Updated: Aug 2
Following a series of powerful masterclasses from its sibling programmes RE:Present, ASTONish and ADvantage, Lara Ratnaraja and Helga Henry were commissioned by OPUS (Outdoor Places Unusual Spaces) Birmingham’s female led multi-disciplinary Arts and Events Producing House, to run a support programme (EmPOWer) for the producers of the Festival Sites of the Commonwealth Games, currently delighting local audiences throughout Birmingham.
The EmPOWer programme comprises a series of workshops, 1-2-1 sessions, private speaker sessions and two public Masterclasses. In this first Masterclass, we welcome Mariam Zulfiqar, Director of Artangel. The session explored her new role at Artangel but also her past projects with Forestry England, with public transport providers and a host of other public bodies.
Despite the sweltering temperatures outside, we all kept cool and we were treated to an overview of Mariam's work. For example with Transport for London, where simple things like the cover of the printed tube map featured commissioned artwork by diverse visual artists. With a print run of 14 million people she describes the impact. Then the lessons and negotiations of working in listed buildings like Chiswick House and hugely populous spaces like Stratford Tube station. We also touched on working with people with addiction issues and how an amazing and sensitively handled art project (Look on me and be renewed by UP Projects for Science Gallery) uncovered the "hidden triggers" all around the built environment. And she shared projects that used the forest as the centre , rather than the backdrop of her work at Forestry England. The popularity of those artworks revealed the massive importance of forests and open natural spaces to people during lockdown.
We conclude with her thoughts on what her work might do next now she is Director at ArtAngel. Her message was full of resonance on that hot, hot summer night - "What speaks to the fire that burns around us?".
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