Church Street art project gives unemployed a break

Youths collect sound samples as part of initiative organised by gallery

Unemployed Westminster youngsters are among those being given the chance to participate in pioneering art projects at a Church Street gallery.

Students from the City of Westminster College and Quintin Kynaston School in St John’s Wood have also been taking part in weekly sessions at the Showroom Gallery as part of the Communal Knowledge education programme.

The Showroom’s Louise Shelley says the idea is to “get people involved in the production of art”.

“We are interested in working with artists in a more expanded way instead of just making objects for exhibitions,” she said.

“The work is more process-based and tries to use the resources available in the area. It’s about opening up the practice to the community.”

The programme was launched with a pilot year in 2010 and has two main projects – Playback and Sample of Me.

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Playback sees QK pupils team up with artist Emma Smith and collect different stories and uses storytelling as a means of transferring knowledge.

Sample of Me has been created by artist Larry Achiampong and involves students from the Fresh Start course at City of Westminster College gathering sound recordings to create an audible collage of their life and neighbourhood.

Abercorn Place resident Hugo Ivan Casallas, 19, was unemployed when he joined the Fresh Start course.

He says taking part in Sample of Me has been the highlight.

“I was a lost person before I got on the course,” he said.

“The project is amazing. When I told all my mates about it, they thought I was joking because it sounded so good – getting the chance to make your own piece of music. It really helped me to open the doors to my mind.”

The project will conclude in June with the launch of a CD containing a compilation of tracks the students produced along with a vinyl record.

Mr Achiampong said: “I thought it would be interesting to have young people find samples of audio from wherever they live or whatever music they are listening to.

“At the start, the students didn’t seem very interested but, by the end, they were disappointed that they didn’t have any more sessions.”