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  • Writer's picturePamela Lawton

Telling Stories at Tate Exchange

My week of art making with the community at Tate Exchange July 16-21, 2019 was both rewarding and exhausting! While I had the floor completely to myself, this meant that I had to conduct two projects simultaneously to accommodate young children and families coming into the space, as well as adults that I wanted to engage in altering books to include the stories and perspectives of the often silenced, ignored, and erased. I was fortunate to have the support of my department chair Sara Wilson McKay for the first 2 days of the project. Teresa Coleman, VCU MAE student, worked with me through all five days of art making. I could not have done the project without their help. To accommodate young children I ran a separate one-page book activity that involved decorating paper with shaving cream marbling and bubble printing, then folding their work into a one page book and creating tape transfer stickers and writing and drawing stories in the books that they would then take with them. This activity kept us so busy on Day One that we were unable to funnel adults into the altered book area, where Holly Callaghan from the Tate Britain had examples of altered books from the collection to share with participants. During reflection with Sara and Teresa after Day One, we decided to open up the space (there was a dividing board between the two) and as people entered the floor we explained the two projects and gave them the option of doing one, the other or both, depending upon how much time they had to spend. Teresa and I both had personal altered book examples to demonstrate what could be done to alter a book. This worked out great---but involved us standing for 8 hours each day and in constant motion. On Day 2 a contingent of VCU administrators and supporters visited to see the project and hear about it. It was really nice to have the support of President Rao and members of the Pollack Society for the Tate Exchange Associate program. Paul Rucker, iCubed affiliate faculty and Nontisekelelo Mutiti--VCU's 2020 Tate Exchange Associate, were in attendance as well. After five hectic days of art making, the final day, we had an exhibition of the completed books and a poetry reading by poet Sina Sujatha Schwache (Feminist Library Tate Associate) to close the Artstories@Tate event. According to the statistics the Tate Exchange staff provided, my project hosted 1800+ participants in 6 days! No wonder we were exhausted. The completed altered books will become part of the Tate Britain's artist's book collection. Overall it was an amazing experience that I'm happy to have been a part of.





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