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Elisa Heikkila: final comments

Image: Untitled, Elisa Heikkila 2013

Elisa applied to the ARB Programme as “It seemed like the perfect next step after graduation”. She wanted to engage with parents in Parson Cross during her year on the ARB Programme. Her enquiry question evolved into In what created environment are parents able to openly and honestly discuss their experiences of pregnancy and parenthood? commenting that “this felt this like a more informative and supportive line of enquiry, and implied a desire for the results of those conversations. However, the question was not a foremost part of the project, driving it forward, rather it was something which helped me to frame what I was doing and it did not play a large part during delivery.” 

Overall Elisa experienced low levels of response even though she explored various different methods of engagement including: spending time at a local food bank talking to various people, setting up an origami workshop in the hopes of attracting a small group of like-minded people in a creative space to enable conversations, placing herself in a pre-existing group, placing herself in the Parson Cross library and generally being present in the neighbourhood. “This Action Research project has been an interesting one, with methods of engagement and approach needing to be adapted to suit the environment I was working in. The lack of interest in direct participation was a big issue for me but I now think of this as a learning point rather than a disappointment.”

Much time was spent with Elisa, her mentor and the Programme Manager discussing the issues and potential difficulties (both ethical and practical) in attracting people to this kind of ‘personal’ work. It would have been very easy for Yorkshire Artspace to step in at a professional level and assist Elisa in setting up a more formalized connection between her and certain organisations and groups but we collectively felt that this was not the course of action to take. Following activity and workshops that did enable Elise to make some local connections she ultimately decided to place her visual artwork -work she was creating in response to the being on the ARB Programme-on the streets of Parson Cross as a means of placing the questions she had been asking into the public consciousness.

The ARB Programme presented an opportunity for early career stage artists who might previously have little or no experience of working within a social context to develop their ideas and actions in response to a real life community. Elisa says that being on this programme “Has forced me to change my methods of working and demanded I work outside of my comfort zone – for example placing my drawings outside on lamp posts, vans, etc. is something I had never done before. It has been challenging to constantly remain on my toes with each individual, never knowing what responses I would get, and this has strongly contributed to my personal development. I'm grateful and glad that I have had the opportunity to work in such a context and to have had the support of a mentor along the way.” “I'm incredibly grateful to have found my assigned mentor so encouraging, helpful, and delightful. She has been there to support navigating the project around trying times, to bounce ideas and thoughts around, and just to have conversations. All this has been reflected in the steps I've taken with the project. I'm also thankful to the support of Rachael Dodd [Programme Manger] who was always there to answer questions – as well as ask them – and whose insight has been invaluable throughout this process.”