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Young People's Art Collectives in Nottingham

18 April 21 words: Kelly Palfrey
photos: Tom Morley

Young people are our future, and we need to invest in them to ensure they can thrive and reach their full potential – for everyone’s benefit. In a time when youth services are being cut, access to spaces that allow young people a chance to develop skills, foster a sense of community, and feel valued are of increasing importance. Some of Nottingham’s art galleries and organisations are investing in the city’s young people through their art collectives...

Pending Collective
BACKLIT’s Pending Collective offers emerging artists a chance to get involved with creative projects that help them build a connection with the local culture and community, with the intention of enriching the lives of all involved. Gina Mollett, the Learning and Community Coordinator at BACKLIT, said of the collective; “We want to provide an accessible entry point to the local arts scene.”

While the ongoing lockdown restrictions have meant that BACKLIT is closed, members have been actively engaging in projects both online and outside of the gallery, including virtual artist workshops and socially-distanced gardening sessions in King Edward Park. The members of Pending Collective are also currently working on a Community Cinema project and an Allotment project for the summer that aim to bring the people of the local community together.

Young Producers
City Arts’ Young Producers supports 18-30 year olds in participation in the arts, and was born out of the World Events Young Artist Festival that was held in Nottingham in 2012. It was formed after the under-eighteens that City Arts had previously worked with expressed a desire to continue their involvement with the organisation. When asked what the main aim of the collective was, Alma Solarte-Tobon, the creative producer at City Arts, said: “We hope to support members to keep being creative after leaving education, when opportunities often drop off.” The collective offers participants resources, funding and advice, bringing young creatives together to learn new skills, collaborate on projects and meet new people.

Young Producers have been active online throughout lockdown, primarily on Instagram. One project, ‘Isolation Creations’ saw the group upload daily creative activities to keep people motivated at home. The project lasted two months and featured sixty different activities, including crafts and poetry readings. 

1525 Collective
Nottingham Contemporary’s 1525 Collective offers young people aged 15-25 a space for critical engagement, to share resources, support each other’s creative interests, and discuss ideas. Wingshan Smith, Nottingham Contemporary’s Youth Programmer, said that the collective “pledge to connect and respond to the issues that affect young people in the city.” In the spirit of this, the members of 1525 Collective responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by creating an online open resource document that directed local residents to helpful links and information on the pandemic. They also launched social media takeovers on Instagram, which was an opportunity to use the group’s social media platform to raise the profile of young artists.

The pandemic caused the 1525 Collective to take a pause, but Wingshan informed us that this time was used to, “reflect and research the rapidly changing needs of young people,” and that “fundamental to our work is a desire to increase young people’s sense of agency in a time of uncertainty.” Fostering a strong sense of community, and creating a space for young people to think creatively and to dream is at the heart of 1525 Collective.

All Black Connect
New Art Exchange’s (NAE) All Black Connect (ABC) offers young people a space to creatively explore the issues facing young black people in the UK today. ABC continues to discuss the themes from last year’s A Blank Canvas exhibition, which featured black creatives from across the East Midlands and moved away from the often misrepresented displays of black pain and anger, instead exploring a nuanced view of passion, joy and radical softness. Jade Foster, New Art Exchange’s Creative Programme Coordinator, says they hope “the collective gives young people a chance to explore issues and creativity, allowing space for those who often feel marginalised in the arts.” 

The ABC programme has unfortunately been paused due to the current restrictions, but this time has been used to reflect and think of new ways to engage the group in the future, including the upcoming online reading group Reading Beyond, and the informal reading group Between the Lines Book Club, which is in collaboration with NAE’s Beyond Black History Month Programme.

These art collectives give the young people of Nottingham a chance to be creative, explore issues affecting themselves and their communities, and dream of a bright future. They are essential, perhaps even more so over the last year, for connecting like-minded young creatives and offering opportunities that can change lives. 

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