To celebrate the 150th anniversary (2021) of the founding of the St George’s Company in 1871 (which became the Guild of St George in 1878) Companions were offered the opportunity to apply for one of five Companion Grants.
We invited proposals that engaged with the importance of making lives better, according to one or more of Ruskin’s ideas as upheld by the Guild in its current formulation as a registered education charity:
- No wealth but life - fair and equal enjoyment of the world around us
- The rural economy - craft, good livelihoods & care of land
- Not for present use alone – create and conserve for future generations
- Go to nature - nature as a primary source of beauty, inspiration, education and artistic practice
The grants have been awarded to five Companions who the Board felt best responded to this challenge. The Grant period runs from November 2020 to November 2021, and all participants will be asked to make a presentation of their work to the Guild's AGM in November 2021.
Through art, study, writing, making, travel, conversation, growing, engagement, social interaction and companionship of all kinds, the projects also celebrate the wide range of skills, interests and experience among the Guild's current Companionship. Read more about the five projects below.
RUSKIN IN CHAMONIX AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Most of today’s mountain users (walkers, skiers, mountain bikers, climbers and mountaineers) are unaware of Ruskin, however I believe his environmental concerns and concepts are even more pressing in our current times. Ruskin visited Chamonix and the region some nineteen times between 1833 and 1888 and many of his ideas and philosophies were forged on his many visits to this region.
Using Ruskin’s travels in the European Alps and his time in Chamonix in particular as a template I will spend time in the same mountain environments and examine his art and writing, using my photography and art to expose his ideas to a new audience via a combination of blog, film, social media, and some new ideas regarding street art.
I hope to deepen understanding of the very real dangers facing humanity and its relationship with the world. The problems are legion; climate change, micro-fibres in the environment (an issue the outdoor world is largely responsible for via the use of widespread use of fleece in outdoor clothing), plastics, litter and loss of biodiversity.
The main focus of my project will be to expose Ruskin’s ideas to a modern audience and in particular to modern users of mountain and outdoor environments
I am a mountaineer and artist whose work is predominately concerned with people and their environment. I have climbed and traveled in most of the worlds mountain regions including in Africa, Patagonia and the Himalayas. I use photography, street art and sculpture to challenge perceptions about who should be where and also how they interact with their environment.
My street art has been displayed in The UK, Berlin and Kathmandu and my photography has been published internationally including in the Guardian, The Economist, The Financial Times, Le Monde and National Geographic.
GROWING AT HOME
SUZANNE FAGENCE COOPER
‘Growing at Home’ is an ecotherapy project based at St Nicks Nature Reserve, York, a rewilded landfill site. The project will enable people with complex social needs to create window boxes to take home and tend. It is a chance to share our understanding of Ruskin’s call to care for and notice the natural world, emphasising the small-scale and the local.
We will consider the benefits of growing vegetables and flowers to support individual well-being and local environment. Through guided observation, we can encourage participants to record and share their experiences in nature journals, blogs or video records.
Dr Suzanne Fagence Cooper is an Art Historian with expertise in 19th century British society and culture. She was Research Curator for ‘Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud’, an exhibition at York Art Gallery and Abbot Hall, Kendal (2019). During this exhibition, she contributed to ecotherapy sessions run by St Nicks Fields, bringing participants into the gallery to guide them through Ruskin’s writings and watercolours.
She has recently published ‘To See Clearly: Why Ruskin Matters’ (Quercus) and ‘The Ruskin Revival 1969-2019’ (Pallas Athene), and is now working on ‘How we might live: At Home with Jane and William Morris’ (Quercus, forthcoming 2021). Ruskin200 has shifted her views of Ruskin’s legacy, having seen the hands-on, nurturing approach taken in Ruskin Land, at Brantwood and ‘Ruskin in Sheffield’. Research for her recent lecture ‘Stones and Lilies’ has also made her refocus on sustaining the small-scale and the overlooked.
Pastoral explores the potential for imbedding artists within communities as a means to better understand and engage with our neighbourhoods and local environments.
At its heart Pastoral seeks to examine how artists can be useful within society and provide new and meaningful ways of understanding the world around us through creativity. The project will work with artists and communities to engage them in learning about the natural world and the history of the Wyre Forest, Ruskin Land and Bewdley in a way that is useful and productive.
Juneau Projects At Ruskin Land (Working Title)
Between April – October 2022 Juneau Projects will work across Bewdley and the Wyre Forest to explore the utopian roots that inspired early companions to settle in Ruskin Land and the relevance these ideas have in relation to contemporary environmental and ecological concerns. The project seeks to find routes that link the town and its communities to Ruskin Land through creative workshops that focus on how people can see, enjoy and learn about nature through the habitats and histories that connect these two sites.
Juneau Projects will work with local groups through workshops and events to create a publication that links the utopian ideals that established Ruskin Land with our contemporary connection to the natural world, while mapping a physical route between Bewdley and Ruskin Land.
Juneau Projects are Philip Duckworth and Ben Sadler. They work collaboratively with people to produce artworks, ranging from one-off workshops that introduce people to a skill or technique to longer term projects working with communities to create artworks for their area.
This project is presented as part of Erbe, a new programme that commissions artists to work with communities to explore heritage and green spaces in Wyre Forest. Join Juneau Projects on the Companions Day to help them create an interactive map of Ruskin-related facts and anecdotes, and share your thoughts, knowledge and advice for working collaboratively to connect these two sites.
Jenine McGaughran is an independent curator based in Bewdley. Currently working as a freelance project manager for the cultural sector, Jenine uses her expertise in contemporary visual art in the heritage sector, working with artists to explore our collective histories and the stories that connect us.
Jenine's website can be found HERE.
ANManifesto comprises the construction of unique portable stools and the associated activities which these inspire – from drawings and physical creative output to engagement activities within the community and surrounds. Based on a traditional Sardinian design and inspired by my childhood in Italy – where people would carry cushions with them so they could engage with their community and environment – these sustainable stools will be designed to serve also as a bag and a nomadic art exhibit. ANManifesto will be the springboard for collaborations with other artists, pop up exhibitions and performances, talks and collaborative engagement with the activities of the Guild, so that the stools could be used as seats during some of the Guild’s gatherings and talks; as well as during walks in the Ruskin Land and during the Big draw. As part of the project I would also hope to undertake research (re sustainable materials for the ANM components, re the links between Art, craft and architecture, re flexible design) interviews with participants and a final exhibition. During and after this art project I will manage an online gallery on my website, which could generate new collaborations with other artists and craftsmen and provide some economic sustainability in the future.
Through the making of art and art projects I’m researching how its expression can be combined with architecture, urban planning, engineering and its impact on our lives. This interest is generated by having worked as an architect, urban designer and Project Manager in the construction sector. As well as working in this field I have maintained my practice as an artist and have worked on a number of projects with a community focus. I have always had a strong interest in bringing art outside of the gallery and in to the domains of the public architecture and community.
PRINCIPLES OF PRACTICE
At the heart of everything I do is a methodology combining systems theory and natural patterns to elucidate creativity, story and communication. Working with Ruskin’s ELEMENTS OF DRAWING, I’m distilling his teaching into a resource called ‘Principles of Practice’, designed to enable any of us to engage creatively – and to support the practice of living in a connected way.
We are living in very difficult times. Times even more difficult than they were when we used to think they were difficult! Creativity and creative thinking are an important part of how we move through this turbulence and co-create the future.
Sarah Woods is a playwright and activist, currently writing THE RUFF TUFF CREAM PUFF ESTATE AGENCY, a musical about squatting and DIY culture (Cardboard Citizens) and co-creating a new opera with Boff Whalley and refugees and asylum seekers (Welsh National Opera).
Her original series POWER OUT, about power and extinction, will be broadcast on August 29th and 30th, and her dramatization of THE ALICE B TOKLAS COOKBOOK will be broadcast in the week of August 31st (both BBC Radio 4).
Sarah was one of the authors of ZERO CARBON BRITAIN: MAKING IT HAPPEN (Centre for Alternative Technology). Her recent campaign work includes NATIONAL CLEAN AIR DAY and BEYOND CONSUMERISM (Global Action Plan). She’s currently working on the LIVEABLE CITIES PROGRAMME (Ashden). Sarah is co-director of The New Weather Institute and Associate Professor at The Denmark National School of Performing Arts.