FAST Research Seminar Series #1 – Art+

October 2023

The first in a new seminar series of FAST lectures was held on October 11th at the Art School in Regent Street. The FAST Research Seminar Series showcases the ongoing research projects across the faculty as well as aiming to improve the research culture by providing a space to discuss subject-specific research. 

The first session was project Art+, presented by Professor Alec Shepley and soon-to-be-Dr, Tracy Simpson (near PhD completion and currently a Visiting Research Fellow at Wrexham and a Curator, Producer and Manager). It was hosted at Wrexham School of Art, at the historic Regent Street building, and aptly surrounded by various pictures, sculptures, and artworks.  

Alec presented on how creative practitioners engage the public in discourses on health, wellbeing, and ecological citizenship. The work was mostly qualitative in the form of observations, field notes, and interviews to find an evidence base, and it was strongly guided by the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.  

How much “cultural capital” does an area or population have? Alec was interested in engaging and developing societies that understand and protect culture so people can live more sustainably. Alec was also building a picture of how public bodies meet the legal requirements for sustainability.  

Often what’s missing is the “how”. Alec spoke of the need for facilitators, communicators, and instigators; people who are changemakers amongst communities and businesses. What we need is to start to think differently. 

N.B. if this topic sounds right up your street, Alec will be hosting a Wrexham Talks Research Public Lecture on 16 January 2024.

After a comfort break, Tracy Simpson took the floor and gave us a whistle-stop tour of their PhD research on socially engaged art and collaborative practices. The aim was to create social spaces within cultural institutions, such as, Ty Pawb.  

Some thinking points were, ‘what does it mean to be creative?’, and ‘how can art be useful?’ Tracy helped to develop practices for how institutions could work with people instead of just hosting them as an audience to an exhibit. The project team capitalised on Wrexham’s fame for creative play and turned a Ty Pawb exhibit into a useful room of fun – Lle Celf Ddefnyddiol. 

Tracy ended on an inspirational note, showing us how a roof space that was once a car park had been transformed into ‘Useful Art’ by engaging community volunteers. The beautiful space was filled with foliage and plants, benches, and a giant workshop/shed, which enabled anyone of any ability (and with different abilities and strengths) to participate in the activities, from digging and planting to painting ceramics.  

Overall, the first seminar was a success, with lots of exciting conversation and ideas flowing throughout the room. There was good turnout from the Art School and Design staff, but we encourage staff from across the faculty to attend all FAST seminars – you never know when your next opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration might spring up!