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LEEDS OWN: SHOWCASING THE TALENTS & PERSONALITIES THAT MAKE LEEDS THE CITY WE LOVE

LeedsBID #ChristmasInLeeds

Artist: Alison Smith

Installations: Frost Blossoms at Park Square and Candy Chaos in the windows of the Park Plaza Hotel. Both are up until 4th Jan 2018.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the Leeds Bid project?

I’m an emerging artist and maker based in Leeds, and I began making light installations a couple of years ago. After creating lighting for the Art Hostel I became the first artist in residence at 130 Vicar Lane, run by East Street Arts, who then invited me and other local artists to meet and pitch to Leeds Bid for their new Christmas Campaign. Leeds Bid were keen to develop a new Christmas offer and East Street Arts suggested they work with local artists to develop a unique, creative strand of installations to complement the usual lights and trees, which has provided me and other artists with an amazing opportunity to develop new work for the public realm.

Leeds has a massive history of world class artists. Did you get your inspiration from any of them? If not who or what is your main source of inspiration?

I studied at Leeds College of Art, which has been attended by some of the country’s most famous contemporary artists, so it’s impossible not to be inspired by the history around you. The Hepworth, The Henry Moore Institute and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park provide easy access to some of the best sculpture and installation art in the world, which has definitely shaped my practice, which shifts between product design, light installation and sculpture. I’m also hugely inspired by the natural world, and determined to highlight the damage we’re doing to it by creating so much waste, particularly through single-use plastics.

What do you do to relax?

We’re huge food and beer fans and love eating out. We live close to Raynville Superstore (the best beer shop in Leeds) and the Kirkstall Bridge Pub so we’re a bit spoiled when it comes to ale! I also find making things really relaxing, so when I’m not creating an art installation I’m generally on with some kind of craft project, or devising activities to deliver with families for my work with Playful Anywhere. I spent last night making Christmas decorations from old toys in preparation for the Festive Yard event this weekend, which was great fun!

Whats your favourite thing about Leeds?

The people. I think Leeds has to be one of the friendliest cities in the UK. There are so many creative people in Leeds too, which is definitely one reason I stayed here after Uni. I worked at Dr Wu’s and went to loads of gigs when I first moved here, so the music scene has always been a big part of my social life, and still is – my husband is a Producer and runs Greenmount Studios!

What would you say to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

If you’re creative, always create! Whether its your masterpiece, a craft project or some handmade Christmas presents, being creative in whatever form is always good for you and will spark new ideas. I stopped making things for a few years after I graduated and, looking back, it had quite a negative effect on me. It was actually learning to crochet that got me going again, and that inspired the some of the craft elements of my work now. Also, the arts scene in Leeds is pretty close knit, so if you’re after opportunities to show your work, volunteer or get involved in events, get out and meet people as there’s always loads of great things going on. The Art Hostel, Kirkstall Art Trail and community festivals have all helped me develop my practice along the way.

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Artist: Aaron Andrews from ARRO Lighting

Installation: Heofon Light Maze at Central Square, Wellington Street until 6th Jan 2018.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the Leeds Bid project?

I’ve been involved in the creative industry for over 12 years now and spent 9 of those working for an international Christmas lighting company. In 2014 I co-founded ARRO Lighting with Ross Syme and have since found my place as Lead Creative. Every project, every new idea I always explore my artistic sense and really get a thrill out of collaborating with all walks of life to make ideas happen. The LeedsBID collaboration came about through my relationship with the Leeds Lights team. LeedsBID invited me to participate in a proposal offering, where I presented a few ideas and after lots of conversation we launched project Heofon Light Maze.

Leeds has a massive history of world class artists. Did you get your inspiration from any of them? If not who or what is your main source of inspiration?

To be honest, from an arts and cultural perspective Leeds is a city I haven’t explored in any great depth until now. It’s like anything, you learn and adapt as you move, and I have created more understanding of the people and the environment that surrounds me. This specific installation I’m not the artist/designer, that credit goes to Ben Busche of Brut Deluxe and Ilmex S.A who manufactured the piece. I would say I curated the whole thing and my vision helped get this on UK soil. I was made aware of the original concept being part of an art and lighting festival in China. My vision was to introduce this to the UK and after lots good solid conversations with all the different parties, Heofon was born. So, you could say my inspiration came from the excitement of seeing the original installation.

What do you do to relax?

I like to do some art and other creative things. Whether it’s making a drawing, writing poems or taking photographs, something that provides me with a deeper meaning and inspires me into new ideas and thinking. Recently I drew a portrait of Billy Connelly on the back of the BBC documentary ‘Portrait of a Lifetime’ in the summer. It was selected by BBC Arts and People’s Palace to shown in the museums gallery, part of the ‘Portrait of a Lifetime Exhibition’.  When I’m drawing or painting, I’m in a very different place and relaxed is one of them.

Whats your favourite thing about Leeds?

Although I’m still to explore Leeds in real depth, I have got to know the place in my time working on this project. I really like the urban/street vibe the city offers and seems to have a great sense of multi-culture. The open-minded nature of the people and environment provides me with a sense anything is possible, ideas and things will happen. People are expressing themselves in all kinds of ways, a place I’d like to hang out more often.

What would you say to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I don’t put myself out there to be seen as someone to look up to, although it’s always humbling to get feedback from time to time. I do things for me, that’s where I try to begin. Everyone is different and getting all inspired is great, but you need to also embrace who you are and use this as your go to place. Believe in yourself, your ideas and have the bravery to make them happen. One day I’d like to teach art and help people grow and develop their sense of worth, but this won’t happen sitting still. Get out the comfort zone, go after something your passionate about and never stop learning.

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Artist: James Islip from Lumen Arts

Installation: Wagon Lifting Hoist Projections at Wellington Place until 22nd December 2017.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the Leeds Bid project?

I’m James Islip, a projectionist / video artist based in Leeds. I work for Lumen Arts and Hyde Park Picture House. I got involved with the project because Leeds BID were interested in projection work, and we (Lumen Arts) do projection. A lot of it. In Leeds. So it seemed like a good fit.

Leeds has a massive history of world class artists. Did you get your inspiration from any of them? If not who or what is your main source of inspiration?

It’s been fun touring around Leeds Centre with our mobile projector. We did a projection near Leeds Bridge, and it was impossible not to think about Louis Le Prince who projected some of the first ever moving pictures in Leeds over 110 years ago. It’s definitely a heritage to be proud of.

What do you do to relax?

Watch films? Sometimes. I actually like to try and escape the audio-visual world sometimes and and go cycling into the wonderful countryside we have around Leeds. Although we have used a projection bike for this project so that’s a nice compromise.

Whats your favourite thing about Leeds?

I just think it’s got so much going on. No matter what you like, you will find it here.

What would you say to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Watch out for that cabling, I haven’t taped it down yet.

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Artists: Paul and Griet

Installation: The Murmuration Cloud in The Light until 6th Jan 2018.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the Leeds Bid project?

We are both studio holders at East Street Arts Patrick Studios. I suppose we’re a classic example of why it is important to have these affordable studio spaces available that facilitate a wide range of artists and nurture organically grown connections between artists that might otherwise never have connected. We started talking about collaborating near the end of 2014 and realised our first installation called ‘The Glass Cyphers’ at Left Bank, Leeds in Sep 2015.

Amongst others we were selected to pitch ideas for the Christmas Trail 2016 and we were commissioned to create The Murmuration Cloud. This year we have expanded the functionality of The Cloud. Visitor’s can now directly influence the projections by playing on an electronic drum kit. You really have to go and play it to get the full experience! In the early hours of the morning (6-9am) or late afternoon (after 3pm) are the best times to go.

Leeds has a massive history of world class artists. Did you get your inspiration from any of them? If not who or what is your main source of inspiration?

Neither of us has just one artist as a major inspiration, but living and working in Leeds makes it easy to appreciate the work of icons such as Moore and Hepworth, as much as the large amount of creative/cultural events and exhibitions that take place in the city on a daily basis influence our perspectives and therefore our work.

What do you do to relax?

Movies, music, art.

Whats your favourite thing about Leeds?

Its diversity. The way different groups readily connect with each other, creating an intricate network of creativity.

What would you say to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Look forward to seeing your additions to Leeds’ creative scene!

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Artist: David Shearing

Installation: Christmas With Us was at Leeds Train Station earlier this month. The installation ended on 17th Dec 2017. 

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the Leeds Bid project?

I am artist who has been based in Leeds for the past 9-years. I make immersive multimedia events and spaces that allow people to reflect upon themselves and their environments. I was introduced to Leeds BID through East Street Arts who have supported my practice for the past three years. I have made a number of projects in the city centre including The Weather Café (2016) which brought the weather indoors to create a temporary pop-up space. It has been exciting to connect with Leeds BID and to see how we could create other animations in the city.

Leeds has a massive history of world class artists. Did you get your inspiration from any of them? If not who or what is your main source of inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is the people of the city. For the past three years I have made a commitment to make work in Leeds with and about the people of the city. I think it is important that everyone can feel they can access the work. The projects need to operate as robust art experiences but they should also be appealing, open and give space for people to find their own meaning within them. Historical artists like John Atkinson Grimshaw paint pictures of the city that capture our imagination, I love how the light glows through the mist in this his works. His paintings present a warmth but also reveal a truth about ordinary people and the space we inhabit.

What do you do to relax?

Making art tends to consume how I live my life and work and play tend to blur. Leeds has a rich cultural offer so there is usually an event, exhibition or theatre piece to go to. Otherwise I do enjoy the odd cocktail and coffee, Leeds has a very good range of independent places.

Whats your favourite thing about Leeds?

My favourite thing about Leeds is its openness. When I make work you often need people to be willing and open to take a risk or do something different. Working on a Leeds2023 project ‘Incredible Things’ I found business and community groups really excited to get involved in culture in the city. I really hope this continues whatever happens with the bid process.

What would you say to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I would say try to do something different, don’t copy what already exists. Ask yourself what you can do for the city not what it can do for you. I also think we need to be more active with our social consciousness. How can you create a meaningful difference to people’s lives? Is it good enough just to open a coffee shop anymore? How can your business or art experience include people in the process, how does it help set Leeds apart from anywhere else?

 

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