Today at Agora Gallery, we were all pleasantly surprised by a visit from Karen Greville-Smith, who had exhibited with¬ us¬ in October 2014. Unfortunately, Karen hadn’t been able to visit the gallery during her exhibition, so this was a wonderful opportunity for us all to both meet for the first time and to catch up!
Karen was in New York City celebrating her thirtieth anniversary with her husband. In addition to a special trip to Tiffany’s, the two of them had been taking in a number of the sights when they popped into Agora Gallery, having just spent some of their afternoon on the¬ High Line. She was on a specific mission to take in plenty of artwork to get inspiration – not only for herself, but for the children and teens she works with.
Along with her work as a talented artist, Karen Greville-Smith uses her artistic skills to give back to the community. When she arrives back home to¬ the UK, she will be taking on her tenth year as the Artist in Residence at a mental health facility. In this role, she works closely with young people¬ from 12-18 years of age, providing them with short workshops in which they can express themselves artistically, learn to work together, and nurture their ideas and talent.
At the end of every year, the kids work together on a group piece which is displayed prominently by the entrance. “It gives a positive message to any new kids who come in,” she says. It shows that this is a place to grow and to create, as well as a place to heal.
This program is supported by Cultural Partnership: More Arts, an independent arts development charity that makes the arts more accessible to people at any level.
Additionally, Karen has another exciting project in the works. When she arrives home, she’ll have just three days to put together a 14 x¬ 10¬ ft.¬ mural for a local school. This will be the culmination of a longer, interactive project with these children who all range from 5-11 years of age.
The mural will represent all of the schools’ values: leaves on a tree will have handwritten (by the children) words, like “cooperation” and “determination” and pictures drawn by the students to demonstrate these concepts. The pictures were selected by a committee of 22 students from each year. All of the kids will have an opportunity to put their personal touch into the mural, whether by handwriting one of the leaves, drawing one of the pictures, or creating a folded almost-origami paper embellishment to the mural.
Karen has promised to send us a photograph when the mural is done, and we can’t wait to see¬ how it turns out!
Back in 2014, we featured Karen Greville-Smith in a blog post, where she discussed how¬ experiments with new media and techniques¬ can help¬ keep her artistic process fresh. She was also featured in the November 2014 issue of ARTisSpectrum, in which she discussed how she uses¬ her artistic talent¬ in her charity work with children and the disabled.
With the summer over, Karen was able to tell us a little more about her recent project and send photographs. Here is what she had to say:
“Having worked with pupils and staff of Loddon Primary School (Berkshire, UK) over the years, I was delighted to be invited back again this summer. The project was for me to work with the pupils to create a mural on a wall in the reception area, based on the school’s 22 ‘values,’ including thoughtfulness, tolerance, determination, respect, co-operation, and more.
“I met with pupils from the school’s arts council and teachers to discuss their ideas. The pupils gave me amazing coloured pencil drawings of ideas for the values. They wanted to try and make the mural without any white spaces. They wanted lots of colour; to reflect the school’s identity and show their creativity; to show that hard work and thought had gone into producing their mural; to represent the school well and that work was chosen from lots of different ideas for the mural, to make it fair.
“I decided to create a design with four large trees and a landscape background which had featured in many of the pupils’ drawings. Each tree was to have names of values handwritten by the children onto painted leaves. Illustrations for each value were to be painted onto leaves next to its name. Each value was given a colour so that this would visually link the value name to images of that value.
“The mural’s dimensions (33″ x 117 1/2”) meant me working on the floor(!) drawing the design onto joined large sheets of paper, then tracing this onto heavyweight tracing paper. I took this large tracing into school, secured it to the wall – with very grateful help! – and used carbon paper to transfer the design onto the wall.
“Pupils came in groups to paint. The young ones had great fun painting the striped border. Those who were a bit hesitant about painting were happy to stand and watch. We used Daler Rowney System 3 Acrylic paints due to their bright colours and fast drying time. Older pupils thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of being with me, as an artist, to experiment with colour mixing.
“I really enjoyed working with the pupils and had wonderful support from the staff. The best part was seeing how happy the children were with their mural. Throughout my three days at the school pupils would come and chat saying how great it was, which was very encouraging. I also got very positive feedback from parents and staff.
“Having shown pupils my sketchbooks I’m now in the process of compiling one as a visual reminder and record of this project. I’ve suggested that the pupils might like to create one themselves containing their lovely original drawings. It’s projects such as this that illustrate the positive impact of a practising artist working within the community.”