bOlder artists going from strength to strength

Posted on 5 May 2020

The ten artists on our bOlder programme are continuing to work together, make plans and develop their practices, all while adjusting to life in lockdown. Two of the artists, Maya Chowdhry and Sarah Feinmann, have been selected to make GMCA  COVID-19 Creative Commissions and the group is working on an Instagram exhibition, Ten Obstructions, which takes as its starting point the oblique strategies developed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in order to free up creative processes. Commenting on the one-to-one support she’s received in recent weeks from Matthew Pendergast and Liz Wewiora, Sarah said “So it’s a big thanks to this bOlder programme without which I probably wouldn’t have applied for the commission.” Each artist receives £500 to carry out their commission. 

The bOlder talent development programme for contemporary visual artists aged over 50, funded by Greater Manchester Combined Authority as part of Great Place GM, was initially devised in response to the lack of professional development opportunities for older artists, and to raise the profile of their contribution to arts and culture in the region.  

The ten participating artists – Maya Chowdhry, Jack Doyle, Jane Fairhurst, Sarah Feinmann, Tina Finch, Sabrina Fuller, Claire Hignett, Patrick O’Donnell, Christopher Rainham and Ian Vines – first met as a group in December 2019. Since then they’ve undertaken an intensive programme of creative and professional development, including coaching sessions with a trained artist coach, studio visits from Castlefield Gallery curator Matthew Pendergast and workshops on writing applications, situating themselves within the art, peer mentoring and Instagram for artists. These workshops have been delivered by artists and freelance creatives such as artist and Open Eye Gallery Creative Producer, Liz Wewiora, artist Emily Speed and IMT Gallery director Lindsay Friend. 

Making a smooth transition to lock-down, the group swiftly moved their regular crit and planning sessions online and also have a fortnightly check-in with the programme co-ordinator. The bOlder programme, originally due to finish in May, has been extended and adapted due to Covid-19, with an emphasis on further one-to-one sessions and a Project Management workshop.. 

Christopher Rainham shared his experiences of participating in the programme so far and the new challenges the group face while continuing to work together in lockdown:
Over the last three months we have joined together as a group, getting to know each other, learning more about the diversity of our practices, and respecting each other’s different strengths. The support from Castlefield Gallery has helped us to progress our shared projects – a regular crit group, and planning towards a couple of exhibitions. We have mutually developed an approach and process to bring our disparate practices together to create a significant whole, while building strong relationships between us. 

Initially we joined together for meetings and sessions in person, but in the current situation our activities have moved online (using Zoom and Google Hangouts) to enable us to continue the programme. I have found this quite challenging personally, but I am pleased to be able to carry on despite the lockdown.

Every session has included something of relevance for me and my practice, I am invigorated and creating lots of new work. With our wealth of knowledge and experience, artistic and otherwise, and with the support of our fellow bOlder artists, we have been busy continuing to create and share our artistic journey. This framework, I hope, will continue well into the future. Participating in the bOlder programme so far has given me the opportunity to push my practice in an inclusive, discursive, and supported environment, and in ways I wouldn’t have been able to prior to commencement.”

Participating artists
Maya Chowdhry (Manchester)
Jack Doyle (Oldham)
Jane Fairhurst (WIgan)
Sarah Feinmann (Trafford)
Tina Finch (Bolton)
Sabrina Fuller (Manchester)
Claire Hignett (Salford)
Paddy O’Donnell (Stockport)
Christopher Rainham (Rochdale)
Ian Vines (Stockport)