In mid 2015, I was lucky enough to be selected as one of 14 students to participate in a Study Tour to America hosted by Dr. Kit Messham-Muir. During our week in LA and our week in New York, we had the opportunity to visit all the major galleries and museums, many of the smaller commercial galleries and spend some time hanging out with artists in their studios.

It was on one of these visits I met LA based artist, Kiel Johnson.

Kiel was so passionate, engaging and enthusiastic during our visit to his space, I wondered how I would be able to work with him the future.

Twelve months on and I curated an exhibition which showcased the trip, with students creating works as our response to the tour. This group show was a wonderful way to being together again all of us who experienced this amazing trip together. While planning this exhibition, I approached Claudia Parducci to contribute some work to showcase alongside ours and she was more then happy to participate. I then approached Kiel Johnson to share in our project by spending a week in Newcastle working with myself and others over a workshop, which we would run in connection to the Coast to Coast exhibition.

Kiel was very happy to accept the offer and we brainstormed the concept of ships. This came about with the idea of ships being a mode of transport, and we had all traveled over from Newcastle to LA, connecting to Newcastle and its highly ship-focused culture but also liken to the fact that students are like ships – safe in the harbor but all do go out to sea and find their own ways.

Our workshop consisted of a cardboard boat build. Kiel and I created templates to help people get started and then as each boat was made, it was to be installed in the Watt Space Gallery in connection with the Coast to Coast exhibition.

Once we had confirmed the dates with Watt Space for the show and workshop, I set about arranging all the details. Never before had I arranged a visa for anyone others then myself! To obtain the correct working visa to be able to work with the university and students was quiet challenging but worth it in the end.

I also set about arranging suppliers for the workshop materials, preparing my own boats to start the installation, templates for participants, attendees, the install preparation and paperwork for Coast to Coast, and much more. Time ticked closer to May 26th and it became hectic to manage everything on time.

Since returning to study Fine Arts, I have become more involved with galleries, arts administration and curatorial work. I love the way spaces can bring people together and showcase art to a wider audience. I love the idea of creating shows, which have a high level of interaction and community involvement. Art, for me, is about being people together and a space in which to create.

Kiel’s arrival in Newcastle was fantastic with a visit to Watt Space to help with install, and be interviewed for the Newcastle Herald. Kiel followed this up with a guest lecture at Conversations in Art on 25th. This was a fantastic lecture in which many attended and Kiel passed along the same passion and enthusiasm for art and creating as from when I first met him.

May 26th saw the workshop with 42 attendees across the whole day. Kiel and I helped everyone get started with their ships and both of us were blown way by the level of creativity shown. Each and every boat is completely unique. There were amazing ideas, passion for creating and really feel good vibe all day.

I wanted to really create a space in which people forgot about time and became100% in the moment and enjoying what they were making, alongside like-minded people. I feel this was achieved as everyone had a fantastic day.

Once the workshops had completed, I installed all the new boats in the Watt Space foyers area to be ready for the show opening that night.

With over 120 people attending the opening and a further 202 attending since, the show has been a huge success for everyone involved.

I have worked extremely hard on bringing this event together and the level of support, participation and gratitude from everyone involved overwhelms me.

Thank you to everyone involved. To UON Global and the School of Creative Arts, Watt Space, Kiel Johnson and Kit Messham-Muir. To Dave and William for video, and Ellen from Natural Lights Photography for still photography. To Corrugated Cardboard Cartons for generously donating the workshop cardboard.

Thank you to the exhibiting students in Coast to Coast and to everyone who come along and built a ship at the workshop!