was great to see the people of Cliff Road participating…thank you for organising this street art event, it was an honour to give our contribution and we hope it's going to be the start of other interesting events.”

“That's made my day! I'd already been telling my mum and mates…the bright spot I look forward to each week!”.

“We really enjoyed them”

“I had fun with them”