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Paul Allender: Final Comments

Image above: Norway, painting by Stuart, exhibition at SOAR Works Dec 2013

Paul's initial research question was: ‘Are there people on Parson Cross who would like to engage with me in a cultural activity of their choice?’ However as the work developed Paul realised that he too wanted to be stimulated creatively via these interactions with people and for him not to be just in the role of enabler. He took this issue into a mentoring session and between them decided to change his research question. It became: Are there people on Parson Cross who would like to engage with me in a cultural activity that would be mutually beneficial?

Paul engaged with 10 individuals on Parson Cross and Foxhill facilitating their involvement in creative activity of their choice over the course of 2013 (see previous blog updates) which included: photography, a discussion group, visits to art galleries and museums (Weston Park, Millennium, Graves Gallery and the Lowry Centre), painting and illustration and hiring of the Miro photographic studio in SOAR on three occasions.

Paul says "Overall, I have enjoyed the process of meeting new people and trying to ‘make something happen for them’. The main difficulty was ‘juggling’ arrangements to meet up with people on and working this around other commitments was difficult at times." "I found that there were a lot of people painting and doing other forms of art on Parson Cross and Foxhill. This is very enlightening and extremely positive. I learned directly that life is very difficult in many and varied ways for people living there. Poverty is not just financial – it is also about the way it affects people."

During the course of the year Paul met Stuart an ex-paratrooper who has been on the front line of four wars. Stuart is an amateur painter, very interested in and knowledgeable about contemporary art. For Paul this became more of a truly collaborative 'mutually beneficial' exchange that he was seeking and Paul supported him in making new works and being involved in an exhibition at SOAR Works in Dec 2013. As Paul says "Stuarts artistic vision engaged me in a way that was unexpected"

Whilst on the ARB programme and accessing the studio at SOAR Works Paul was also able to do the following:

1.Further develop his painting; a working process and style that has created its own challenges and is currently giving me an enormous amount of satisfaction.

2.Develop an excellent collaborative relationship with Eddy Dreadnought, one of the Yorkshire Artspace artists in the SOAR building. A film ‘River Ritual’ is one of the products of this collaboration. It can be seen at:

3.Run a subjective mini-bus tour of Parson Cross council estate as part of Art Sheffield 2013 and recently followed up with a second tour with invited guests.

4.Organize a very successful exhibition of the work of 5 of the people I’ve been working with , and the work of fellow ARB artists which coincided with SOAR Open Day on Saturday the 7th December. It received some excellent feedback comments included: ‘Brilliant’: ‘Fantastic mixture of work – well done and thank you for displaying.’; ‘Amazing talent.’; ‘Thanks for displaying a very interesting range of work with some very powerful messages.’

Paul also commented how valuable discussion and interactions with the other ARB artists had been during the course of the year.

"With reflection, I think that, because of my own 'transformative' experience of finding art on Parson Cross and for it being such a big part of my subsequent life, I have been unconsciously looking for someone else on the estate for whom it is important in a similar way. I didn’t find them and, of course, this is not surprising. Overall, what the experience of the ARB scheme has done for me is allowed me to realize that my own artistic practice of painting, performing and film-making is extremely important to me. I would love to be doing these activities full-time (and therefore giving up my day job of university lecturer). So, a great deal of my efforts in 2014 will be towards achieving this goal. It certainly won’t be easy. But I now have confidence in my work that I didn’t previously have and also have some allies to support me. I need more allies but I think, with time and work, these will come. Engaging with people on Parson Cross has been a mixed experience. Some disappointment, some frustration and lots of very hard work, but also some enlightening and exciting moments. My artistic practice has grown in a way that I couldn’t have conceived of over a year ago. I will concentrate on painting and on working with Stuart and his step-son in 2014."

As a conclusion to his Action Research Bursary Paul will make a film in which he will interview all of ‘his’ participants about what art and culture means to them. This will be Art on Parson Cross II. Once completed we will make it available on this website. Click here to see Pauls original film Art on the Estate made in 2011 in parternship with The Collaborators.