The Shining Tree : Branching out with an Artists in Residence Programme
‘The Shining Tree’, a UK nonprofit arts organisation founded by artist and social entrepreneur Debbie Taylor in 2011, is raising funds via a rewards crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help launch a sustainable, supportive, locally relevant and meaningful Artists in Residence and Exhibition programme in a studio, exhibition space and garden in a small rural Cumbrian village on the fringe of the Lake District National Park.
Debbie’s fundraising goal is £2000 GBP and, while she’s had donations from family, friends and the local community, she has just days left to meet her target and hopes to do that by reaching out to and a broader art -loving audience who, she says “are interested in social enterprise and positive social impact, people who recognise that it only takes a few people to change things… People who will have never heard of this small, beautiful village in the back of beyond but who might want to help.”
By way of example, Debbie enthusiastically recounts a story from early on in her Indiegogo campaign. “There’s this gentleman in London who had come across my campaign by chance really, when casually searching Indiegogo to see if there was anything going on here ‘up North’. It turns out that he had visited Cumbria and the Lake District – and our neighbour, Scotland, once or twice, and he mailed me to ask an important, provocative question: sounds interesting, but what’s in it for me, aside from a small reward?
Well, we exchanged a few emails, discussed the feel good factor, crowdfunding in general, the opportunity to keep in touch, feel part of something, however small, a unique cultural legacy – he is clearly into art and cultural activities. Very soon after he made a sizeable donation, and it was such great feeling to see that when I woke up and checked how my campaign was doing… he lives in this huge bustling city and here I am in the middle of nowhere doing my thing, thanks in no small part to his donation. The generosity of strangers is wonderful, and yet I need more people to know about this project!”
Debbie became what she describes as a “social enterprise evangelist” in 2011. In November 2009 there was a major flood in the Cumbrian town where her established art gallery was based. “I got support from local social enterprises and organisations and became interested in what they stood for; but sadly, largely because of drawn out insurance claims and planning applications I decided not to open my gallery again after that flood, I felt I should try something new.”
For a time Debbie took up a high pressured job which required hours of commuting, “that really took its toll because, in hindsight, I was still devastated from losing my business; and coupled with that I experienced lots of, what I felt were, unethical business practices. I resigned from my job and started to attend social enterprise events and conferences. I also spent a lot of time at home with family and friends, collectively we started to develop The Shining Tree: at first a small online social enterprise art gallery shop and soon after a garden and studio/exhibition space – all part of my family home. For me this was a healing process, but I can’t tell you how long I’d dreamed of sharing this space with other artists who need a bit of time and a bit of space and a bit of support to develop their practice. The idea of a somehow transformative space where artists would be well looked after, and left alone when they wanted, just grew from there, and from my own experiences.”
The Shining Tree Artists in Residence Programme, Debbie explains, is “rooted in the rural, and will be most suited to artists who are interested in exploring the history, heritage and landscape of West Cumbria; its relationship to the coast and wider county of Cumbria and its relationship to the West Coast of Scotland (the residency studio and gallery overlooks The Solway Firth and the West coast of Scotland).
It’s a modest programme, the idea is that two graduate artists will be invited each summer at particular times to live and work here in the village. I’m not going to be ageist! participating graduate artists could be in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. At the end of their residency, at a later date, they will curate and host their exhibitions here at The Shining Tree, the exhibitions could even go on tour, wouldn’t that be something?
At the time of going to press Debbie’s campaign on Indiegogo is 49% funded and there’s five days left to make a donation in return for a number of rewards. The two graduate artists already trialling the first year of the residency programme are Scottish painter Martin Hill http://martinhill.weebly.com/ (Dundee) and environmental artist Helen Tuck https://helentuck.wordpress.com/ (Cumbria.)
For more information you can visit Debbie’s Indiegogo campaign page ‘The Shining Tree Artists in Residence’ https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-shining-tree-artists-in-residence
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