If you think forests are only for hikers and picnic-loving bears, it’s time to think again. Bursary recipient Antony Mottershead explains how the Forestry Commission at Grizedale, in the heart of the world famous Lake District National Park, is using the forest as a very unique setting for innovative art projects to engage the public.
The forest provides a very unique platform for the arts. Rather than a blank canvas on which marks are made or white walls on to which things are hung, the forest exists as a complex organism of natural and engineered systems into which art must be interweaved.
Working as Arts Development Assistant for the Forestry Commission at Grizedale, through the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries scheme, has provided me with the opportunity to better understand the complexities of sited and environmental artwork and the reasons why working in this way is, and has throughout history, been important to artists.
Grizedale was the first place in the UK where artists began to work on sited works in the environment, coming off the back of the American Land Art movement. Since the appointment of Hayley Skipper, the first dedicated Curator of Arts Development within the Forestry Commission, Grizedale has begun a new chapter in this legacy and it’s very inspiring to be working here at this time.
As I only began working here a few weeks ago, you might assume that the knowledge gained during this time could be easily summed up. However, getting to know an entire forest means there’s a lot to know. During these first weeks at Grizedale I’ve worked hard to become familiar with the many projects which we have running alongside one another. It’s also been important to understand how the Forestry Commission functions and where arts development fits into an organisation in which art is but one of many primary considerations.
What attracted me to this role in the first place was the diversity the role of arts development allows. Already I’ve had the opportunity to use my wide range of skills – an asset which I feel is one of my key strengths. My previous work at Oriel Davies Gallery has helped me develop many skills which I”ve already called on and which I’m sure will prove invaluable in my placement over the next year.
Working at Grizedale, however, provides quite different challenges to working in a more traditional gallery environment. Working with a wide audience who come to the forest for many reasons and the arts projects we create to engage with them is but one of many unique challenges of working in this environment.
One of the key things I’ve picked up on already and will learn much more about during my time here is the importance of working closely with partner organisations. The FC at Grizedale is working hard to build close relationships with local, regional and national organisations, coming together and pooling recourses to create innovative arts projects where public engagement is a priority.
The job also allows me to factor in my own practice as an artist with a particular focus on landscape and ecology, working along side the FC’s wildlife rangers, forest workers and the wider conservation ideas which all form part of the forest plan.
The team’s enthusiasm and willingness to take my ideas on board from the word go has been extraordinary and has given me confidence in my ability to make real progress with the current projects but also to leave my own small mark on the future of arts within the FC and at Grizedale.
The DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries scheme has provided a wide range of high quality jobs across the arts which I can see are being enjoyed and are providing great benefit to each of the recipients. I am no exception; this year is set to be very entertaining and a priceless life experience, but I believe it will also prove invaluable towards a future in the arts sector.
To read about Antony’s own work and curatorial projects as well as find out more about his practice and work at Grizedale, visit the Anthony Mottershead website.