HOPE: Shadow and Light, the new luminous installation in the 18th century chapel, takes centre stage in Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre’s Christmas experience in York.
Under the title of Let There Be Light!, the 17th century Blossom Street convent is aglow with a twinkling tree and decorative decorations, complemented by window displays of the Nativity.
Hope: Shadow and Light is a collaborative community work of art that not only responds to the Bar Convent’s Christmas theme but forms part of a global drawing campaign that originated in Viborg, Denmark, one of York’s fellow UNESCO Creative Cities of Media Arts.
Run in partnership with Greg and Ails McGee’s York arts charity New Visuality and installation artist Nick Walters, the installation projects more than 200 drawings from 15 countries on five continents on to the chapel dome, alongside work created in York as part of the #DrawWithDenmark – Green Together 2023 Campaign.
“Drawing is a universal language,” says Bar Convent marketing, PR and volunteering manager Lauren Masterman. “This global campaign uses creativity to generate positive change in a way that makes the world come together; a message that particularly emanates at Christmas.
The “visual conversation” has been joined by York schools Our Lady Queen of Martyrs and St George’s RC Primary; learners from Blueberry Academy; ESOL [English for Speakers of Other Languages] students from York College, and York’s Civic Party, led by the Lord Mayor of York, the Reverend Councillor Chris Cullwick. All art has been distilled into the video installation in the chapel and accompanying exhibition.
Greg McGee, New Visuality co-director and According To McGee art dealer, says: “Art is what makes life better than art, so we owe huge thanks to Bar Convent for reminding us of what a great thing UNESCO’s designation of York as a City of Media Arts is.
“We’re also grateful to City of York Council’s wards and more than 100 hundred of York’s young people who joined us to get creative, especially with working in tandem with Viborg’s globe-straddling Draw with Denmark campaign.
“The results are here to view in the Bar Convent chapel, illuminated so beautifully by projectors from York’s XR Stories that let us paint in light. I’m also thanking in advance members of the public who are continuing to co-create with us by grabbing a blank tag, filling in their prayer, hope, and aspiration for next year for us to include in this ever-evolving exhibition.”
After attending the official launch event, City of York Councillor Jo Coles, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult social care, posted on social media: “It’s tough out there – the mental health of many has been affected. We’re all looking for hope wherever we can find it.
“Thanks to the Bar Convent, New Visuality, York UNESCO City of Media Arts and Guild of Media Arts, a long-standing partnership between City of York Council and Viborg, and some very tenacious individuals, we have a beautiful new exhibition to give us just that.
“Beautiful drawings by children from across the world, including many here in York, have been brought to life thanks to the amazing skills from the Viborg Animation Festival. All projected on to the ceiling of the beautiful Bar Convent chapel. Go see it! It’s stunning!”
In attendance too as part of a Viborg delegation’s three-day visit to York was Viborg Kummune councillor Martin Sanderhoff, who said: “The Draw with Denmark project, started in Covid to express what ‘hope’ meant to children, showed the power of drawing and creativity for young people. Drawing is needed for creative thinking to address and conquer our problems.
“We now have a global drawing campaign where 6,000 children from 45 countries, from Europe to Africa to America, are expressing hope under this year’s theme of Green Together.”
Bar Convent festive visitors also can experience the Georgian parlour, dressed for Christmas and a special Christmas display in the exhibition.
Let There Be Light! runs at Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, Blossom Street, York, until December 19. Admission to the Hope: Shadow and Light installation and Georgian parlour is free; the Bar Convent exhibition, Secrets and Spies, costs £6, concessions £4, children £2, family ticket £12, at barconvent.co.uk. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm; last admission, 4pm.
Creative Connections: York and Viborg
THE UNESCO Creative Cities of York and Viborg, Denmark, are working together to improve life for citizens, to make the cities more liveable and to boost the economy.
Delegates from Viborg returned to York from December 5 to 7 to broaden the conversation between the cities, bringing together elected members, higher education, creative industries and business representatives and public health managers.
Those delegates were Councillor Martin Sanderhoff, Viborg Kummune, Henrik Holmskov, Focal Point of Viborg UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts, and Jane LH Jensen, director of Viborg Animation Festival and visibility director of Viborg Animation Workshop.
The aim is to explore the benefits from the creative sector becoming a permanent feature of the political landscape in both cities and regions.
The dialogue between York and Viborg started with ‘Hope’. In 2020, in the depths of lockdown during the Covid 19 pandemic, children and young people were among that hardest hit, shut out of school and away from their friends and wider communities.
In Denmark, Viborg City of Media Arts initiated the Draw with Denmark project, inviting children from around the world to submit drawings of ‘Hope’ to a team of creative animators. Children in York’s schools, led by REACH, the city’s creative education partnership, embraced the opportunity and had the chance to see their drawings exhibited in cities worldwide, as “the world became whole again and it was possible to think beyond confining walls”.
Since then, York and Viborg have continued to discuss shared opportunities and challenges for culture and creativity to make more successful, sustainable communities.
In 2022, with the support of the UK Department of Business and Trade, a Creative Export visit to Viborg was organised for York small creative businesses, while York welcomed two artists from Viborg to run family drawing workshops during the Viking Festival.
York media artist Kit Monkman, whose artwork People We Love was first installed in York Minster for Mediale 2020, remade the work with the participation of Viborg residents for exhibition in the Danish cathedral.
In April, York played host to Denmark’s Ambassador and Cultural Attache to the UK, as well as the UK’s Ambassador to UNESCO, and the deputy chief executive of Arts Council England, as an intensive three-day Study Visit by all 19 municipalities from Midtjylland in Denmark learned of creative approaches to common concerns, covering digital transformation of culture, cultural wellbeing and support for culture.
Chris Bailey, Focal Point of York UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts, says: “Creativity and culture are key to the future success of both of our cities in so many ways. We want to encourage York’s brilliant creative sector to take advantage of the opportunities to work with Viborg, a city with which we share so much history.”
Creative Connections: York and Viborg
THERE are 25 Media Arts Cities in the UNESCO Creative Cities group, the latest designations being for Caen, Casablanca, Novi Sad and Oulu.
The range of work York has undertaken through the Media Arts network over the past eight years includes:
Contributing to specialist conferences, e.g. in Gwangju, Changsha;
Supporting artists for residency or exhibitions in Guadalajara, Austin;
Enabling artist-to-artist collaborations such as City to City with Cali, Karlsruhe, Austin;
Hosting Media Arts Cities’ first meeting in 2018 in York.
York has been the deputy coordinator of Media Arts Cities for the past six years and has been working bilaterally with Viborg since the Danish city was designated a UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts in 2019 in the most fruitful collaboration to date.
Since 2020’s Draw With Denmark launch, York’s creative education partnership, REACH, has continued its engagement with Viborg every year. Drawings have been seen, sometimes animated, other times projected sky-high on the side of buildings, and have been celebrated at conferences around the world.
Further major projects, for instance in performance and in heritage interpretation, are distinctly possible, suggests Chris Bailey. “If these are not be isolated successes, we have to embed the relationship at all political levels and secure community support.
“With more creative organisations involved in the conversation, we believe there will be a steady flow of projects of all sizes, both as part of normal business or with additional funding. December’s visit provided an opportunity to identify potential partners and areas for further collaboration between Viborg and York.”
Did you know?
THE Guild of Media Arts is York’s membership organisation for the creative sector. The Guild is the Focal Point of York UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts