Guest post: Third time lucky for Felicia Smith of Arnos Vale Cemetery

Our latest guest post comes from Felicia Smith of Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol!

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Last year Arnos Vale Cemetery entered the Connect10 competition for museum venues to win an artist. We had no idea then that it would lead us on an adventure which will come to fruition in an art installation later this summer…

A tree and silhouetted historic buildings

Arnos Vale Cemetery trees at dusk

We had already had a taste of the possibilities of bringing contemporary art to the cemetery in 2012’s competition, so when Museums at Night rolled around in 2013, we couldn’t resist entering Connect10 again.

We were looking for an artist who could help us engage our visitors in a discussion around attitudes to death, remembrance and how cemeteries should look in the future. Julia Vogl is an artist who specialises in community artworks which pose thought-provoking questions to visitors. It seemed a perfect match and Arnos Vale was lucky enough to be shortlisted – a huge honour for such a small charitable trust as ours.

There were helpful benefits too: establishing our popular “Night at the Cemetery” after-dark tours which now run through the year (and again this May for Museums at Night); and the shortlisted prize money bought us new lanterns and torches for safe after-dark exploration.

Alas, we were pipped at the post in the public vote by the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, who hosted “Collect. Select. String & Hoist,” in May 2013. It was a major disappointment, as we had been looking forward to working with Julia.

a chandelier made of plastic bottles filled with coloured paper

“Collect. Select. String & Hoist.” Julia Vogl’s 2013 Museums at Night chandelier installation at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum

Imagine our surprise then, when Rosie from the Museums at Night team got in touch a few weeks after the 2013 festival to tell us that the feeling was mutual, that Julia had already worked out a detailed project she would have loved to create at Arnos Vale if we had won her, and had asked to be put in touch with us!

Since our first excited phonecalls and meeting last August, we have been collaborating to bring Julia’s work to Arnos Vale.

A key part of the challenge has been securing funding to support our shared vision for the piece. Here is where I take my hat off to Julia, who has led the way as an experienced professional artist used to applying for grant funding. She was brilliant at drawing together all the puzzle-pieces to realise our project idea: from meeting grant advisors and crunching budget numbers, to producing glorious illustrations for the compelling project application to the Arts Council England, awarded in April 2014.

A Victorian grave ornament

The grave ornament inspiring Julia Vogl’s installation at Arnos Vale Cemetery

We are now at the exciting development stage of the Future Memorial project, which will install a year-long participatory sculpture in the cemetery landscape from June 2014.

When we were looking for a way to publicly test the prototype for Julia’s sculpture, it seemed natural to return to where it all started – Museums at Night.

Reworked version of grave ornament containing colourful gumballs.

Artist’s impression of the Future Memorial by Julia Vogl, a veteran of participatory artworks.

The Future Memorial Artist Workshop on Thursday 15th May 2014 promises to bring Art, Death & Candy to the cemetery in a unique event using discussion and gumballs. Julia explains: “your input and voice is essential for this sculpture, come take part!” We’d love it if you could join us:

http://www.arnosvale.org.uk/search-events/eventdetail/439/-/future-memorial-artist-workshop

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Felicia profile picFelicia Smith, Public Engagement Manager, Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust
Felicia has worked in the heritage sector since 2004, working on three separate Heritage Lottery Funded projects (ss Great Britain; M Shed; Arnos Vale Cemetery) which involved development and delivery of capital build and interpretive brief elements in parallel and to tight timescales and budgets.

Since 2010 she has led development of the Public Engagement programme at Arnos Vale Cemetery, including public events, collaborative partnerships and advising other historic cemetery projects.

She has a postgraduate certificate in Museum & Gallery studies (University of St Andrews, 2009), is involved in a number of professional museum bodies and is currently working towards an Associateship of the Museums Association (AMA).

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Thanks, Felicia!

If you’d like to write a guest post or share a case study about any aspect of audience development, event planning or marketing in the arts and heritage sector, please email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

 

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