Susan Merrick

Artist and Interpreter. Power Language Access

SAFE PLAY AREA: Summer residency


SAFE PLAY AREA is a new ongoing collaboration between Susan Merrick, Katherine Smith and Cherilyn Yeates.

We were all comissioned to join a summer residency with Chapel Arts Studios in Anodover (2019) with the theme of the SAFE PLAY AREA. We spent several months communicating and sharing images, ideas and thoughts around the theme, or own views and practice in relation to it. The culmination was a week in the studios (and within the town of Andover) to see what we would do.

We each have quite different practices/materials/process so it was an interesting mix, but one that worked so well we have decided to continue the project going into 2020.

Cherilyn uses mainly paint and visual art, murals and community based imagery. She set the scene for the space, creating vibrant arcade or soft play area like colours and shapes that merged with Katherines sculptures and my film work.

Katherine works mainly with soft sculpture but has more recently started using particpation in her work. Her ‘wheel challenge’ brought people in from the outside space, encouraged playfulness in the graveyard that surrounds the studios and created sculptures that invted audiences to tounch, bounce, spin and play.

My work is mainly digital or performative, but with a huge focus on interaction and social engagement. I became Andover’s Dream Safety Officer for the week, wanting to consider what ‘safe’ might mean, and how to make an audience feel ‘safe’ and ‘considered’ within our work. Using this idea I visited the town centre and collected peoples dreams, and they were able to choose a talismen (amusement arcade trinkets I’ve been gathering for a couple of years) in which to place the dream. These talismen were then used in a dream treasure hunt in the graveyard at the studio, where by I could share the dreams I had collected with the people who found them.

What came out of the week was an amazing context for some work that each of us had wanted to explore, but hadn’t had the time, space or context in which to do it. Our collaboration, shared input and playful way of working together created exactly what we needed to explore these areas more deeply. Creating a playful space we were able to welcome audiences, share work and develop performance and participatory work that can be taken into the local community but that also comes FROM the local community.

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