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Ingrid and Charlotte

As part of the legacy of British Art Show 9, we’re profiling the work of its excellent ambassadors. Tricia Stubberfield speaks to volunteer Bev Mills at Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support, who are being represented by two of their service users, Ingrid and Charlotte.

What do you do?

We are a weekly art club within Devon and Cornwall refugee support, run to engage asylum seekers in various creative pursuits. We got involved with the British Art show to give a focus to our activities and engage everyone in appreciating art as well as creating it. We could experience each others’ views and share our own.

How and why did you choose to get involved in BAS9?

Charlotte and Ingrid

No one in the group is a professional artist. A lot of BAS9 isn’t perceived as “high art” and is very accessible, and it’s also a multicultural exhibition, so it’s also relatable. The art club was looking at ways we could be more outward-facing and integrate our activities with the wider creative community, whether that be visiting galleries, attending workshops or learning to talk about art.

We would like to continue working with other artists and being part of the art community. Ideally, we’d like to run a ten to twelve-week rolling programme where each external artist would run a free workshop or activity for us. This could either be in person or via Zoom, and could be rolled out to other community groups.

What have been the ambassadors’ main roles?

They’ve been learning about the British Art Show artists, which has informed the production of our own project. Ingrid came up with the idea of using ‘The Suitcase’ to represent the refugee experience. We developed the idea of transforming suitcase interiors to reflect our service users’ experiences and observations of the world they are in.

Francisco and Ingrid

The idea is to create an old suitcase that contains the objects that you normally have, and whose meaning a viewer can appreciate in detail. There is a passport to show the decision we made and the bravery of arriving in another country not knowing if they will accept us. There is a photograph that symbolises our family that we decided to leave and will never forget, a dictionary that shows how committed and conscious we are to learn the language of the place to which blindfolded we venture to arrive, an old shirt that expresses that we like to work hard and earn our food honestly, and more. Various art club members have interpreted the concept, so the suitcase interiors have evolved from the initial idea.

The ambassadors have been engaging other service users to take part, attending workshops and artist talks, using social media posting on Instagram and working together to make this collaborative artwork.

And how have the ambassadors and other service users found the experience?

It’s given Ingrid a great sense of purpose and has released her creativity and management skills. Charlotte is socially well-connected and has shared her gallery visits with her community. Some of the other service users have surprised us with the amazing skills and artistry they have shown. Being involved with other creatives can expand your horizons, especially when you’re able to hear the artists talk about their work. Hanna Tuulikki’s Seals’kin at Devil’s point was a particular highlight.

You can see some of the work on Instagram at  @whats_in_the_suitcase. We are also hoping that two of the group will apply for an arts scholarship.

As part of the legacy of British Art Show 9, we’re profiling the work of its excellent ambassadors. Tricia Stubberfield speaks to volunteer Bev Mills at Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support, who are being represented by two of their service users, Ingrid and Charlotte.
As part of the legacy of British Art Show 9, we’re profiling the work of its excellent ambassadors. Tricia Stubberfield speaks to volunteer Bev Mills at Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support, who are being represented by two of their service users, Ingrid and Charlotte.

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