Blog: Celebrating the Trebanog Project
By: Catarina Martins McSherry
One year ago, in March 2016, I went up to Trebanog for the first time to see the new chapter of a socially engaged visual arts project we had been working on. The project was called It’s Art But It’s Not, a partnership between Artes Mundi, Trivallis and Valleys Kids funded by the ACW’s forward thinking fund Ideas:People:Places.
The first stage of the project took place in Penygraig with artistic work led by the artist Rabab Ghazoul. What I was about to witness, on that early Spring morning, was the first time artists Owen Griffiths, Nils Norman, Lucy and Jorge Orta met the residents of Trebanog, ahead of what would become a really positive and empowering creative relationship under the name “The Trebanog Project”. The setting of all this was Rhiwgarn Infants School, a disused building that had once been central to the community.
For over a year the school has grown from abandoned space to vibrant creative hub. Inside its walls there has been an open sharing of skills, people are welcome to come in and make ceramics, dye textiles, sew, weave, carve, learn new recipes and sit down to great open meals. Outside there has been the collective building of a community oven, baking, den building and playing.
As it often happens in projects such as this one, it is hard to put a figure and a value on the change that has so far been brought on by the Trebanog Project. I could quote evaluators, attendance figures or some of the partners, but I rather tell you about the day I stopped by the school for a crochet session. When I arrived to set up my tools, Jerry, the gentleman you can see in the photo below was already in the room, sitting comfortably in one of the chairs, talking from time to time with the lead artist Owen Griffiths who was finishing a piece of wood work. I was still fairly new to the setting, and felt quite shy. Jerry was kind though, and made conversation. He had never before tried his hand at throwing clay, and now there’s hardly a pottery session he misses at the school. Within 20 minutes or so more people arrived for the crochet session. We all had a cup of tea and I was ready to start. Jerry stood up, smiled, and made his leave. “I am going now, Crochet is really not my thing, but nice to meet you.”
That’s the Trebanog Project for me. It’s not about an event, a session or a talk. It’s about nurturing a creative open space. Knowing that there is something going on at the school down the street and I can stop by to see who’s there, maybe pick up a skill, have a chat, perhaps hear something new or share something that occurred to me in the morning. Knowing that my views count and can help shaping what’s around me.
I can’t wait to see what’s next!