Visitors flocked to the Good Shepherd for the first day of the immersive art exhibition being staged as part of their role as ambassadors for the British Art Show 9.
Staff and volunteers led guests on a tour of the facility based around what service users experience on a daily basis, from queuing up outside to being served refreshments and seeing the facilities on offer for food and other support.
Included within the tour was the art exhibition, where the work of members of the Good Shepherd’s art and photography class was displayed alongside students and professionals around the theme of ‘living and giving voice to difference’.
There were also testimonies read out from service users who have been supported by the charity, a look at the new Garden Project which has been led by a client on the ‘New Start’ programme for ex-offenders, and a talk and information around how the food service operates.
The exhibition, which continues with shows at 12noon and 2pm on Saturday and Sunday (click here to book a free ticket), also forms part of the ’50 Years of Good’ commemorations as the Good Shepherd marks the Golden Anniversary of the Little Brothers first arriving to support the people of Wolverhampton.
And the exhibition was officially opened with the ringing of a bell and grace from Brother Stephen Brennan, who has been involved with the charity for almost its entire 50 years, just as he does at the start of the dining service.
“There are two tiers to the exhibition, first of all the honour of being asked to link up with the University of Wolverhampton and the Art Gallery to be one of the Ambassadors for BAS9, but also to mark 50 years of the Good Shepherd and our ‘It Starts With A Meal’ campaign focusing on how providing food can lead to support in so many other areas,” says organiser Kate Penman.
“Being asked to be an ambassador and work with the University and the Art Gallery has really been our golden ticket, because we have always had a voice but not necessarily the stage to make ourselves heard.
“The theme of the British Art Show in Wolverhampton – ‘living and giving voice to difference’ – is perfect as we celebrate 50 years of having hospitality, compassion, truth, respect and justice at the heart of the work that we do.
“It is a multi-disciplinary art exhibition.
“To the layman, it means we have art, photography, installations, poetry, textiles, and audio-visual work all created by our service users, staff, volunteers, and a select few local artists.
“There is humour, talent, and amazing candour.
“There is also the stark reality of what homelessness feels like – how people can feel unseen, unheard and on the fringes of a society that seems to have no place for them.
“I cannot overestimate the impact that this exhibition will have on those who have contributed, and it is all thanks to an incredible team effort from the Good Shepherd – staff, service users and volunteers.”
The Good Shepherd are privileged to have been asked to be ambassadors for the British Art Show – which takes place every five years – showcasing the work of 35 contemporary artists, including four Turner Prize winners, at the School of Fine Art at the University of Wolverhampton and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
Guests at the launch event alongside members of the public included representatives from the University and Art Gallery, City of Wolverhampton Council, Wolves Foundation, funding organisations, local churches and Good Shepherd trustees.
Former Wolves striker Mel Eves, who is now working with ex-offenders with TKO and the Shaw Trust, was also present, as was West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.
In his Mayoral role heading up West Midlands Combined Authority, Andy is a huge advocate of the Housing First pilot scheme across the area, where people with complex issues are given accommodation followed by individually tailored support to help them sustain their tenancies.
Andy, who had visited the Good Shepherd at their previous base at Darlington Street Methodist Church, not only enjoyed the tour and exhibition but was able to meet Housing First clients Darren and Michael, whose work was on show.
“I’m genuinely amazed, inspired and incredibly impressed by the exhibition,” he said.
“What the Good Shepherd have done to allow people to show what they are capable of is really remarkable.
“It is what we always said when we were devising the Housing First programme, that it could show what people were capable of when they can get their lives re-established.
“They have hidden talents which can be developed such as the creativity on show at this exhibition and I am sure there are many more.
“I was sitting and listening to the one of the pieces of prose being read during the exhibition from someone on the Housing First programme and it was very rewarding to hear.
“It was four-and-a-half years ago now that we first put the case to government for Housing First and when you see how far that has come it has generally changed some people’s lives.
“That is really encouraging, and also tells us that we have to win the next tranche of funding for that to continue.”
Andy also had words of praise for the Good Shepherd as it marks its Golden Anniversary.
“It is remarkable to think of the breadth of work which the Good Shepherd is doing,” he added.
“Whether it is the mentoring, whether it is the practical support with cookery classes for example, or just as a venue where people can come together and show their talents, it is a wonderful charity.
“And so, the most important words I can say are – thank you!”
There are still places available at the exhibition for 12pm and 2pm this Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free but places must be booked by clicking here.