News / 12 Apr 2024

Graduates collaborate on Explore York exhibition

BA (Hons) Illustration

MA Creative Practice

Photograph of large illustrated ribbon which is hanging from the ceiling and stretches out across the Tang Hall library ceiling.

Ribbon at the Creative Café exhibition, Tang Hall Explore. Photograph by Gemma Wood

Photograph of three individual dioramas sat on a white book shelf which depict the history of buildings in the York area.

Rachael's dioramas at the Creative Café exhibition, Tang Hall Explore. Photograph by Gemma Wood

Photograph of dozens of people sat around tables discussing ideas.

Freelance Summer School, 2023. Photograph by Laurelle Kamara

MA Creative Practice graduate Gemma Wood and BA (Hons) Illustration graduate and current Creative in Resident Rachael Ensoll, have opened the Creative Café exhibition after delivering six week’s of workshops with local residents, who drew inspiration from the rich history and untold stories of Tang Hall and York’s other communities found in the Explore York Archives collections.

Gemma and Rachael met at the week-long enterprise program Freelance Summer School 2023, run by Leeds Arts University, Leeds Conservatoire, and the Prince’s Trust. The Freelance Summer School affords students and graduates from Leeds Arts University and Leeds Conservatoire the opportunity to meet and network with other creatives, as well as learn how to set up their own business and receive mentoring support. It was here that Gemma and Rachael discovered they had a shared interest in participatory arts and community engagement, and decided to apply for Explore York’s Creative Café commission together in October 2023 which required two artists to deliver a program of activities that culminated in a group exhibition.

"One of the best things about the summer school is networking. Having left university four years previous, I have been working full time on art projects - light work and participatory workshops. But the chance to reconnect with the university and creatives is super valuable. Someone also set up a social media group and we have stayed in touch."

Gemma Wood, MA Creative Practice graduate

The opportunity to network and collaborate with artists from other courses at the Freelance Summer School has not only led to Gemma and Rachael’s commission with Explore York, but has also led to further work and industry connections for themselves and other artists. Rachael has since been commissioned by Explore York to work on another project, and since Creative Café was the first time that Explore York’s Archive Collections team had worked with artists, they are now working with other external artists on similar projects.

"Explore York are now using what Rachael and I started to collaborate with other artists in Yorkshire which is fantastic to see!"

Gemma Wood, MA Creative Practice graduate

The work that the residents made during the Creative Café workshops is now open to be viewed at Tang Hall Explore Library until 6 June 2024.

"We extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in these workshops, including artists Gemma and Rachael for their creative inspiration, the Tang Hall Library staff, and the Explore York Archives team. Your contributions have enriched the vibrant tapestry of our community’s creativity."

Explore York

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