AiR: Artist in Residency Project
In April 2017, I was given the opportunity to go somewhere new and really explore it visually – a 2-month Arts Residency project for Taunton Deane Borough Council, in conjunction with ArtsTaunton. Given my recent work, mapping Taunton sounded like a perfect project – having been given special ‘Garden Town‘ status by the UK Government on 1 Jan 2017, the council wanted to know from its residents:
“What’s so special about Taunton’s green spaces and waterways?”
Being an outsider and knowing nothing much about Taunton yet gave me the perfect opportunity to ask for directions. My strategy was this:
On a mission to find out what’s so special about this Garden Town, during May and June 2017, Michelle invited local residents to share their favourite green spaces and waterways with her simply by taking a walk together. The aim was to see the town through each others’ eyes and build up a ‘portrait’ together through photographs and conversations along the way.
Take Me to the River
I had 12 days in Taunton, and completed 12 walks – some by myself just following directions that people had given me, and others accompanied by locals ranging in age from 16 to 70+ – and always with a camera… Mapping Taunton through people’s words, their recommendations, and photographs taken along the way, all the while building up a vision, a sense of space and place that hopefully reflects where they sent me, what they chose to say, and where we ended up together.
After testing various mapping apps, I posted the Mapping Taunton results into a ‘StoryMap’ – a GIS-powered mapping system by Esri, used already by councils and green infrastructure providers all over the world. The results above hopefully show just how connected Taunton’s waterways and green spaces already are – and how much local people use and care about them.
I also mapped the walks in Google Maps, and over the course of the project inadvertently became a ‘Google Local Guide – Level 5’ (!!)
Part of a Bigger Picture
Our findings were presented on 20 Sep 2017 to TDBC, ArtsTaunton and other local arts organisations. This was in conjunction with Christopher Jelley‘s parallel residency at The Museum of Somerset in Taunton Castle. Christopher explored the concept of Taunton-ness and presented a fantastic poem about Taunton, inspired by, and in part written by, its residents.
We both hope that our residencies had a positive impact on local people, on their communities, and on the Green Town of Taunton in general and look forward to seeing how its culture and sense of place evolves.
I’d love these special walks to continue mapping Taunton – to lead one yourself or for your group, just download the booklet here:
Special thanks to Ian Clark from Taunton Deane Borough Council, Anne Jones & Morag Ballantyne from ArtsTaunton, fellow artist-in-residence Christopher Jelley, and all the people from Taunton who’ve interacted with these walks over this past few months.