Ahead of the start of our art exhibition as part of British Art Show 9, the words of our project worker and event organiser, Kate Penman.
An exhibition statement – probably a bit different to others…
You may have noticed that this is not a gallery, but you are at an exhibition. The Good Shepherd was gifted an opportunity that we could not refuse. An invitation to be an ambassador for the British Art Show in Wolverhampton, the UK’s largest touring contemporary art show. “Contemporary art provides opportunities to reflect on society. It often reflects issues or values that are important or talked about in the world at this time.” (Thank you Google!)
Wolverhampton’s theme for British Art Show 9 was ‘how do we live and give voice to difference’. Here at the Good Shepherd, it has been our mission always to do just that. The Good Shepherd has been a place of welcome since 1972 and we extend that warm welcome to you all today. Many of you may never have needed our services, and as the charity has evolved may not know what the Good Shepherd does, imagining it as merely a soup kitchen or foodbank. This is our opportunity to share with you our values, our work and the voices and lives that make up the Good Shepherd in 2022.
Fifty years of having hospitality, compassion, truth, respect and justice at the heart of the work that we do is being celebrated here today. It starts with a meal, well actually a hot drink and a slice of cake and a tour of the Good Shepherd. The art on display throughout the Centre has been in response to our values and how we live with and give voice to difference.
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.
Many times in the lead up to this exhibition we have heard how excited people are that their work is being exhibited, that having the art and projects to work on together has helped their mental health and their recovery. ‘I love coming here’, ‘thank you – this has kept me off the drugs’, ‘you are like family’ are phrases that we as staff regularly hear and now that privilege is being extended to you. Don’t be shy, speak to our staff, volunteers, and service users. We have always had a voice but not always the stage.