A group of service users from the Good Shepherd’s art and photography class have contributed to an exhibition taking place at the Newhampton Arts Centre, exploring ways the popular venue can help bring the community closer together.
Reans Remapped is an initiative involving five different charity groups who have each been assigned a professional artist to come up with ideas and exhibits to be displayed at the Arts Centre, via the mediums of film, photography, storytelling, music, sound, light, digital and graphic art.
Tess Radcliffe has been working closely with the art and photography class run for the Good Shepherd by local artist Chris Manley, as well as volunteering with the charity’s dining service and encouraging children to practice arts and crafts at the Family Food Pantry which takes place on Tuesdays.
The exhibition, which runs in the Gallery Hall from October 26th to November 3rd, has been funded by the Esmee Fairburn Foundation and will see the Good Shepherd exhibit along with Gatis Community Centre, the African Caribbean Community Initiative (ACCI), Refugee & Migrant Centre and Wolverhampton City of Sanctuary.
The Good Shepherd display will include a film shot by Tess relating to a clay workshop led by Chris earlier this year as part of a ‘Feel at Home in Wolverhampton’ project led by photography and community artist Diyodi Menon.
A series of photographs depicting life at the Good Shepherd will also be featured.
“The NAC commissioned the ‘Reans Remapped’ project with thanks to the funding from the Esmee Fairburn Foundation to work with different charities and groups across Whitmore Reans to explore ways in which they might be able to offer more support in the community,” says Tess.
“With Reans Remapped, they want to see what people think of Whitmore Reans, what they want to see more of and what would make them feel more welcome and at home.
“The Good Shepherd already have good links with the NAC through the art and photography group run by Chris and I am really excited to be working with them on this project.
“I thought the clay workshop they did was such a lovely idea, where participants made their own figures to explore how they feel about society.
“Once dried, they then moved the sculptures around to explain how they feel the community relates to them, and I filmed it all for a video which will feature in the exhibition.
“We will also display a wall of 12 photographs showing other aspects of the Good Shepherd including the art club and the dining hall, some of which have been taken by me and others by the service users themselves.
“There are some really talented artists and photographers who attend the class, and, in the exhibition, I have used both their ideas in my work but also their own work which is of a really high standard.”
Tess, an artist by trade, used to work as a manager at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery, before deciding to go freelance three years ago to concentrate solely on art and photography.
She is also knowledgeable in the realms of education and community engagement and has been able to use that experience not just with the exhibition, but in additional voluntary work at the Good Shepherd.
“This wasn’t actually part of the project but I have really enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer within the dining service and meet so many of the people accessing the Good Shepherd,” she adds.
“When the families come along on a Tuesday, they are grateful to have the arts and crafts to occupy the children and it has been brilliant to see their reactions.
“I used to think the Good Shepherd was a charity which was just for homeless people to find accommodation and be given food, but it is so much more than that, and there is so much more great work the staff are planning moving forward.
“It has become almost like a community centre, everyone who comes here knows each other, and they want to do more activities and try and improve their lives.
“What the Good Shepherd have also done is make the experience more dignified for the families who come along, so it also becomes a more positive experience for the children.
“The parents are also really aspirational, they want the best for their children and to give them opportunities which is lovely to see.”
Tess has also managed to help secure a Let’s Create Art 2022 bursary from the Engage Visual Arts charity to carry out a half term activity for the families accessing the Good Shepherd, which will see them produce a ‘Community Kitchen Art Club’ banner to be displayed within the charity’s dining room.
Pictures: Tess Radcliffe