After receiving one of our Paul Hamlyn Foundation grants, Jhinuk Sarkar tells us how the funding has allowed MOSS artists to adapt during a disruptive year to provide support and access for a creative collective.
Based in Croydon, the makers of stuff squad – otherwise known as MOSS – have known no year of challenges quite like the last 12 months. Remaining creative whilst navigating through lockdowns and the pandemic has been no easy task for many in this artist collective, particularly because Turf Projects, where our studio is based and where our group workshops take place, hasbeen mostly closed to the public since March 2020.
Specific challenges to MOSS in remaining creative ranged from not having affordable access to the internet at home, little or no knowledge of using video conferencing calling apps such as Zoom and safeguarding themselves in using the internet. Above all, for MOSS and support workers that make our workshops happen, managing mental health whilst in isolation from friends, family, or anyone (as many in this group live independently) was a key factor we couldn’t ignore and needed to address .
Thanks to Unlimited’s supportive funds, staff from Turf Projects were able to restructure support they offered to MOSS artists, where in the past, support usually only took place in one format of face-to-face workshops. We changed things up in several ways with the intent of empowering everyone involved.
We made Zoom and tech familiar
Using extra staff support time, we began running more one-to-one sessions for individual MOSS members that wanted a Zoom tutorial. Support was provided in downloading and setting up the app, testing, and recording the process for themselves and practice. This has helped so many of our MOSS members to flourish online and enabled them to access other online events, giving many huge peace of mind and more of a social life – important to feed our creativity!
‘It’s genuinely the highlight of my week’ Caleb, MOSS support volunteer
‘I feel relaxed and more like myself after a MOSS session’ Wendy from MOSS
‘I enjoy the Zoom workshops, they really perk me up and I enjoy them a lot, the people are friendly and I like meeting up with them all’ John from MOSS
Art supplies were delivered by support staff!
We delivered art supplies to make us feel connected in using the same materials – whether that was during the workshops online or for MOSS members to know they were working on the same processes if they were unable to join the workshop or didn’t want to join in by phone.
‘Guess what turned up today! My package! I was feeling really down but this really cheered me up and made me look forward to making and sharing what I’ve made with you. I put my country music on and got started’ Loraine, MOSS artist.
We kept the conversations going offline
Regular phone conversations made weekly by support staff were vital to MOSS artists that did not have access to WIFI. Those that could get a little bit of access were not comfortable in accepting data or a smartphone to manage their access to the workshops, and yet the smartphones are already being discussed by the collective on how we can use them in future workshops when we are all present. Again, a sign of our collective confidence building!
And the nice surprises are…
As a result of these funded activities MOSS artists have been busy:
- Delroy has produced a new series of portraits on Croydon’s local icons!
- Barathan, Rob, and Wendy entered a Disabled Artists International competition ‘Artworks together’ online assisted by support staff.
- Loraine is leading her first workshop for MOSS artists this spring term. Through one-to-one sessions delivering tech support, Loraine has set up her own online shop and is working to manage it herself. Loraine is also planning to take on a voluntary research and shop support role at Turf Projects to gain more professional experience in these areas.
- A collaboration with a local gallery and local performing arts organisation is being planned by MOSS participants for the autumn term, as well as a digital showcase of MOSS’ work since the lockdowns. The digital showcase is to replace the last exhibition opportunity the collective lost from Museum of Croydon as a result of COVID-19.
- Zoom break out rooms are fun for us! We tried this before the end of 2020 to get individual feedback from MOSS, and what we thought could potentially be difficult was actually a real big novelty and laugh! It also opened up the possibilities of creating an online quiet space (if for example, a MOSS member needed to talk through a difficult situation with a support staff member)
- Support staff have enjoyed a digital decompress whilst debriefing and forward planning after a MOSS session! We discovered the annotation tool and had a thorough good mindless doodle whilst discussing how the session went, or if we needed to plan any individual MOSS members needing extra support – we thought we might feature these in a future session!
More confidence in tech
Ange and John applied and were selected to take part in an artists’ development programme called The EXCHANGE facilitated by several artist-led organisations around England, including Turf Projects, Eastside Projects (EOP), CAMP, G39 (WARP), The Newbridge Project, and Spike Island (Spike Associates).
It’s important to mention how valuable the time contributed by staff has been to building tech confidence for both MOSS artists and support staff! It allowed MOSS members such as Ange and John to apply for the EXCHANGE with voice notes and videos they created themselves:
(A transcript of Ange’s audio application can be read here!!)
Coupling the staff support time with funds to buy smartphones and data enabled MOSS artists to continue their creative practices whilst staff maintained regular contact with members. Though the original intent for some smartphones and data was for MOSS artists to use them to connect to Zoom workshops and one-to-ones, those we knew had limited access did not want to try it this time. They were happy to voice call into Zoom sessions or be called/visited regularly by staff with ideas for project briefs and materials to explore.
What we at Turf and MOSS have ultimately learned is – as member Wendy said – ‘we are a creative family,’ looking out for each other to weather these storms and come out the other side stronger. Together we’ve gained experience and furthered our artistic development along the way. Thank you so much Unlimited team! You will receive an invitation to our online digital exhibition near the end of spring term!
We really hope to see any keen followers in real life at Turf Projects or a MOSS exhibition soon!
Jhinuk Sarkar is Head of Access at Turf projects and facilitator for MOSS (Makers Of Stuff Squad)
Thanks to the following MOSS artists for their permission to share these works, quotes and ideas:
Special thanks to all other MOSS members for always being a part of this artist collective!
Not forgetting the incredible value our current and previous support staff provide for MOSS: