Gallery 37: to the Fringe and beyond

Gallery 37 is Impact Arts‘ creative arts programme that celebrates young people and their achievements. Each year Gallery 37 runs during the summer holidays and culminates in a performance as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The performance, The Cup, takes place in the Event Space, Learning Centre, Level 2, National Museum of Scotland on Friday 8 August at 2pm. Find out more here.

Week 1: Creating superheroes

In a museum far far away, an elite group of young people have joined forces to come together to fight the good fight and wage war against the evil that is summer boredom. Using the National Museum of Scotland as their lair, our heroes have set about learning new skills and honing their craft in the likes of Animation, Performance, Music and Visual Arts.

The Animation programme aims to take the young people participating from a minimal skill set (like when Peter Parker used to take the bus) to the level where they are able to display work in public (like a web slinging genius), in the form of a final showcase performance as part of the Fringe, with the hope that the growth shown in a creative context can be a catalyst for positive change in their wider lives.

In pairs, the participants loaded up their utility belts with pens, pencils and plasticine and took on the task of using the museum and its exhibits as a stimulus in order to create their own fictionalised civilisations and worlds that would eventually lead to them developing superheroes to protect their unique landscapes. The first step involved scouring the Museum in order to complete a scavenger hunt challenge. Each pair were tasked with finding examples and taking pictures of:

  • An animal that represented their culture
  • The weapons they would use
  • Their food sources and cooking equipment
  • Forms of communication
  • Transport systems
  • Living quarters.

They were able to take inspiration from any space in the museum, meaning we had ideas that were influenced by weird and wonderful combinations, resulting in civilisations that had influences from Ancient Egypt and Outer Space, the Oceans and Historical Scotland and beyond. One of our animators, Adam, felt that the Egyptian exhibition was “extravagant and awe inspiring,” also commenting that the area was “amazing and allowed me to channel my thoughts.”

A frightful inspiration from the Museum.
A frightful inspiration from the Museum.

With inspirations in hand, our group set about customising and combining the images they had captured by drawing them out in their own style. Just as Superman needs Metropolis and Batman needs Gotham, our heroes needed a land to watch over, and so our boy and girl wonders set about creating them. This personal ownership of these new ‘realms’ allowed the animators to really let themselves go and develop a flurry of back stories and character traits for their chosen populations.

Our budding animators displaying their new worlds
Our budding animators displaying their new worlds.

After our worlds were in place it became time to build the heroes who would ensure their safety from now until eternity, with the make up of the new civilisations playing a major part in shaping the way in which our heroes were built. Whether they be animal-based or human, alive or dead, all of our heroes are developing well and will one day soon be ready to help a world near you!

Presenting the products of their imagination to the group
Presenting the products of their imagination to the group.

Week 2: It all starts with a cup

As I type, we have just came to the end of the second week of our time in the National Museum of Scotland and reached the half way stage in our project. Needless to say there is a mixture of excitement and nervous energy in the air, with some not sure if this is a glass half full or glass half empty situation, as they are getting more into the swing of things but become increasingly aware it can’t last forever.

Being half way through it was time to introduce our stimulus to the group. This year we are working from the stimulus of ‘The Cup’. This caused a bit of a fizz within the group when we tried to float the idea. Initially people seemed confused as to how they could develop the idea, but gradually drip by drip the idea really seemed to seep into their creative pores.

Brainstorming ideas
Brainstorming ideas.
Creative session to come up with ideas
Creative session to come up with ideas.

The whole point of choosing such an open ended stimulus is simple: we hoped to allow each participant to start with the most basic of items and look at it from a different angle in order to allow their creativity to pour out. Being in the setting of the Museum was also a big influence as every civilisation documented here has some sort of drinking device that they have put their own style on.

We developed the idea through a series of brainstorming exercises that were designed to show that the cup was only a starting point and that the idea could develop to any place their imagination could take them. We encouraged them to make links between topics. For example, developing an idea with a cup can spill over into being an idea about water or hydration, which could lead to a story about someone needing to find water to survive and dreaming of a cup… and so on. We further emphasised this point by playing a game of six degrees of separation. In groups, the participants started with the word ‘cup’ and were challenged to make connections to a variety of random objects. Here are some of the examples they were given. Why not have a go?

Cup ___ ____ ____ ____ Robot

Cup ___ ____ ____ ____ Horse

Cup ___ ____ ____ ____ Sellotape

Playing six degrees of separation
Playing six degrees of separation.

The ways in which they got there varied from group to group, from person to person. Strangely enough though, most people mentioned burgers along the way in the section that mentioned horse…

Week 3: The home straight

With the finish line in sight our participants are really kicking on a gear and getting well and truly into their stride as we approach 8 August and our big Exhibit and Performance. As the final week only really has two working days before we show our work, week three is a key stage for us and a final chance to create any solid, gold medal level ideas.

Another key feature of this leg in the process is that we begin to take our work out into the public arena for the first time and receive immediate feed back on pieces that have so far been restricted to the safe environment of the Museum’s learning centre and studios. This was the case for all of our groups the final day of week three. Although many get nervous performing, or even working in front of big crowds, it is important to face these hurdles before they build up to become too much and manifest themselves into challenges more akin to the high jump.

The day started with a joint group of musicians and performers taking to the Royal Mile on the opening day of the Fringe to take over one of the city’s many daily busking slots. Three weeks ago, performing for half an hour would have felt like an uphill challenge to say the least. The musicians kicked things off performing three songs, one an a cappella mash up cover and two original compositions, before neatly passing the baton onto the performance group, who performed a mixture of contemporary and hip hop dance accompanied by some physical theatre and circus skills, all of which was well received by the passers by who took time out of their days to stay and support the young people.

Busking on the Mound during Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Busking on the Mound during Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Dance performance on the Royal Mile
Dance performance on the Royal Mile.

Meanwhile, away from the hustle bustle of the heart of the Fringe, a combination of visual artists and animators set about conquering a challenge that seemed intimidating to even the tutors taking part. They were tasked with installing a piece of artwork that would last for the duration of the Fringe on Princes Street. Eventually settling on the subject of ‘changing worlds’, our young people used umbrellas for symbolism and filled the space with words that helped to express their fears for the changing worlds they find themselves in, whether on a smaller or global scale.

Working on the 'changing worlds' artwork
Working on the ‘changing worlds’ artwork.

As we head into the fourth week we are on track and pacing ourselves well to finish comfortably and hopefully we won’t find that we need to swoop for the finish line. Stay tuned to the blog for the results and please come along to our performance on 8 August between 2 and 4pm in the National Museum of Scotland!

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