This week the York Curiouser project hits the city of York. It is a contemporary arts project designed to help people reconnect with their city and rediscover its hidden treasures and it’s here to stay until the 4th July.
Talking to joint curator Lara Goodband it’s hard not to be excited by all this. Having been a student at York, who worked at York Art Gallery, the project holds special significance for Lara and her passion for the city is evident. She explains to me how the aim of York Curiouser is to get people to “explor[e] the city through contemporary art” and look at and re-examine the “unusual” aspects of York, the “less well trodden places”.
York is renowned for its beauty and its history, attracting many tourists. The York Curiouser project delves deeper, into the city’s foundations, even its’ snickets. Lara describes how usually “consumption drives your journey around the city” and how engaging with York’s cultural aspects “enable[s] [people] to explore the city more imaginatively and creatively.”
York is a relatively conservative city and Lara explains that the city has previously “shied away from the contemporary”. She suggests that the Curiouser project is the key to overcoming this and can connect the cities’ past with contemporary art. The hope is this will encourage more people to “engage with the art works” whilst they explore the city. It is all about encouraging different interpretations and making people think.
Lara and fellow curator Hazel Colquhoun have been an integral part of this project, putting so much of their own time into its development and success. Not knowing each other before the project, Lara describes how great it has been to work with someone in an “equal partnership” with “complementary skills”. They have both brought different ideas to the project, making it stronger as a result. Lara discussed the detailed process of putting the project together, a process which started over two years ago with grants, funding and finding suitable artists.
There was a great deal of support for the project from York’s city council and partners such as the Universities. The project developed further by locating sites found specifically to “suit” the wide-ranging skill set of the artists involved, artists whom both Goodband and Colquhoun brought to the table.
With a mixture of international and regional artists, Lara explained that as a curator, your role is to “enable the artists to make the best work” and that it was their intention not just to showcase established artists’ work but to create opportunities for other artists and put them in the limelight. For example, the Red Tower has been opened for this first time in twenty-five years to allow artists Heinrich and Palmer to explore their interests in light and reflection as part of their contribution to York Curiouser.
To enable these artists to produce such incredible contemporary works, the curators were involved in recruiting volunteers from the local community and from both the University of York and York St John’s. These volunteers researched the sites in depth helping the artists to create their works within these contexts. As well as organising and managing the project Goodband and Colquhoun have been involved in providing workshops for the volunteers.
This project has truly been a community project and has enabled students from both the universities to explore the world of the arts more broadly. Despite a few “communication” issues with artists and “living [the project] for a few weeks”, Goodband seems calm and ready for it to be unveiled. When asked what to look out for, apart from the art works themselves, Goodband recommends the midday walking tour on Saturday 22nd of June, to truly explore the cities’ new creative editions – and to remember your “good shoes” for walking! Also look out for the poems and porcelain sandwiches hidden around the city. My advice is check out the York Curiouser website and the events and talks by the artists and get yourself down to the city centre and involved with this truly inspirational project!
The only question you need to ask is: are you curious?